Prison City is out now and we’ve had our wrinkly hands on it for the last week, so it’s time to step into the shoes of a retired super-cop, Hal Bruzer as he heads back on the beat under the watchful eye of the chief to once again clean up the streets of Detroit.
Staged as a late 80’s, early 90’s retro game, the story is set in the then-future of 1997. Detroit is falling to pieces after being evacuated a few years prior and turned into a mega-prison.
a shady group has seized control, and the rest of the US forces where probably busy in Afghanistan around this time, so poor old Hal is pulled out of retirement to take on the entire city alone.
Gameplay is a mix between retro side-scrolling platform era and beat-em ups, and you’ll find plenty of nods to the era as well as the presentation to take you back in time to 25 years ago, when things where a little simpler.
The first thing you’ll notice is one area that isn’t simpler is the control scheme, button commands are pretty straight forward, but when you’re pushed to use bumpers for angled projectiles above or below you, with chakrams that aren’t the easiest weapon to judge, you’ll soon find yourself adopting tactics such as facing away from a higher opponent, so the flight of the chakram will hot an otherwise blocked target.
Platforming isn’t much better, especially when there’s many rails and ledges to grab hold of, common sense would have you tap a button to grab a ledge, but sadly the bumpers where occupied with an important feature that you can also perform by pushing your analogue stick slightly off centre, so instead it feels more luck than judgement.
Considering some levels are very strongly platform-centric, It’s important to get the control scheme bang-on, but unfortunately I found myself getting constantly frustrated with what could have been a far simpler and more enjoyable system.
Thara not to say that Prison City won’t find some die hard fans, and it’s nice to see difficulty spiked with more than just reduced health to encourage players to pop in another coin to hit continue, but for me, the control scheme just didn’t feel fluent enough.
Thankfully not all areas are quite as heavy on platform sections, and you’ll be able to jump between each of the 9 main areas of the game, rather than having to struggle through certain ones, so as you progress and get a little more used to platforming, you’re likely to find it a little easier to swallow. The downside is, it’s trial and error so you might be struggling with a few areas early on, only to find the next would have been a better starting point.
as for story, on true arcade fashion, there’s not the strongest narrative. Bad people in a city, send in the good guy to go from A to B, killing bad guys to progress.
It doesn’t help that chatter between Hal and the Chief is kept at a bare minimum, which also means the characters feel jist as shallow as the world around them.
The overall presentation is otherwise much better, with an accurate arcade style for both graphics and audio. There’s nothing to knock your socks off, but fans of the arcade genre aren’t going to be dissapointed, with a decent variety of background and most levels feeling pretty unique. There’s also some filters to play around with to give old-fashioned CRT effects, which is a nice touch.
Overall Prison City isn’t a bad game, but it’s going to struggle to appeal to those who aren’t specifically looking for a difficult retro game of this style.
at £15 it’s not great value, and the control scheme mean it’s as inviting as playing Double Dragon with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back, but if you’re specifically looking for a side scrolling retro platform game, and if you’ve exhausted some of the many alternatives, Prison City might just find a home in your collection.
if you’ve exhausted some of the many alternatives, Prison City might just find a home in your collection.