I’ve not been to prison yet but when I do go I like to think years of rewatching Oz and The Shawshank Redemption will have adequately prepared me for penal life. If you want a more interactive guide, however, then you should take a look at Prisonscape.
It’s already taught me a few new tricks. (I didn’t know you had to take turns in prison fights and move around in a grid.)
You can see from the trailer that the game’s going for a gritty view of prison life - shanks, rifling through bins, prison fights, making hooch in a plastic bag. It’s an RPG based on the SNES-era JRPGs like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy. While that’s an initially odd prospect it’s great to see those mechanics applied to a setting less fantastical and more realistic.
(That said, if that last shot from the trailer tells us anything, you either have The Darkness-esque powers or your mother blessed you with an ink sack.)
The game challenges you with surviving interment however you can manage it: joining a gang, going solo, or simply staying out of trouble are all valid ways of approaching Prisonscape.
By going for a SNES-style game in both visuals and mechanical framework the developers, Lunar Enigma, are free to go deep features wise. Almost everything in the prison can be combined with something else to make complex items. Aluminium foil from a pack of gum can be stuck to a battery taken from a radio to make a lighter. The lighter can then be used to mould the plastic of your toothbrush to make a shank - once you’ve snatched a razor blade from the bathrooms, that is.
You can see the team go through the basics of the system in this video:
The team have filled the prison with over 80 characters, all with backstories, allegiances, back stories, and gear. You can fight them, befriend them, trade with them, or work for them. This should give a great deal of replayability to Prisonscape, each time treating different NPCs differently.
Here’s a video on how you can interact with other characters:
You’ll have spotted by now that Prisonscape is currently seeking funds on Kickstarter. $49,500, in fact. The team are already $10,000 of the way there but if they’re to get the rest by 9 May they’re going to need your help. Tell people about Prisonscape, back it, and share it to get this RPG take on prison life made.