Casey Scheld ReviewsGame ReviewsPC Reviews

Prison City Review

Official Score

Overall - 80%


Prison City might cop Snake Plissken’s style, but this side-scrolling adventure proves that there is room for a new grizzled hero. While it provides a hefty challenge, those looking to the futuristic year of 1997 will have a blast.

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A dystopian Detroit with an eight-bit flavor awaits with the world of Retroware and Programancer’s Prison City. Should players fight back in this throwback, or should we leave the heroics to Bill Rizer?

Prison City Review

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: A crime-ridden city is walled in, and it’s up to a resident badass to infiltrate the area, take down an evil legion of terrorists, and save the day.

While Prison City is more Escape from Detroit than Escape from New York, the high-stakes side-scrolling action translates perfectly to the world of video games – how could it not? The grizzled protagonist Hal Bruzer features the platforming chops of other heroes like Ninja Gaiden’s Ryu Hayabusa and Contra’s Bill Rizer, sliding, climbing, shimmying, and taking down anything and everything that stands in his way. He’s even got an eye-patch; what’s not to like?

Perhaps Bruzer’s greatest asset is his boomerang-like weapon. Players can fire at will in the direction that they choose, but everything is tied to the Weapon Meter. The more players fire, the weaker the concurrent shots are. There are other power-ups that can be collected to spice things up, but that weapon is the old tried-and-true that players will get used to before too long.

In a strange way, it taps into the Soulslike formula, but don’t be fooled; players will be strictly on the offensive with this mechanic. If anything, we appreciate how deliberate the system is compared to the spray and pray titles that preceded it; it requires a bit more finesse. The same goes with its platforming – timing is absolutely critical to avoid a bottomless pit or an untimely demise.

And finesse is absolutely required in a title as challenging as Prison City. After taking a train to a “futuristic” 1997-era Detroit, players can go all Mega Man and choose the level of their choosing, collecting keycards and taking down Wardens. Gameplay is an amalgamation of light MetroidVania, hardcore side-scrolling action, and intense pattern recognition.

Prison City certainly has fun with the formula too. Detroit is a lively town, with stadiums, nature preserves, and even chances to get on your bike and ride. Enemy mooks pose plenty of threats, but the boss battles in each area are truly where the game shines, serving as a highlight of the title.

Although Prison City can be polished off in a few hours, the development team made sure that there are a number of options to keep players coming back. Custom matches can modify the way each playthrough goes, there’s a Boss Rush, and there are a number of achievements that encourage players to be the very best – like no one ever was.

Prison City might cop Snake Plissken’s style, but this side-scrolling adventure proves that there is room for a new grizzled hero. While it provides a hefty challenge, those looking to the futuristic year of 1997 will have a blast.

This review of Prison City was done on the PC. The game was purchased digitally.
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Casey Scheld

Casey Scheld has more than 15 years of experience in the gaming industry as a community manager, social media director, event specialist, and (of course) gaming editor. He has previously worked with gaming start-ups like Raptr, publishers like Konami, and roller derby girls at PAX West (check out Jam City Rollergirls)! Gamers Heroes is a passion project for him, giving him a chance to tap into the underground side of gaming. He is all too eager to give these lesser-known heroes of the indie space the attention they so rightly deserve, seeking out the next gem and sharing it with the world. Previously making appearances at events like CES, GDC, and (the late) E3, he is all too happy to seek out the next big thing. For those that want to talk shop, send over a tip, or get an easy win in a fighting game of their choosing, be sure to check out his social media channels below.

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