Prison City is set in 1997 two years after the crime-ridden and crumbling city of Detroit has been evacuated and became an impenetrable mega-prison. Former bad ass cop Hal Bruzer is called out of his retirement by his mentor, the Chief, in order to take out the Techno-Terrorists and the Wardens. By taking down the opposition, Bruzer hopes to bring back some level of peace to Detroit.
Prison City is a 2D action platformer akin to such classics as Mega Man, Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden from the NES era. Your goal is to reach the end of each level and conquer the boss. However, unlike the typical linear level navigation, each level is sort of a mini Metroidvania where you first need to find an NPC so they can give you the access card for the boss. Players can choose the order they attempt the levels as they are treated to a Mega Man-like stage select feature.
Our protagonist can run, jump, slide and attack his way through the hordes of enemies and hazardous obstacles. Bruzer has a boomrang disc like projectile that he shoots to destroy enemies and some blocks. As you explore the levels, you’ll find some, temporary, power ups that will improve the width of your weapon thus dishing out more damage to enemies. You’ll also find a item that turns you white with snowflakes going around the protagonist making you invincible temporarily.
The game looks great in all of its pixelated glory. I’m a sucker for classic 8 (or even 16) bit aesthetic and the styling caught my eye since the game was announced. Each level is uniquely designed with its own theme and aesthetic offers a decent variety in terms of levels. Some background colors are sometimes mixed up with the foreground confusing players to where they can or can’t move. There’s a decent enemy variety. The soundtrack is a decent chiptune affair not as memorable as Capcom’s Blue Bomber soundtracks, but it suits the game well and some tunes might hang around your head a bit.
And as you’d expect, nothing is perfect in Prison City. The first being control wise, having to press up to actually grab onto ledges is a frustrating aspect that can cause to unjustified damage, death or waste of time because you have to backtrack through parts of the level to reach the area you were a few seconds ago. The level design is annoying; having to find an NPC to get an access card to unlock the door to the boss feels like uninspired level design. Temporary upgrades feel useless and unnecessary.
Also the last leg of the game; after clearing the 8 levels, you’re throw through an insane marathon of a last level that takes longer than the previous 8 levels… COMBINED. Additionally, some level design are frustrating and problematic because it’s not always 100% clear where you can go because the background doesn’t always distinguish itself unless you try to move to an area where you can’t go further. And the Achievement list is an absolute chore and sure to be a nightmare for anyone looking too 1000G-it.
Overall, Prison City is a great addition to the 2D action platformer genre. It’s fast paced, action packed with innovative boss battles that will keep players on their toes. However, having to use the up direction to grab ledges is incredibly annoying that is a source of frustration and uncalled death/damage. Each level being a Metroidvania-lite is a nice touch, but it also feels like a lazy way to extend the gameplay. If you love 2D platformer and looking for a decent challenge, Prison City is a must play.
- Solid 2D action platformer
- Fun and challenging boss battles
- Hellevator boss fight
- The Factory level
- Final level is a chore
- Using up to grab onto ledges is annoying as hell