Fans of '80s arcade brawlers will find enjoyment in its nostalgic charms between frustrating encounters
Prison City captures the spirit and style of classic '80s action games like Mega Man and Contra with its retro pixel graphics and chiptune soundtrack. Playing as cop Hal Bruzer, you infiltrate the futuristic prison city of Detroit to take down techno-terrorist leaders. Its visual throwback to the NES era is admirably authentic and the set of varied levels provide some fun exploration and boss challenges. However, some clunky mechanics and overtuned difficulty hold it back from greatness.
The pixel art transports you straight to the 8-bit era, with detailed yet minimalist character and enemy designs. Vibrant colors pop against darkened backdrops. Level themes like the jungle, ice level, and sports stadium feel appropriately nostalgic. Music captures the high energy of the NES classic sound library.
As Hal, you can throw boomerangs and perform acrobatic maneuvers like clinging to ledges. Controls are responsive overall but some advanced moves like precision wall jumps feel wonky to execute. Level layouts provide room to explore but blind corners often lead to cheap deaths. Upgrades are hidden well enough to encourage replaying stages.
Bosses require pattern recognition under heavy pressure. Even on "Easy" setting with infinite lives, some took dozens of attempts to perfect. But if you find all of the upgrades on each level, the boss fights are a joke on "Easy" difficulty. The "Classic" mode with limited continues makes certain late-game encounters feel unfairly punishing. Lower difficulties make the game feel too lenient.
While Prison City replicates the visual flair of retro classics, its difficulty skews too far in one direction without a middle ground. Technical hiccups in platforming detract from tight mechanics otherwise. Still, fans of '80s arcade brawlers will find enjoyment in its nostalgic charms between frustrating encounters. With some rebalancing, it could achieve greatness. As is, it remains an imperfect but passionate homage worth exploring for retro enthusiasts. Thanks for reading!
The game was reviewed on a PS5 using a review copy provided by PR. Prison City is out now on PlayStation, Switch, Xbox Series X/S and PC.