Prisoner 84 in Review – The ghost of Fallen haunts this prison…

Late last year an indie team - 7th Sense Studios – surprised everyone by releasing Fallen EP-1 (TMA Review), the first and probably only true Survival Horror for the iDevice to date. Unfortunately due to various reasons the team has been disbanded since and the sequel to the excellent game is delayed indefinitely. But it seems Hidden Games have picked up the flag and released Prisoner 84, a game similar in many respects.

Prisoner 84 is said to be an Action/Adventure by the developers – the dreaded combination of genres that seems to fit almost any action game on the AppStore. In this case, however, this is as close to the truth as can be. You find yourself in control of an unknown psychotic inmate code-named 84. One night, while you’re in solitary, strange things start to happen in the prison. Having escaped your cell and salvaged a gun from the nearby dead guard, your only choice now is to try and escape the prison, infested with zombies, flying heads, spiders and only God knows what else.

The gameplay is close to the classic guidelines of Survival Horror, with significant focus on finding keys and codes and an extremely limited supply of ammo and health. Prisoner 84 even has an inventory, where the various bits and pieces of info, as well as weapons, clothing and even collectables are stored. The iDevice does require some concessions, so in addition to ammo and health recharge cabinets scattered in strategic places throughout the levels, even if you DO die, you restart at the last exit you went through with full ammo and health and no penalties whatsoever.

The prison is quite large, consisting of several blocks with a multitude of areas in each. To help you get a bearing, information terminals with maps were placed by the developers, but they are far and few between. Enemies are placed at predetermined spots and respawn on each level reload, so keep an eye on that ammo. Personally, I felt the respawning was a bit frustrating, especially with the limited ammo. The prison follows an open world logic, with huge areas accessible almost from the very beginning and occasional pages out of Prisoner 84’s file giving a bit of background info. Nevertheless most of the time you’ll find yourself completely lost in the huge prison wandering what minor detail you missed. Collecting decapitated prisoner heads and hidden tokens is a nice touch though.

The biggest issue of Prisoner 84, however, is the atmosphere and the aspects of the game supporting it. Almost all levels are fairly well lit and the enemy models are, frankly, very poorly done. Even the damage model, showing you blowing bits off them doesn’t help if you’re shooting at something so angular, that it resembles a human in only the slightest degree. The decision of having the prisoner’s figure obscure almost a quarter of the screen is also open to debate, especially considering the iPhone’s limited screen real-estate. But most frustrating are the controls – while the mechanics of using a D-pad to move and the rest of the screen to control the view is workable, the decision of limiting the angles of panning the view screw the idea up completely. And the movement speed resembles that of a tortoise, making traversing the huge levels a pain.

Prisoner 84 is good attempt at picking up the relay race from 7th Sense Studios’ hit Fallen. Unfortunately the developers failed to nail the most important aspect of a Survival Horror – atmosphere. The levels seem barren, and the few places of mass murder and enemies suffer because of poor graphical design and there is virtually no information on what’s going on. And the feeling of being lost and not knowing where to go next is only strengthened by the slow movement pace and restrictive interface. In short, Prisoner 84 is a very promising title which may really shine with a boatload of polish.

With this I declare Prisoner 84 officially touched!

App Summary
Title: Prisoner 84Developer: Hidden Games
Reviewed Ver:1.0Min OS Req:2.2.1
Price:$2.99App Size:90.83MB
  • Huge areas to explore
  • Underlying story and mechanic seems interesting and promising
  • Frustrating interface view limitations
  • Slow movement speed
  • Poor enemy models and some level design flaws
  • Not always clear where to go and what to do next
  • Constantly respawning enemies

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Looking for more action/adventure titles? Check out these TMA reviews:

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