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Mike Dickie, in my book, is the independent equivalent of Rockstar Entertainment. This guy manages to find the most exploitative ways for gamers to interact with some of the most oddest gaming genres around. In this particular case, MDickie is challenging gamers with a violent and somewhat controversial look at prison life in his latest outing, Hard Time.
Now for you toss-salad geeks out there, I’ll set the record straight by saying that Hard Time DOES NOT contain any soap dropping...or so, as far as I’ve played it doesn’t. But for the most part, Hard Time is a prison game that has players vying to count down their days behind bars while trying not to die. Trust me, it’s a lot harder than what I just described.
After you get done creating your character and choosing his crime (i.e., assault, rape, theft, boidly harm, murder, terrorism, etc.,) it’s time to move into your cell. The entire game is played in pseudo-realtime (e.g., The Sims, Grand Theft Auto, etc.,) and daily events take place at specific times. From having to be in your jail cell before 10:00PM, to meeting in the cafeteria during dinner time. What’s cool, though, is that you don’t have to do anything the “Wardens” tell you to. If you’re supposed to be in your cell and you don’t, then prepare to get a beat down from the guards. However, you can dish it out just as much as the guards are willing to pummel the living snot out of you.
But whre this game really excels is with the side-missions. While the main goal is to make it through 50 or so days in prison – though that number can vastly increase if you’re caught doing anything uncivil – there are plenty of side-missions to keep you busy. Working out, jogging, shooting some hoops, building objects, reading, surfing the net, or serving food in the cafeteria are just some of the things you can do in Hard Time. Each activity has an affect on your general stats, and some of the tasks can help you earn some extra cash.
Graphically this game doesn’t break any ground. I’ll knock that right out of the ball park. You’re not going to fire up this game and go “Oh Snap! Gears of War best watch out!” This is not that kind of game and it wasn’t meant to be. Remember THQ’s WWF No Mercy on the N64? Yeah well, if you don’t remember you can see the screenshot in this article for reference. But anyway, that’s how the game looks. Just like other MDickie games and WWF No Mercy.
The audio aspects of the game are well done. The intro song is kind of odd but matches the games ultimate premise. When it comes to the sound effects the prisoners, gun sounds, and weapons are all spot-on and deliver all the emphatic touches needed to bring the game and the prison to life. Heck, the daily buzzer is quite a noise all by itself, and if you play the game you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Overall, Hard Time isn’t quite as long as Bully, or Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, but it does deliver a heck of a thrill ride that mature casual gamers may love. The different ways of serving your hard time and the accompanying mini-games are just great. It’s a game worth playing and a true testament to MDickie’s skill in bringing any genre of gaming to life with flying colors.