PREVIEW: The Prison

Unmask your friends hiding among other inmates.

Steam: Early Access
Type: Multi-player
Genre: Party Game, 4-Player, Battle
Developer: Running Pillow
Publisher: Running Pillow
Release date: 16 Apr, 2019

Hidden in the prison

The Prison is not a knock off The Escapists, it’s actually a local multiplayer game in the vein of Hidden In Plain Sight. Although it is very similar, it is actually not a simple clone as it adds its own spin to the formula, which makes it a worthy addition to your collection.

Sneaky sneaky

Talking about clones, it is obvious from the screenshots that all prisoners have been cloned from a blond guy. Most of these clones are NPCs; however, some are human players. Before unmasking and killing other players, your first order of business will always be to find out who you are on the screen. The game gives no clues, you will have to figure this out by yourself by checking which of the characters reacts to your inputs.

Local backstabbing

Considering the nature of the game, there are no bots to play with. Sadly, there is no online mode either. You really need at least two local people on the same computer to play this game, up to six in one of the three mini-games on offer. Although, for the other two mini-games, it’s only up to the usual four players. In the lobby, players enter the room corresponding to a mini-game and sit on a chair to start.

Mini-game: Generators

The first mini-game puts everyone in the shoes of prisoners, and each player needs to activate three generators to open a trap door and escape. Beware, another player can steal your generator. The generators don’t reveal their new color instantly, which leaves a few moments to leave the scene before getting spotted. What can you do if you have noticed which of the prisoners was your “friend”? Well, stab them; it’s as simple as that. We truly enjoyed playing this, and screamed when an ambushed player shanked us on our way to the exit.

Mini-game: Race

The second mini-game is similar to the famous race in Hidden In Plain Sight. Players control both a prisoner trying to survive the race, and a sniper able to kill anyone. There are quite a few differences: the aim is to be the last one alive, not simply to reach the end. The end only grants faster reloading to the sniper! Otherwise, it reloads slowly – you are not limited to one bullet. So, what’s the incentive to actually move forward? Well, cops appear on the left and kill any stragglers. You can actually reveal yourself by sniping a cop that was about to kill you – now everyone knows in which lane you were. Or do they? Maybe you killed a cop in the wrong lane to mislead the competition. You can see how this can be very interesting to play.

Mini-game: Musical chairs

The third mini-game takes advantage of the prison theme. A team of players are cops, the other team are prisoners: this can be played 3 versus 3. The prisoners need to take down all cameras before attempting an escape, while the cops must stop them. To keep an eye on the prisoners, the cops can order people around them to “go sit”. They are marked with an exclamation mark; the exclamation mark can only disappear after the prisoner has found a chair to sit on. If someone is inconspicuously walking around deactivating cameras instead of sitting down, this might raise some flags…the cops can then simply shoot down human players to win the game. An additional power play comes in the form of a central button that can close all doors in the level, potentially trapping anyone that didn’t pay attention.

This cops vs prisoners mini-game was a bit difficult on the prisoners, as the cops can randomly kill NPC’s without suffering any consequences. They simply have to wait for the weapon to reload. As time went on, there were less and less prisoners walking around, making it almost impossible for the prisoners to win. I sometimes think that it’s imbalanced, but it also has the advantage to force prisoners to move on and quickly take care of the cameras while the screen still looks like a beehive.

We did spend most of our time with this mini-game, because it is frankly hilarious. The cop can have a lot of fun ordering a prisoner to sit down continuously, as the human player role playing the prisoner has to keep sweating over figuring out whether this is a test or if they have been unmasked. And seeing such a person rush into a room to sit, only to realize that all the seats were already taken by NPC’s? Stress level: over 9000. This added some sort of role-playing layer to the game, and we laughed a lot. Which is what these games are about, and thus why I give it a recommendation despite its caveats.

The game has been properly polished during its time in Early Access

One caveat is that there are always a few NPC’s stuck on a loop, sort of endlessly having a seizure. Since they don’t move around like they should, they are of no help to human players trying to blend in. Another issue that I had with the game is that since all characters are clones, even if you noticed odd activity, it is often easy to lose sight of the specific character. I don’t just mean losing them in the crowd, which is great and works as intended. But for example, in the race game, you might not even remember which lane you were looking at. For this specific mini-game, I would have preferred to see more hair colors, so that you can better study each individual character. Apart from these minor gripes that do not hinder the game in any major way, we were happy with our time with the game and only wished for more mini-games. In the lobby, there is a room with “More soon” written on the floor. Yes, please!

Edit: All of these issues were fixed upon release. You can see on this screenshot taken after this preview was written that a new game mode was added (gang wars) and that the NPCs now come in different colors and styles. Gang wars is about capturing points without being seen by NPCs belonging to an enemy faction!


If you like Hidden In Plain Sight, The Prison is a very good companion piece. It doesn’t look like much and there are some minor issues with the NPC’s, but the three mini-games available were all great to play, and we had many laughs. The generators mini-game is perfect hide & seek, the race combines mind games and trigger-happy shooting, and finally the cops vs prisoners mini-game is tense role-playing fun. If you like hide & seek party games, this one is well worth the purchase! Edit: The game benefited from its time in Early Access, new content was added and the small issues were fixed. Well done, Running Pillow!

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