Detroit Rock city is now Prison city. Snake Pliskin be licking his lips. A review.

What is it? In "Prison City," you assume the role of Hal Bruzer, a former cop tasked with rescuing the city from the clutches of a...

What is it?

In "Prison City," you assume the role of Hal Bruzer, a former cop tasked with rescuing the city from the clutches of a menacing cybernetic force determined to wipe out humanity. The story is reminiscent of classic '80s and '90s action movies, with a touch of the iconic Skynet threat from the Terminator franchise. As Hal, you venture out equipped with laser boomerangs to clear a path through adversaries, including challenging boss battles that will test your skills. If you've fond memories of NES classics, especially the Mega Man series, you're in for a treat.


"Prison City" delivers sharp and precise gameplay, complemented by responsive controls. The multi-directional disc throwing and the ability to throw at specific angles add depth to the combat mechanics. The game's difficulty is noteworthy, especially during boss encounters, but it's undeniably enjoyable. While the game may be relatively short, it compensates with unlockable content, such as a challenging Boss Rush mode that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The structure of the game draws inspiration from classics like Mega Man and Power Blade, where you select from various action-packed levels and eventually unlock the final stage. Each level presents unique challenges, from environmental hazards to formidable bosses.

Players will fight their way across an entire city, grappling through eight or more zones that range from sewers and factories to nature preserves. Each zone presents its own unique challenges, from environmental hazards to powerful bosses that will put your skills to the test.

One of the game's strengths lies in its precise and responsive controls. Players take control of Hal Bruzer with ease, guiding him through the dystopian city with grace. Whether you're jumping, sliding, or throwing laser boomerangs, the controls feel intuitive and well-tuned. The ability to throw in multiple directions and at various angles adds depth to the combat, allowing for strategic approaches to defeating enemies. This precision is particularly crucial, given the challenging nature of the game.

"Prison City" features a variety of levels that pay homage to classic side-scrolling action games. Players will find themselves navigating through diverse environments, from sewers to factories and even nature preserves. Each zone introduces unique challenges, such as environmental hazards and cleverly designed platforming sequences. While the game is not a Metroidvania, it does offer a degree of exploration within each self-contained level. Branching paths encourage players to explore, uncover secrets, and discover hidden upgrades, enhancing the overall experience.

Combat is at the heart of "Prison City." Hal Bruzer wields laser boomerangs, and his main attack mechanic operates similarly to the boomerang in the classic Power Blade games. Timing is crucial; players can charge their attacks for maximum damage or rapidly spam the attack button for reduced damage. Additionally, the game features grenades as special moves that can clear the screen of enemies. The combat mechanics are straightforward but require mastering to conquer the game's challenges.
One aspect that sets "Prison City" apart is its difficulty level. The game embraces the challenging nature of classic NES titles, providing a formidable experience that may test the patience and skill of players. Obstacles like low ceilings, enemies strategically placed to knock you into pits, and other classic difficulty tricks make each level a trial of skill and perseverance. Some players will relish this level of challenge, while others may find it frustrating.

Recognizing that not all players have the same level of experience or tolerance for high difficulty, "Prison City" offers a welcome feature – customizable difficulty options. Players can adjust settings to make the game more accessible, including options for infinite lives, increased health, and reduced damage taken. These adjustments allow players to tailor the experience to their skill level, making it accessible to a broader audience.


"Prison City" is a love letter to the NES era of gaming. Its gameplay, level design, and even its challenging difficulty pay homage to classics like Mega Man, Power Blade, and Shatterhand. For gamers who grew up with these titles, "Prison City" is a delightful trip down memory lane, recapturing the essence of a bygone era.

The crime-ridden and crumbling city of Detroit was evacuated in 1995 and became an impenetrable mega-prison. In the present-day (of 1997) an evil group has infiltrated and seized control. Former cop Hal Bruzer is called back from retirement by his mentor, "The Chief," to take down the 'Techno-Terrorists' and their appointed Wardens... to hopefully, bring the 'spirit' of Detroit back!!

Parent Recommendation

Programancer is a Michigan-based game developer, artist, and programmer behind several retro-inspired titles such as Dumpy and Bumpy and The Transylvania Adventure of Simon Quest. They are also the host of the yearly Retrograde Jam -- and in July 2022 Prison City's development started. Programancer has kept two goals in mind during Prison City’s development: First, to reuse systems and packages from their other games to make a killer gameplay experience as quickly as possible. And second, to make a game that feels heavy, but kinetic, and aesthetically inspired by seminal games such as Shatterhand and Power Blade.

Final Thoughts

"Prison City" is an action-packed side-scrolling shooter that pays homage to the golden era of gaming. With its engaging gameplay, challenging difficulty, and impeccable retro presentation, it successfully captures the spirit of NES classics. While its high difficulty may deter some players, the inclusion of multiple difficulty options, including an invincibility mode, ensures that players of all skill levels can enjoy the game.

"Prison City" delivers a gameplay experience that successfully channels the spirit of retro gaming. With precise controls, diverse level design, challenging combat, and customizable difficulty options, it caters to a wide range of players. While its high difficulty may be a deterrent for some, it offers a rewarding experience for those who appreciate the challenges of classic NES-style games.

For fans of '80s and '90s action movies and classic video games, "Prison City" is a nostalgic trip worth taking. It stands as a testament to the developers' dedication to recreating the magic of the NES era, complete with all its quirks and challenges. So, should you take on the cybernetic threat and become the hero Detroit needs? "Prison City" says, "Absolutely."

Game: Prison City
Publisher: Retroware
Developer: Retroware/Programancer
Platform: PC(steam), Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation (later this year)
Release Date:  29th Aug, 2023 (Price: $16.99)
Review Platform: PC ( Steam) 

About the writer: DadGeek (Rob) is the co-founder of GeeksVsGeeks. He is a product of the eighties and never let go of his geek interest and hobbies no matter how often someone told him to stop. His love for gaming and all things geeks has been part of his parenting style and permeates throughout the whole family. A family of Geeks vs Geeks   


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