I decided, after a bit of consideration, to jump the wagon when the game was on sale. After spending some 10 hours or so on this Early Access title, I can't help feeling a bit divided about it.
Right off the bat, the longing for a game like the good games of old, such as Theme Hospital, makes you feel right at home. The genre hasn't seen much since then, and that makes Prison Architect a very welcome sight. In my first sitting, I played 5 hours straight. Not a lot of games these days seem to be able to pull that off. Part of the reason behind this, I think, in addition to the mentioned longing, is the discovery of how things work. In fact, you are given very few hints about how to get started properly. There's a tutorial kind of thing, but it touches just a small part of the game (some which I read, are not even part of the game at this point).
But, as I keep playing the game and learning more about the workings, I can't help but feel that the game is a bit "fake". The speed of the game is rather slow, stretching play time more than necessary. Then there's the graphics, which are unimpressive, but you would be able to forgive if the gameplay is very good. It's just that the gameplay is very basic. There's very little complexity in it, and nothing very new. In addition, many things don't seem to work very well. There's no polish. There's no soundtrack. There's no cinematics or voice recordings. There's no campaign mode.
Even considering these things, I could be very forgiving. However, for a game that has raised considerable funding of some $10.000.000 and been in alpha for over a year, I would expect more. I'm quite amazed they haven't gotten further. Even so, I do feel I got my 7€ worth.
Would I recommend the game? It's a very tough question. I feel I can't quite discredit the game, but on the other hand, it's not very impressive. Another factor is the rather stiff regular price to consider. In sum, I would have to give it a thumbs down. However, you might find it very enjoyable, and eventually it might turn out to be something great. For most people, I would therefore suggest waiting and see how things turn out.
2014.05.06: It would seem my review is a bit controversal. I just want to stress the fact that I like the game. I keep playing it. I just wish it was so much more, and I think it could have been. I'd like to commend the developers for Workshop support by the way. Usually that's an afterthought.