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Video Game / Hard Time

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"I find you GUILTY and sentence you to 50 days in Southtown Correctional Facility! That may not be 'long' time but it will be HARD time! You'll be lucky if you survive...I'm now handing you over to the wardens, and they'll help you settle into your new home..."
The Judge

HARD Time... is a game made by Mat Dickie (otherwise known as MDickie, the creator of the infamous Author Tract game The You Testament). The game, touted as a "Prison Simulator" takes place 20 Minutes into the Future where you're a criminal locked up in a jail/rehabilitation center for the express purpose of trying to reform you and make you an outstanding citizen once again. However, as the criminals here are very violent, as well as the guards watching over you, that might be easier said than done.

The game was made in 2006 and while not as big as The You Testament, it still has its fans (due in part to its reintroduction to internet gamer culture by Nerdł). It received a Bowdlerised iOS remake in 2013 and two years later a sequel that takes place in school.

The game provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: While some may argue the game handles this idea somewhat poorly, it takes advantage of this trope quite a bit. The only explanation for the Hard Time prison's ludicrously short prison sentences is that living out an entire in game year or more wouldn't make for particularly engaging gameplay.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: All characters in the game will eventually be reduced to begging you for mercy and offering money in return for it should they take enough of a beating, including the wardens.
  • All There in the Manual: The game itself doesn't tell you the whole backstory. You gotta get the game's instruction booklet... which is in the game disk that you can buy with all of Mat's games on it.
  • An Arm and a Leg: It's possible to lose a hand in the game, going around with a bloody stump.
  • Anyone Can Die: Because the game's AI is active regardless of where the player is, inmates or even the guards have a habit of killing each other.
  • Aerith and Bob: Plenty of it, too. You've got names as normal as Grant Clark and Matt Pearce, then you've got larger than life prison nicknames like Wideboy, Fairytale, and Big Pussy.
  • Anti Poop-Socking: Attempting to just sleep through your entire sentence? Sleeping more than necessary causes your happiness meter to plummet.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • Oh, boy where do we start? While the game makes it justified that, since it takes place 20 Minutes into the Future, there are new laws here to handle everything else, it's mind-boggling to see just how much law is changed to handle this game.
    • It's possible for your character to get sentenced for "Turning up late".
  • Artificial Stupidity: Just like The You Testament, characters can go from being friendly to stomping a mudhole in your ass. However, the game justifies this as everyone's hardened criminals. This does not explain why the wardens are just as prone to randomly breaking into fights with each-other.
    • More specifically, other inmates have no sense of mental healthcare whatsoever. Nights will rarely pass without the sound of someone having a mental breakdown off in the distance because sleeping while your Health is already full reduces your Happiness. Since the other inmates aren't exempt from this rule, they will very easily sleep too much and then all of a sudden it's time to go on a rampage.
  • Ax-Crazy: Due to the game's unpredictable AI, the inmates and guards have a tendency to break out into all-out brawls. They're also A-OK with trying to murder you simply for not handing over an item or refusing to give up your seat. Then the prisoners in particular have a chance of telling you to "stop hanging out with that asshole", with that asshole being themself, and will be angry no matter if you decide to cut them out of your life or not. To make a long story short, the residents of Southtown have more than a few screws loose.
  • Blatant Lies: If you get taken to court for taking out someone's arm or leg (or both), your character will defend himself by claiming that the victim just fell down and lost a limb on their own. Since the court scenes are decided purely by chance, there's actually a decent chance the judge will believe it.
  • Black Comedy: Some of the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue results seemingly make attempts at this, such as the infamous line about a prisoner becoming a homosexual. It can also be invoked by lopping off people's legs and watching them ineffectively hobble around and fall over, and get off scott free for the aforementioned mutilation by convincing the judge that they lost their limbs by falling down.
  • Berserk Button: The other inmates aren't the most mature individuals. Denying pretty much any of their offers will piss them off, but refusing to give up the item you're holding or your seat will result in immediate violence.
  • Berserker Tears: When your or an AI controlled character's happiness meter depletes, they normally break down in tears before going insane and attacking people at random. The exception to the rule is members of The Peaks, who will never attack other inmates even if their Happiness zeroes out. This exception applies to the player as well, as joining The Peaks will prevent you from causing trouble while having a breakdown (though you can still attack voluntarily otherwise).
  • Boring, but Practical: The broom isn't as glamorous or threatening as a sword or a machine gun, but it's every bit as deadly as a weapon as those, and has the added bonus of being easy to carry around the prison without provoking a warden into confiscating it. Plus, you can sweep floors and earn some easy money with one.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory:
    • In-game example. The criminals and the guards inside the prison will either pay you off or reduce your sentence for doing various things, including taking the heat off or altering your appearance.
    • Wardens will sometimes offer to alter your test scores to make one of your stats appear higher, thus making you eligible for jobs that would require a certain amount of said stat.
    • If you have cash on you and a warden's got you in a headlock, they may offer to let you go if you pay them some money. They'll make good on this if you accept, though refusing will have you hauled into court.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Just like The You Testament, carrying weapons and trying to take anything away from a person tends to lead to people dropping you and guards arresting you. This goes double if you join a gang - attack one of their own, even by accident, and they kick you out.
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': Sometimes you can cause all the trouble you want and get arrested, only for the judge to say that the guard was overreacting.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Prisioners who live in the North Block wear orange clothing, those in the South Block wear blue clothes, the East Block ones wear green, and the West Block ones wear gray.
  • Corrupt Cop: Every last Warden. Often, they get caught and thrown in the general population for it, but until then they'll often extort your hard-earned money from you.
    • If a warden decides he doesn't like your hairstyle, he'll demand that you change it (usually to match his) lest you have a day added onto your sentence. On the other hand, acquiescing the request, even if you change your hair back immediately after, will get a day chopped from your sentence instead.
  • Crapsack World: The game's backstory reveals that, in this time, there are more criminals than law-abiding citizens.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: If you beat someone so badly that they pay you off to let them go (or vice versa), and you accept, afterwards you'll be friends.
  • Depraved Homosexual: A possible result of the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue is one of the inmates becoming a "rampant homosexual" as a result of their time in the prison...somehow.
  • Drugs Are Bad: A not outright stated but extremely unsubtle example: Drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes will increase your happiness but decrease your health.
  • Drugs Are Good: Injecting random needles lying on the ground into yourself can heal you, albeit with the penalty of lowering your happiness.
  • Expy:
    • In the iOS versions, you can sometimes find a parody of The Incredible Hulk named The Inconsolable Sulk, and of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises.
    • You can make expires of any character in both versions, especially the iOS because of the added headgear having Bane's mask, such as Baron Zemo or The Joker or Red Hulk.
  • Fetch Quest: Sometimes, you're given missions by criminals to deliver an item to a certain person within a certain timeframe. The same goes for the guards, who'll ask you to improve something that you have.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: In the 3D version, a beach ball hitting someone after passing through the basketball hoop will crash the game on the spot.
  • Gangbangers: In the original game, there's six different gangs that you can join, depending on your build.
    • The Gladiators- A tough-guy gang identifiable by their red headbands and sword tattoos. Membership requires a combined strength and agility of at least 71%.
    • The Powers That Be- An intellectual lot identifiable by their purple ties and esoteric tattoos. Membership requires that you have an intelligence of at least 70%.
    • The Suns of God- A gang of white supremacists who shave their heads, wear sunglasses, and have sun tattoos. Membership requires you to be white and to have a reputation of 70%.
    • The Dark Side- A gang formed to protect black inmates, but it's possible for white people to join as well. They're identifiable by their gold cross necklaces. Membership requires a reputation of 70%.
    • Avatars of Allah- A Muslim gang that wears turbans and plan well organized terrorist attacks on the prison. Membership requires you to be Asian and to have a reputation of 70%.
    • The Peaks- Less of a gang and more of a group of pacifists trying to reform. They're identifiable by their white armbands and mountain tattoos. Membership requires a reputation of less than 70%.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Guns in this game deal very low damage to other characters — you can riddle someone with bullets and it will still take a long time before they actually die. They're still good at killing people one-on-one since you can stunlock your victim until they die, but their usefulness goes straight down the toilet if you're being attacked by multiple people.
  • Hellhole Prison: Southtown Correctional is apparently so brutal that a 1-to-2-month sentence is considered enough to rehabilitate you in the eyes of the law, no matter what. In spite of this, the facilities are actually fairly nice as fictional prisons go... but the sociopathic inmates, unpredictably violent wardens, and terrible diseases you catch at random are all trying to kill you, not to mention the occasional terrorist attacks.
  • Idiot Programming:
  • Insane Troll Logic: Sometimes the judges descend to this.
    Just because he was carrying a machinegun, doesn't mean he intended to use it as a weapon!
  • Item Crafting: There's a woodshop in the game where you can construct weapons. Sometimes, you can build a beach ball, sometimes a machine gun.
  • Karma Houdini: No matter how horrific the player's actions are, ranging from violence against the other inmates to achieving genocide, the worst they'll ever get is a few more days in jail.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Sometimes, a prison broadcast will announce that a random warden has been arrested and incarcerated for corruption, reducing them to an inmate who can easily be bullied and brutalized by the prisoners they abused.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Katanas are one of the only two bladed weapons in the game. And seeing as they have incredible reach and power... yeah.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • It's possible to get killed by a disease that slowly drains your health. You cannot do anything about it other than wait it out — and it's easy to die, due to the near-constant health drain and the humongous speed penalty.
    • The Courtroom has a 50/50 shot at the judge siding in the player character's favor, or with the Warden's favor. This system was recycled in The You Testament, something that its credits admit.
  • Made of Iron: Everyone. Characters are capable of lasting a shocking amount of time with entire missing limbs, and in your case that can mean long enough to get an entire arm replaced by a friendly Warden.
  • Marathon Boss: Due to how the game seems to employ a system of random death saves, if luck doesn't go your way then it can take forever to kill somebody you might want gone, such as a cellmate or a particularly pesky warden. Complicating factors is that sometimes when your target seems to die, leaving the area to have the kill confirmed over the loudspeaker will result in that not happening and returning will have them up and about like nothing ever happened.
  • Never My Fault: The wardens will always blame the player for any fights that break out between them, regardless if they start it or not.
  • The Neutral Zone: Guards can't enter the bathroom, so you're free to do whatever you want with it.
  • Permadeath: If your prisoner dies, they're gone for good and you are forced to create a new save file. This is the only way to lose in Hard Time, and it's fairly easy to avoid so long as you make an active effort to stay out of trouble.
  • Pet the Dog: As corrupt and unfair as they can be, wardens are more than happy to shorten your sentence for following their orders. They can even stitch you back up if you lose a limb, albeit with a fee attached.
  • Point Build System: You can trade points between Strength, Agility and Intelligence as you see fit; these are percentage values from 1% to 99%. Once inside, though, these stats (plus Reputation) naturally atrophy over time, can be lost to fights or damage (watching TV, for example, reduces your Intelligence) and are built back up by Stat Grinding.
  • Police Are Useless: It's depressingly easy to become a straight up serial killer while imprisoned in the Hard Time universe. The wardens in the room will attempt to stop you if they're in the immediate vicinity of the actions taking place, but get rid of them and you're free to rampage as much as you wish. Even when one attempts a peaceful playthrough, the wardens have almost no care for the player's well being; die either of a disease or at the hands of another inmate and they won't do a single thing to help you.
  • Police Brutality: Standard practice from "the biggest gang in the prison."
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: It's not unusual to spend half of your time or more in the exercise yard, building your strength on the weight machines and your agility by running around the yard or shooting hoops (with a beach ball). Getting into fights also builds your strength. And on the other side of the trope, if you go into prison as a giant slab of beef, you can pump your brain in the prison library instead.
  • Rabid Cop: The wardens dish out beatings and punishments for the slightest infraction, or just because they don't like your haircut.
  • Refuge in Audacity: No matter how outlandish the excuses you give to the court are, thanks to how judgment works in the game you always have a 50/50 chance of either getting punished or getting away with it.
  • Sanity Meter: Your Happiness functions as this. If it zeroes, you go briefly nuts and start running around fighting at random. It's quite injurious to your friendships and dangerous to your health, so do your best to keep from running mad.
  • Sanity Slippage: The other inmates and the wardens can go through the same thing, usually as a result of the player's abuse.
  • Shout-Out: In the iOS remake, there are inexplicably characters dressed like Judge Dredd and RoboCop.
  • Throwing Everything Always Works: Seeing as you can toss all your weapons and people, watching it strike crowds of criminals and guards with painful accuracy is always fun.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Probably not on purpose. For a reason that can surely only be explained by "It's an MDickie game", the 3D version has a bizarre occurrence where sometimes when lockdown ends everyone in the area except for the player character will just suddenly drop. With the game's death saves they might get back up, but they also might not and oftentimes the cause of death will be attributed to someone at seemingly random.
  • Title Drop: Done in the very beginning by the judge.
    Judge: "It may not be a long time, but it will be HARD time!"
  • Too Dumb to Live: One of the potential fates of the other inmates at the end of the game is being hit by a car immediately after leaving the prison.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Listening to the guards and gaining reputation will have these guys fawning over you and are willing to give you a hand if others attack you.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Nothing in the game states that you can't just outright murder someone. Thus, it is probably actually possible to kill everyone, though you'll get a small trickle of new guys to replace them. A Let's Play from Nerdł ended with his entire cell block dead by katana.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Several inmates, and going around shirtless is an option in the character customizer.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The ending of every successful game is a montage of the fates of the other inmates as the player walks to their freedom. Some of them are pleasant, but a good majority of them have the inmates turn up dead after their sentence in various ways.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: The combat engine is recycled from a wrestling game, and it shows.