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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.
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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 Nerd³). It received a Bowdlerised iOS remake in 2013 and two years later a sequel that takes place in school.

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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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ax-Crazy: Due to the game's unpredictable AI, the inmates and guards have a tendency to break out into all-out brawls.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Final Death: 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.
  • 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.
  • Hellhole Prison: But of course, though not quite the way you might expect. The facilities are actually fairly nice as fictional prisons go, but it's a tossup whether the sociopathic other prisoners, the unpredictably violent wardens, or the terrible diseases you catch at random are the most dangerous - all three will be trying to kill you.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Karma Houdini: No matter how horrific the player's actions are, ranging from violence against the other inmates to achieving Kill ’Em All, the worst they'll ever get is a few more days in jail.
  • 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 to wait it out — and it's easy to die, due to the near-constant health drain.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Not Hyperbole.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 ’Em All, though you'll get a small trickle of new guys to replace them. A Let's Play from Nerd³ 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.

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