Often imitated but never duplicated, the original Pipe Mania returns after a 20 year hiatus and bringd it's pipe-laying, flooze-spilling action to a new generation of puzzle lovers. Originally released in 1989, Pipe Mania (better known as Pipe Dreams in the US) became an instant sensation in the puzzle gaming community. And while the basic mechanics have been reproduced in other games over the years, the original franchise has stayed relatively quiet until now. Clogged drains got you down? Let Pipe Mania pick you up!
Like any good plumber, you'll need to make sure that all of the icky sewage mess (which Pipe Mania calls “flooze”) stays in the pipes and off the floor. This means that you'll be building a network of pipes that starts at a spout and ends at a drain. Using different shaped pieces that are given to you in random order, you'll need to race against the slowly moving flooze as it tries to make its way to the end of your unfinished sewage system.
The challenge presented by the basic game in Pipe Mania isn't simply about completing the network quickly. The puzzle pieces have different shapes, so each pipe won't necessarily fit with the next one. This means thinking ahead a few moves and placing pipes in the places you think you might need them. The more pieces you're able to use, the higher your score. Conversely, letting any pieces go to waste will knock your score down a few pegs. The real challenge in Pipe Mania isn't just beating the flooze to the end of the pipe, but in using the randomly distributed pieces wisely and not letting any go to waste while racing against the sewage clock.
Getting the network of pipes laid out offers up a frenetic level of fun, but it could have easily grown repetitive had the developers not taken the steps needed to keep things fresh. Exceptional level design and the constant introduction of new features never lets the basic formula feel basic or formulaic. Every few stages a new twist or turn is introduced. Sometimes it's reservoir pieces that slow things down. Sometimes it's one-way pieces that need to be used in a certain direction. Little touches like this alone would have made for a terrific and ever-evolving experience, but the team behind Pipe Mania took it even further.
As you progress through the main game, Pipe Mania eventually leaves the classic pipes and plumbing motif behind and applies its special brand of puzzle mechanic to a variety of new environments like railroads and factories. In the same spirit that the has re-invented the rest of the game, these levels offer differences that go beyond the cosmetic. Trains, for example, are certainly not flooze. The game acknowledges the difference by tweaking the gameplay to let you change track pieces after the train has passed, or letting a train ride the same track more than once. It's all of these frequent little tweaks to the gameplay that keep things feeling fresh throughout.
In addition to the lengthy main campaign, Pipe Mania includes a number of additional modes for gamers to pipe their way through. Arcade mode has you racing against not only the flooze, but a slowly scrolling screen that attempts to swallow your progress whole. Bonus mode serves you up puzzles that need you to fill in missing pipe pieces or rotate pieces around to complete a connection. Classic brings back the original levels and rule set from the 1989 version of the game. The diversity and sheer quantity of gameplay offered in this package is incredible, especially given its $4.99 price point.
Pipe Mania still offers the same gameplay that made it famous more than 20 years ago, but this new version packs in so many bells and whistles, so many twists and turns that it will easily be welcomed into the iPhone collections of seasoned puzzle gamers and new fans alike. Sure it's just a carbon copy of what was offered on other consoles last fall, but when the package and price are this good, who's complaining?