Pipe Mania’s a different take on pipe dreams

Posted: July 14, 2009 in Puzzle

The term “pipe dreams” has many connotations especially here in San Francisco. Seriously, over the past few months, a variety of pipe-building games have come out for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, and unfortunately, most are one-dimensional and lack imagination. Then I came across Pipe Mania which not only adds some pizzaz to category, but really does offer a good and unexpected degree of depth.

The concept is similar to what most of us have come across before—build a pipeline from start to finish so that the flowing liquid ooze—Flooze as its called in Pipe Mania—flows from one end to the other. Of course, the catch is to do this before the ooze spills all over the place. What sets Pipe Mania apart is that it spices up this simple premise in ways that make it entertainingly addictive. For some, you may never look at sewage the same way again. Ok, that’s not true, but I had to get my public service announcement in there somewhere.

Right off the bat, you will notice the visuals and the soundtrack. It’s a lively and polished game, as good looking as you can get when dealing with pipes. The animations are smooth and run well on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0 with no noticeable lag.

Pipe Mania is all about length so while you may be tempted to build in a straight line or complete a pipeline as fast as possible, the incentive here is build a pipeline as long you can to gain bonus points, earn trophies and unlock items. The game has 4 modes of play: World, Arcade, Bonus and Classic—with a total of 39 levels and 356 sub-levels.

World : 7 levels = 7 x 8 sub-levels = 56 sub-levels
Arcade: 6 levels = 6 x 16 sub-levels = 96 sub-levels
Bonus : 6 levels = 6 x 7 sub-levels = 42 sub-levels
Classic: 20 levels = 20 x 8 sub-levels = 160 sub-levels

World, which is the storyline campaign mode is unlocked to start, and you must earn trophies to unlock the other modes.

Arcade—Gain 5 Silver Trophies in World
Bonus—Gain 4 Bronze Trophies in World
Classic—Gain 5 Bronze Trophies in World

The storyline follows Alfonso Senior and his kids Junior and Fawcett on Paradise Island as they attempt to undo all the bad plumbing caused by a cowboy plumber by the name of Buffalo Bonzo. That’s one of the more creative storylines for pipes I’ve seen in a while. You can choose to play either Junior or Fawcett, which go through 7 worlds to places such as the railroad, a toy factory, the electricity plant and even the innards of the Internet with accompanying boss fights of course. In these worlds, you come across some fun if not dastardly characters such as Ramona the sewer queen, Fat Kat and Manic Mouse, Penwald and his toy store, electrifying Phyllis, tech savvy LOL404, and of course Buffalo Bonzo. The intro cartoon feels like a Don Bluth production and does a terrific job setting up the storyline.

Placing pipe pieces is all done via touch controls where you simply tap where you want them placed. What will happen is that pipe pieces are presented in a dispenser which by the way looks like a big pipe. These pieces cannot be rotated or switched around, and if you decide to remove a piece that has already been placed, you lose points. Of course, if you do remove or replace a piece, you tap on it, exploding it into the ether. The game requires plenty of planning, and you’ll come up with different ways of dealing with certain situations. That’s one of the entertaining things about pipe building. While it’s a simple premise, the games never really play the same twice depending on the randomization of pipe pieces.

While Arcade provides moving backgrounds, classic and bonus provides additional levels and puzzles, my attention was focused on the World mode because this is really where the game differentiates itself and where you really get the most of your entertainment value. Based on the different worlds, you’ll come across different themes with matching obstacles. Obstacles such as ducks and of all things toilet cakes (didn’t realize what they were at first) start forcing you to take detours. And you will face a good share of attacks that destroy your pipe work.

One great element in the game is the unlockable treasures—35 in all—that are obtained based on trophies you earn. In each level, trophies are earned based on meeting specific scoring requirements for a gold, silver and bronze. Based on trophies earned, game modes are unlocked as well as these treasures which are kept in the Treasure Room. These treasures are also found throughout the levels and they unlock music and characters among other things, and this adds to the replay value of the Pipe Mania.

For each level in World, a distance is provided that must be met as well the scoring requirements I mentioned to earn the various trophies. The gameplay can be frantic as you’re dealing with pipe pieces that don’t fit and obstacles that destroy your workmanship. But at you have some leeway. Even if the flooze spills, you have a few seconds to find the piece. A gauge located in the lower left corner monitors spills and leaks, and it’s game on until that gauge fills up. Besides obstacles, there will fixed pipe pieces that you cannot destroy or replace, and applies equally to pipes already filled with flooze. As they say at nuclear power plants, “Don’t get any on ya’!” Crossing pieces allow you to build over existing pipelines which also come in handy when building in tunnels. There’s also the typical fast forward button known aptly as the Fast Flooze button where you can speed up the flow of flooze—say that fast 5 times—and gain extra points.

Is the game missing anything? For me, I’m a happy plumber although there is no mid-gameplay auto-save. For others though, keep in mind that there is no online scoring, no auto-flip, and no playing your own music during the game.

All in all, Pipe Mania is a solid offering with plenty of depth and well presented with a fun storyline. It definitely sets the “pipe” bar for these types of games, and even if you’re tired of the category, you may want to give this a try. The flooze may change your view on things.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (a deep pipe game with enough in it that you won’t exhale too soon; recommended for puzzlers and pipe fitters alike with a lighthearted storyline)

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