A plumber's lot - in this game - is not a happy one. Pipe Mania sees you in the guise of an unfortunate plumber who must construct a continuous pipeline on the playing grid through which the ever-flowing green Flooz is channeled. To the side of the grid you're provided with a starting point and a dispenser loaded with differing pieces of pipe. The idea is to set down a preset number of piping before the Flooz reaches you. You only have a head start of a few gaconds, so building is a matter of some urgency!
Pipe Mania has three different playing modes: basic one piayer, expert one player and if a friend is to hand, competitive two player. The training mode for all three options is the best to start with as the Flooz fiows much slower. If you set a piece of pipe down that won't fit you can always 'bomb' it, though it takes time to replace and you lose 50 points: if you find the next piece in the dispenser doesn't fit, the best thing to do it set it in a different place and try to head the Flooz flow towards it. Forward thinking counts for a lot in this game.
To end the level fit the set amount of piping together and watch the Flooz go, simple as that - but on later levels things become more hectic. One way sections pop up (the Flooz can only head in the direction of the arrows), end sections appear into which you must guide the finished pipeline. Indestructible obstacles force you to go round them. If you get a long way and die, a helpful password system shows you to get back into the action.
And Pipe Mania is certainly action all the way: amazing how a simple idea can create a mega-playable game (as in Klax too). The graphics are very simple, but as there aren't any beefy character sprites charging round the screen this doesn't really matter. The sound livens up the game no end with a great tune and stacks of sound effects. Whether plumbing strategy is your scene or not, Pipe Mania will get your adrenalin Flooz flowing!
Pipe Mania is wickedly addictive. Once you start playing you just won't be able to put it down. It's one of those games that is really simple, but still catches you out. Just make a pipeline as long as you can, using the pieces of pipe given to you in random order. The trick is to plan ahead, knowing exactly where you want to stick a four way mega pipe with triple bend. The graphics are very simple, nothing to shout about at all, but the sound is more exciting with a groovy tune and plenty of spot effects. Sheer playability will keep you busy for a long long time.
£9.99 cass/£14.99 disk
Reviewer: Jonathan Davies
Laying a pipeline is quite a thought-provoking business. First of all you've got to decide where you're going to put it, and then there's all that dreadful, noisy digging-up-the-roads nonsense. Dust everywhere. And why do they always seem to pick my house to do it outside? Eh? Hardly an ideal subject for a fab Speccy game, you might think. But you'd be wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.
Pipe Mania is one of those really good puzzle games. They're very much the thing to be seen playing at the moment, what with Tetris, Klax and probably loads of others topping the charts. In fact, they're brill! And Pipe Mania is quite possibly the best yet. At first glance it looks a bit like one of those sliding block puzzles, except that there aren't actually any blocks to slide. Not to start with anyway. And even when there are you can't slide them. So what do you actually do?
Start the game, study the screen carefully, and you'll notice a pipe marked 'S'. This is where the 'flooz' will start flowing from within a few seconds. What you've got to do is take sections of pipe, one at a time, from the dispenser at the side and place them onto the screen. In doing so you'll hopefully extend the pipeline from its humble beginnings to a huge great big thing, winding its way round the screen. If, in fact, you don't manage this, and the flooz hits the end of the pipe before it's gone through a specified number of sections, you're a gonner. If you make it, however, you'll clock up a score according to how many pieces of pipe have been flowed through. Any unused ones lying around will count against you.
There are loads of levels (with passwords to access them), and as you progress through them strange things start to happen. Objects appear on the screen. Sometimes they're special sections of pipe (like reservoirs which slow down the flooz, or bonus sections which give you lots of points if you route the flow through them). You may also suffer one-way pipes appearing in the dispenser. What's more, you may find holes in the walls around the screen - if you direct the flooz through one of these, you'll find that it reappears on the opposite side of the screen.
And it gets harder and harder. Not only does the length of time before the flooz starts flowing decrease, and the length of pipe you must make increase, but the order in which the pieces appear in the dispenser gets more and more awkward. Towards the end you'll find yourself having to plan the route ages in advance and fill up every last square on the screen. It's a toughie all right. There's even a two-player option. Each player gets a dispenser to him/herself, and the game becomes a competition to see who can get the most gunge through their pipe.
Presentation-wise. the game is well up to scratch. Admittedly there's not much that can be done to make pieces of pipe look terribly exciting, but there are a few tunes to brighten things up.
Above all, Pipe Mania is a 'fun' game. It's hugely addictive, horribly frustrating and all-round edge-of-the-seat stuff - recommended to anyone prepared to put a bit of brain-work into their game-playing. It's a Megagame okay.
D'you know what I got for Christmas? Nothing. But you don't care, you're only interested in Replay.
Reviewer: Linda Barker
Pipemania is an out and out Megagame. For me at least, few games come close to this one for sheer playability. In my perfect games collection, stripped down to the bare essentials, there's Columns, Klax, Pang, Rainbow Islands, Rodland and this one.
Pipemania is the everyday tale of a plumber who has to slot pipes together before the water comes rushing through them and floods the entire basement. Or whatever. It went down a storm when it was first released and appeared on nearly everybody's list of the year's best games. It was also converted to the NES and to a coin-op. Y'see, Pipmania works on every single format cos it's so simple yet so wonderfully playable. In fact - it's a bit like Othello. Well, it's not got any little round pieces or a green baize board, bit it does take a minute to learn and least a few lunch hours to master.
You might not know it yet, but what you really want is to sit in front of the Speccy for an evening forming long lines of pipes, blowing up parts of it and pulling your hair out when the water floozes out, despite your best efforts. If you don't already own a copy of this cunning little puzzler, then I suggest you pull on your wellies and splash off to the shops pronto. And I said pronto, Tonto. Hurrah!
Cripes! You'd better look sharpish 'cos here comes...
THE COMPLETE YS GUIDE TO PUZZLE GAMES
Yep, readers, looks like it's time once again for another one of those Complete Guide thingies. This issue, for your delight and delectation, we thought we'd take a peek at the more puzzley sort of games. Y'know - puzzle games - those sort of weird ones where you have to use a bit of the ol' grey matter to solve, erm, puzzles and things. And who better to clasp you by the hand and drag you through the world of the mind-boggling than YS's resident 'heart-throb' RICH PELLEY. Hurrah!
BUT FIRST... THE RATINGS
As usual, the normal rating system seems a bit crap in these circumstances, so here's a different one instead.
How complex and difficult to finish are the puzzles? Are they a complete bummer to complete, or could you do it with your little finger stuck, er, wherever you want to stick it?
LACK OF SLEEP FACTOR
Will it have you coming back for more (and more) or will a few games be enough? (Who knows?)
PULL YOUR HAIR OUT FACTOR
Is the game easy to get into, or do you have to spend ages looking up various keys, and working out what's going on all the time? (The lower the mark the better the gameplay in this case.)
Are the puzzles varied, or are they all the same? (Er, obvious, really.)
Okay, so I admit it - I'm crap at puzzle games. Come to think of it, I'm crap at most games really. And I'm not in a particularly good mood today either 'cos I've got a sneaky suspicion that this guide thingy is going to take absolutely ages to write. Even though Matt has reassured me "It won't take long" and Jonathan has informed me (much to my surprise) that "Honest, it'll really be a lot of fun to do" I'm a little dubious. Still, let's get on with it and see what happens, shall we?
For a start, I can see one big problem staring me in the face almost immediately. I mean, what exactly makes a puzzle game a puzzle game, eh? One man's puzzle game may another one's arcade adventure be or, um, something really. We've had countless arguments here in the office over it already (and for some reason I always seem to lose). For instance, Matt thought Arkanoid, Batty and the like might almost count, while Jonathan firmly disagreed. (In fact, if Jonathan had had his way, Tetris would be 'the only true puzzler ever written' and this would be the shortest Complete Guide on record!) Seeing as this is my feature though, and I'm writing it, everybody's going to have to agree with me!
And what is my definition? Well, it's fairly loose really. It's anything where you have to try to work out some sort of (perhaps totally abstract) mental problem against a time limit. Most great puzzle games are based on one very simple initial idea, which is then perhaps spiced up by slicking in lots of different ways that you can earn bonuses, die, get extra weapons or abilities (if it's a weapons sort of game) and so on. It's the simple initial idea that really counts though - if you haven't got that, you ain't got much really.
So what sort of puzzle games have we got here, then? Well, lots of different ones really - there are games where you must arrange blocks, make pictures, blow up balls, collect keys, and do masses more equally weird and wonderful puzzley things.
One good thing though is the scope - unlike in most areas of Speccy programming, with puzzle games you sometimes actually get a degree of originality. The games I've covered here are all good ones, and all still fairly easily available and - would you believe it? - no two of them are the same! (Well, no three of them at least.) And, erm, cripes, looks like I've run out of things to say. So, um, I'll stop waffling and get on with it, shall I?
THE FIRST PUZZLE GAME IN SPECCY HISTORY
Um, er, um. Now you re asking. Turning to the very first issue of Your Spectrum (ie Your Sinclair in disguise), I find one lurking in the first few pages. Traxx from Quicksilver is its name, and what seems to happen is that you move around this little grid thing collecting squares. Fun, eh? (Alright, I admit it. Of course there's no way that could be the first commercially available puzzle game, but it's the first I could come up with. Sorry and all that.) Anyway, on with the show.
NB Erm, actually, before we start, I'd just like to clear something up. You may notice that all the marks for the following games are quite high - there don't seem to be any crap ones. Now this isn't 'cos I'm a great puzzles fan or anything (in truth I hate them all) - it's just that unfortunately all the ones I've picked have been quite original and good. And keeping up my reviewer's credibility, I have to be fair. Hence the high marks.
Reviewer: Rich Pelley
Pipes, eh? Yep, Spec-chums, that's what this one's all about.
Your task is to take pieces of pipe one at a time from this dispenser thing at the side of the screen (the pieces are lots of different shapes) and place them in a wiggly line around the screen, constantly extending your pipeline, so that when all this floozy red stuff starts flowing a few seconds later it can whoosh through the system you've created and won't make a big mess on the floor instead. (Perhaps you played the demo on the Smash Tape a few issues back? Hope you did - 'cos I can't really explain much further.) As you might expect, graphics are of the crisp, clean and simple type but gameplay is such that this makes no difference at all. In later levels all sorts of complications make themselves known. Suffice to say it's quite good fun (if you, erm, like that sort of thing, that is).
There we have it! As I predicted (and Matt and Jonathan got totally wrong) it took me absolutely blooming ages. And most of that time was spent arguing about what a puzzle game actually is and what qualifies and what doesn't (which is one reason why we don't have a giant list of all the ones ever made - we just couldn't agree what they were!).
Next month - Flight Sims. (Something everyone can agree on.) Hurrah!
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Big Al Dykes
Dear Santa, you're useless. I asked you for a massive Skalextric set, a surf board and a few puzzle games for my Speccy and all I got was three pairs of socks, a pink polo neck jumper and seventeen bottles of aftershave (which I don't use). Take my advice and find a new career...
If only Santa had realised that a good puzzle didn't mean wondering why all my aunts and uncles gave me silly things for Christmas. If only he had included Pipemania in my stocking this criticism would never have occurred.
Pipemania is a completely simple concept but incredibly addictive. Take a grid, seven squares by ten, put a tap somewhere on it and provide a ton of copper piping all bent in different directions. Then give someone 20 seconds to start connecting pipes away from the tap before slime, the top's contents, starts to flow. The idea being to make the slime go as far as possible in your plumbers masterpiece.
You can blow up undesirable sections of pipe, get help from reservoirs which slow down the slime, pick up icons and generally get completely wrapped up in playing Pipemania. To start with it can be annoying but once you get the hang of this game you'll love it and probably never leave it.
It's been a long time since I've played Pipemania and it took me a while to start thinking the right way again. Not for the easily beaten or feeble of heart, Pipemania is challenging and worthwhile having.
This is one of THOSE games. You know - the ones that look awful, like 1979 vintage ZX81 efforts, but as soon as you start playing them, you turn into a dribbling, play-obsessed zombie. One of those games which should have a warning about rocketing electricity bills printed on the cover. One of those games which, in short, are madly addictive, despite not being based on an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.
So what's it all about then, you ask suspiciously, not expecting the answer "laying pipes'. Actually it's about laying pipes. No, never madam! But yes, the big challenge is to lay as many connected-up pipes as you can before the time limit runs out the water comes splashing through and you get your shoes wet.
This is how it goes. The screen is laid out as a grid of squares, and each square can contain a section of pipe. You control a cursor, and must move it to whichever square you want before laying the next section. The catch is that there are many different shapes of pipe available - straights, left-hand bends, right-hand bends, crossovers and you have to take what you're given from the bottom of the column on the left. If you manage to lay out a sensible pipeline, when the water starts flowing from the main tank you carry on scoring points; if the water flows out of an unconnected end, you get damp and your turn ends.
The whole idea might sound a bit wet, tee-hee, but as the action gets faster and more frantic you'll find yourself refusing to switch off. If you put a bit of pipe in the wrong place you can "bomb" it out on your next go, but this loses you time and points. On later levels your pipeline is interrupted by wrenches, but you also get reservoirs which will delay the flow of the water.
There's also a bonus level interrupting the main game; this is a bit like Tetris, as bits of pipe fall from the top of the screen, and you have to move them left or right before they drop into place. You can't though, turn them around, as you can with the differently-shaped blocks in tetris, so if anything this is even more of a challenge. A counter at the side of the screen shows you how many pieces of pipe are remaining.
Animation, such as it is, is decent, screen colours are minimal and sound is too. Still, the fab news is that this attention-catching game is likely to be appearing on a coin-op near you in due course; nice to see the games industry creating ideas rather than pinching them from the coin-ops. So get your wrench out of your trouser pocket and get pipe-laying as soon as poss.
Spectrum Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Originally reviewed: TGM017.
Pipe Mania's divided square playing area means the Spectrum's limited colour capabilities have been easy to overcome. Although individual squares are monochrome - which makes them clear and easy on the eyes - others use two different colours to provide variety to the display. Gameplay is little different from other versions - it's hard to spoil it - and that means this is one mean puzzle game
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