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.
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Big Al Dykes
STEVE: 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.
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
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