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.
An ultra-addictive puzzler. Conclusive proof that because a game looks square doesn't mean it is.
Eek! This is one of the later levels, and there are yellow blocks all over the place getting in the way! Yikes!
Here's a quick Pipe Mania lesson - look to the left there, that's your pipe dispenser. 'S' is where you start and the red stuff is the flooz. Now get going!
Look at this - the water's going crazy, but we've already got it flowing through 40-odd pipes - mega points ahoy!