Go with the flow

Pipe Mania logo Amiga Computing Excellence Award

HOW do you think the experts at Amiga Computing spend reviewing a game? A day? A week? Well here is a program which has been under test for a year. That's how long it is since I first saw a game which was then called Pipeline. And it is as fresh today as it was in the spring of '89.

Pipe Mania has a shade more plot than Tetris, and a tad less than Bombuzal, but it rates alongside those two as one you can't put down. A real "It's three in the morning so I'll just have one more game" jobbie.

The pipe has got to be built, presumably because that is what you do with pipes. For every extra bit you add on you score more points.
Sections are added against time, they come off one - easy mode - or two - experts only - stacks. In a two player game each player has one of these, but when playing solo you can choose which stack to use.

You can see five shapes ahead in each stack. This allows you to build in an unconnected area and then join the sections up later.
Playing two player is vicious, you need to absorb so much information - where the pipe is, what your shapes are and most importantly what your opponent is planning.

When the time limit expires all pipes mjust be connected, but if you use a cross-shaped tube the side pipes do not need to be linked. A liquid then runs down the pipe and you are awarded points for each section filled. As the liquid runs along you can add bits of pipe, but eventually you'll fill the screen or the gunge will catch up with you.

To help you there are reservoirs which slow down the flow. Make sure an early bit of pipe goes to one of them.
You must fill a minimum number of elements to progress to the next level. Any segments of unused pipe on the screen are destroyed at a cost of 100 points. This can be especially annoying when you have built a long loop and missed out one section which renders connected pieces redundant.

As you progress through the levels there are more hazards and bonuses to be found. There are funny fish-shaped blocks which get in the way of your path-building, pipes which give you a bonus score, and end pipes. These are really taxing because the stacks will appear to conspire against you, forcing the pipe away from the end.

The graphics have been spruced up considerably in the past year. In most respects this is an improvement, however sometimes arrows which show the direction of flow in one-way pipes are a bit difficult to see.

The sound is similarly lukewarm, the left-over pieces exploding at the end sound a lot like Michael Barrymore's "awright", and the simple tune is a let-down on the Amiga.

Still it is the gameplay which matters and which shines. This is a case of a game where the score doesn't tell the whole truth, I've played it nearly every day for the past year. Nothing else comes close in addictiveness.


Pipe Mania logo

EMPIRE £24.99 * Joystick or Keyboard

Simple ideas are often the best, they say, and here's a case in point. Way back at the start of the Eighties one of the early 'classics' was a game (and its clones) based simply on building a pipeline across the screen before the time limit and the slime caught you out. The longer you survived, the more points you got.

Here we are in the Nineties and here we are with a pipe-laying game. This is a one or two player game with loads of improvements over the originals, but with a remarkably similar game-plan.

You play on a 10x7 grid of tiles: a timer ticks down on the right of the screen and a tube of tile-sized pipe pieces is on the left. There's a tile on the grid with a big S on it - that's the start tile. The idea is then to move a hashed line around the grid and press fire when you want the bottom piece of pipe from the tube to be dropped on to the selected tile.
Once the timer reaches the bottom, ooze flows from the start tile through the pipe you've laid. Obviously, the more pipe tiles laid, the longer the ooze will flow and the more points you'll get.

But where's the catch? Firstly and most importantly, the pipe sections cannot be chosen: you have to take the bottom one every time. There are ways to get round this - pipe sections can be laid on top of other ones, so you can keep laying pipes until you get the right section. Then again you can lay pipes until you get the right section. Then again you can lay pipe sections all over the grid until you get to the right one.
There is a drawback to this method though: every section costs points so you can't go chucking them around everywhere. Once you've played a few times you'll realise that yu can start laying unwanted pipes in anticipation of where you're going to be running the pipe.

The other major problem is the introduction of hazards on later levels. Things like obstacles which won't allow you to lay pipes on them, or one-way pipe sections and so on.

There's a plus side to the later levels, though, including reservoirs which buy you a little time if you can get the ooze into them and side-of-screen escape routes (holes in the side of the grid that allow you to escape to the other side of the screen). Work through the game and every four levels you get a bonus level and a password which means you don't have to work through early levels every time you boot up.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

It looks simple, but it's very effective. What graphics it has are good, but you'll be far too busy wondering where to put the next pipe to worry much about them. The tunes are all right but get on your nerves after a while; fortunately it plays just as well with the volume turned down.

LASTING INTEREST

It has a fair amount: you'll spend long sessions with it and come back to it often too.

JUDGEMENT

Unless you like games that stretch your mind and frantic, frustrating gameplay you're not going to enjoy this. On the other hand it's very addictive and playable and has heaps of the 'one more go' factor. Good stuff - not excellent, but good.


Pipe Mania logo Amiga Joker Hit

Wow! Dieses Game hat absolute Hitqualitäten - dafür sorgt das einfache aber geniale, sprich süchtig machende Spielprinzip!

Auf einem 7 x 10 Kästchen großen Feld soll der Spieler aus vorgegebenen Einzelteilen eine Pipeline zusammenbasteln. Genau wie bei "Tetris" muß man vorausplanend spielen, um die nachkommenden Teil richtig unterbringen zu können.

Die ersten Rohrstücke werden noch "trocken" verlegt, erst wenn die Zeitsäule am rechten Bildschirmrand abgelaufen ist, bahnt sich die Flüssigkeit ihren Weg. Spätestens dann sollte man sich sputen: Sobald das Öl am Ende der Leitung ankommt, ist auch Spielende.

Den Level schafft man nur, wenn die Brühe eine vom Computer festgelegte Anzahl von Kästchen durchlaufen hat. Nach jedem vierten Spielabschnitt wird ein Paßwort ausgegeben, damit man nicht immer ganz von vorne anfangen muß.

In höheren Levels kommen zu den gewöhnlichen Bausteinen auch noch ausgefallenere dazu. Pipe Mania spielt man allein oder zu zweit im Simultanmodus, wobei die Pipeline dann in Teamwork aufgebaut wird.

Mir hat das Game beim Testen viel Freude gemacht: Grafik und Sound sind zwar nur durchschnittlich, aber vom Spielprinzip geht eine ungeheure Faszination aus. Schnelle Reaktionen sind genauso gefragt wie Kombinations- und Konzentrationvermögen. Empires neues Tüftelspiel verdient einen Ehrenplatz in jeder Softwaresammlung! (Carsten Borgmeier)


Pipe Mania logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Empire
Price: £24.99

In a nutshell, Pipe Mania has bad graphics, bad sound and hardly any variation in its very simple gameplay - yet I love it! Pipe Mania works along the same theory that keeps Pac-man and Space Invaders popular. A game doesn't have to have Galaxy Force graphics and an Afterburner soundtrack to be fun to play and addictive.

Aesthetically, Pipe Mania has very little to offer. The game is based around a grid, the main graphics being composed from the dozen or so different pieces of pipe that are placed within the squares on the grid.

The idea behind the game is simple. You, the plumber, within the set time limit, have to rig up a pipe to a particular length. Simple, is it not?
The only real problem is that you can only take the bit of piping at the bottom of your bag, and that's rarely the one you want. What you then do with that piece is your own business. You can lay it down elsewhere and try and link it up to something, or just drop it and pick up the next piece. This second method isn't advised: it costs valuable points to buy bits of piping, so it's best to have a pretty good idea in your head as to how the pipe will run.

When the painfully short time limit runs out and you don't have enough bits of pipe laid down the water starts to flow, very, very slowly. You can still lay down pipe, but don't take too long over it as the water will speed up quickly.

And that's about the size of it. Technically there isn't much of a game in there; but I can see this easily outlasting many of the flashiest arcade conversions. It's just so addictive you won't have time to catch your breath.


Plumbing the depths of deviousness to drive you round the bend!

Pipe Mania logo Zzap! Sizzler

Empire, C64 £9.99 cassette, £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99

Aren't pipes wonderful things? You can smoke them, play them to make beautiful music, and pump water, gas, and sewage down them (although these activities are not recommended with the same pipe!).

In Pipemania however, you must simply join them together. Straight bits, bendy bits, crossovers, ones which only flow one way: they all must be assembled into as long a pipeline as possible for the yellow gunge which emanates from the 'start' pipe to flow through.

Sounds easy enough. The trouble is, your pipeline must stay within the confines of the screen. And you don't even get to choose which pipe section to use next. A supply of random sections scrolls down in a window to the left of the play area: you must use the one at the bottom in order to access the nest. If you've placed a piece in the wrong place, you can 'bomb' it by laying a new section on top - though this incurs a 50-point penalty.

Obviously, you need a few seconds to prepare any pipe at all, so at the start of each round there's a short time allowed before the gunge emerges. When you've laid a very long pipeline you can even make the gunge flow faster for double points. The round ends when the gunge reaches the end of the pipe. To get to the next round you must make the gunge flow through the required number of pipe sections. Don't go laying pipe recklessly though; 100 points are deducted for each unused section laid.

In some rounds there are also deadly obstacles such as fish (?!) to avoid, plus bonus pieces (for extra points if the gunge flows through them) and reservoirs which take a while to fill, giving you extra time. There may also be gaps in the playing area wall - when gunge flows through one, it reappears from the opposite side of the screen (providing you've got a pipe there!).

Every four rounds you're given a password (to return you to this point if you die) and you get a go at the bonus level. Here, pieces appear in turn at the top of the screen - press fire to make them drop, hopefully creating a long pipeline from the start-piece at the bottom of the screen.

For novices there's an easy Trainer mode, while professional plumbers can play on Expert level where there are two (differently coloured) section supplies to choose pieces from. There's also a Competitive two-plumber mode in which both players plumb simultaneously, each having his own separate section dispenser and score.


Phil King This is the best puzzle game since the classic Tetris. The concept is simple, but fiendishly difficult to master as you construct a huge spaghetti junction of pipes, frantically trying to outrun the dreaded gunge! The graphics aren't that impressive but they're clear and serve their purpose well; as does the gradually accelerating 'one note jam' sound on the Amiga, while C64 sound is limited to tunelets and sparse but informative FX. Unlike many other puzzle games, Pipemania isn't limited to the same style of screen: for getting onto higher level you are rewarded with not just different graphics but lots of extra features. The excellent expert and two-player modes are the icing on the cake. Brilliant.
Robin Hogg I've had so much fun playing Pipemania. The perplexing, pipe-placing action is so incredibly addictive, and even when you lost it's not that frustrating - the action is so panic-inducing you usually end up laughing at all the stupid mistakes you've made under pressure. Two-player games are even more fun, and although competitive you really need some degree of cooperation to stand a chance - Phil and The Scorelord kept bombing each other's pieces and ended up with woefully low scores! The excellent bonus levels add extra variety, while the password system allows you to get further through the levels with each attempt. With its fast arcade action Pipemania is more than just another puzzle game and will appeal to all gamesplayers.
Scorelord Pipemania is one of those games you really have to play to believe how addictive it is. A mere one life to complete four levels of the game before getting that all-important password is just so sadistic - we really must have a challenge on this game soon. The number of times I've nearly blown a circuit when I've died on the fourth in a series of levels is beyond counting. If I knew where programmers, Assembly Line, were based I'd reduce them to hamburgers in seconds! But you just keep coming back, because it's so enjoyable to play. Unlike most puzzle games the emphasis is on arcade reflexes as much as thinking, as each new piece comes up the rush to place it somewhere is frantic. And when you've got two people playing... well, Phil) the thieving, selfish, protoplasmic slime) is still talking in a whisper after I very nearly throttled him for ruining one of my lines. 'Co-operation' he kept on saying, before replacing my pieces so he could get the most points!
As for differences between the two versions, the Amiga has a much greater variety of graphics, not that they're particularly stunning or useful considering the price. The C64 makes do with some tastefully restrained graphics that do without any multiload irritations. In short, this is an utterly fiendish game that no Commodore owner should be without. Forget shoot-'em-ups and beat-'em-ups: this game is going into the arcades, and once play it you'll know why. Buy it now!