If you’re proper old, you’ll know that Pipe Mania was a game first released in the late Eighties on the Amiga, and if you’re reading this review with the intention of buying it because of that – good work! You’ll be well catered to. In fact, even though as a retro remake, Empire were given every possible chance to waste your money, Pipe Mania isn’t a cash-in, but rather a fiendishly addictive puzzler that, while samey at times, is accessible and fun for anyone with hands big enough to use a Dual Shock 2.
The aim of the game is to link a series of pipes between two spots on a map before the water gushes out, using any combination of shapes, from the simple straight and curved ones to others that loop over one another. The parts you’re assigned are random, but you can build over the ones you’ve put down already for a point-penalty. The trick is to plan out what parts you’ll need across the level using as few bits of pipe as possible.
It gets more complicated when you meet reservoirs that slow down the flow, and spaces that, when the water travels through them, speed up the flow to ridiculous proportions. While you can avoid these hazards with ease, the key to Pipe Mania’s addiction is siding with the points system that rewards you for intricate pipe-organisation. The faster the flow (and the more needlessly complicated your pipe-design) the better you score, to the point that you’ll find yourself deliberately wrapping your pipes around each other to cash in.
Pipe Mania becomes a maddening and frantic game of strategy and crowd-control as the timer ticks down and the flow trickles out. For a simple-seeming puzzle game, it’s stupidly engrossing. The difficulty is a bit of an issue though. As the game continues, you’ll find the demands it places on you become greater, and the unpredictability of the different pieces you receive becomes frustrating. This isn’t so bad, though, as you can skip levels at will, but for the points-purists out there, you’ll want to play and complete levels with the best score you can muster. And that’s the beauty of Pipe Mania – it’s simple, addictive and fun in a way that all portable puzzlers should be.