You know that little mini-game in Bioshock? The one when you hack a machine and, for whatever reason, they have you arrange a series of pipes across a grid from one end to the other on a set amount of time? Well, Pipe Mania makes a full game out of it. And it does a pretty good job of it. While mini-games rarely make a good transition to the full experience, Empire made a decent handheld puzzle game that is just complex enough to remain entertaining after numerous plays, but simple enough to bring comfortable numbness you expect from entries in the genre.
For those who didn’t play Bioshock, the mini-game I am likening Pipe Mania to is fairly simple. There is a grid with a pipe that sticks out on one side, which has some sort of mystery fluid pumping out of it, and using a series of small pipe pieces, you have to attach the beginning to the end, making sure the goo doesn’t spill out. Unlike Bioshock, the new pipe pieces are uncovered by a Tetris-style queue on the left side of the screen, allowing for more anticipation and strategy, and you don’t have to worry about the goofy explosions that make you a target for Big Daddies. There are a few minor additions, including different types of pieces, and some new types of obstacles, but nothing much to really distinguish it from any number of mini-games or flash games you could find on a bunch of websites (for example…the MYGAMER ARCADE! Filled with dozens of awesome flash games, which are free to play if you sign up on our forums! Don’t waste time, and join our savvy community!). That said, Pipe Mania is still a pretty damn good buy. While it is not, in any way, “inspired,” it’s still a fun game at a great price ($20).
The game is pretty mediocre, graphically. There’s not much opportunity to show off any sort of graphical muscle in a puzzle game, though and it looks fine otherwise. The music is in the same boat. It has sound effects and music that do the job, but aren’t in a position to shine. The PSP version is probably the best-looking version of the Empire Interactive release of the game (which also hit the DS, PS2 and Wii), though they all suffer from the same problem.
Even though Pipe Mania is not a bold departure for a game that’s existed for years now, it’s still a pretty good game. At $20, it’s a solid budget pickup for people who want a nice, time-killing puzzler. While it doesn’t have the staying power of some of the better PSP titles, it’s still a worthwhile pickup for people who want a user-friendly handheld title. It doesn’t have the artistry of Crisis Core or Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops, but if you don’t demand that of your PSP titles, this is definitely worth buying.