Pipe Mania is a frenetic puzzle game from Empire Interactive. If you’ve never heard of Pipe Mania before, the game may best be described as a cross between Tetris and the security hacking in 2K Games’ first person shooter BioShock. The main objective in the game is to build a pipeline in each level to allow the sewage known as “flooze” to flow from the starting pipe piece to the end pipe piece. While the concept seems simple enough, the game quickly becomes challenging.
The first part of Pipe Mania you’ll be able to play is World mode, and at the beginning of each level the start and end pieces are set out on the map. The middle pieces come one-by-one with a Tetris like preview window of future pieces to be dropped on the map. Pipe pieces come in a variety of different shapes and you can’t rotate pieces in most modes which makes the difficulty level ramp up very fast. When a level starts, players have a prearranged amount of time before the flooze begins flowing from the start pipe. Once you can start laying pipe (get your mind out of the gutter) you’ll be tempted to try and make the shortest route from start to finish, but you’ll soon find out that in addition to working against the clock with the flowing flooze, and trying to attach predetermined pieces, you must also connect a certain number of pipes in order to make the flooze travel a preset required distance. The difficulty doesn’t stop there either, as you advance to the later levels you have to contend with different types of flooze and build around immovable obstacles like toilets and rubber ducks. Enemies can also sabotage your pipes which makes you waste valuable time fixing them so your flooze leak meter doesn‘t reach critical levels. All these things work together to form a hectic and stress inducing puzzle game in Pipe Mania. As you progress through World mode you will unlock other modes of play such as Classic which is a reworking of the original game minus the leak meter, Bonus Match in which you fix incomplete pipelines, Bonus Spin where certain pieces must be rotated to correct the pipe in time, and Arcade which has gamers build pipelines, speed up the flooze, and scroll the map all at the same time in order to keep the flooze on screen and avoid leaks. Many, if not all of the extra modes become absolutely insane as time goes on.
With all these different factors to keep in mind, this may seem like a hardcore puzzle gamer’s dream, but there are some significant problems with Pipe Mania. First off, not being able to rotate pipes is extremely frustrating although you do get used to it. The audio is average at best with crappy music, weak sound effects, and cheesy voice acting. The visuals were a major problem for me because with the artistic style of the game many people like myself will be led to believe that Pipe Mania is geared toward the younger audience, but once you try the game you quickly discover that these puzzles are certainly not meant for children. Along these lines, the plot of the game is perplexing as well. The story of Pipe Mania seems meant for kids with all the bright colors and character names like Junior, Fawcett, and Buffalo Bonzo, but as previously stated, the gameplay is most certainly meant for more mature gamers.
Pipe Mania is an okay game possibly worthy of a rental for big fans of puzzle games, but it doesn’t have the staying power of games like Tetris, Columns, Braid, and Boom Blox. With the high difficulty and the odd choice of visual style in the game, Pipe Mania doesn’t seem to know who it wants its audience to be. Pipe Mania is a nice game that has lots of mind bending complexities, but it still falls well short of becoming puzzle game royalty.