Plumbing has never been a glamorous profession. Given the choice, nine out of ten games-players say they want to be a movie star and not put their hand down somebody's U-bend...
...that one in ten, however, has played Pipe Mania, and knows the world of pipe-fitting is about as exciting as mortal man can stand.
There's this grid, see, and in the middle is a valve. And in a few seconds that valve will begin to leak horrible green gunge - so fast that decisive action is needed to avert disaster. To save the screen from a soaking, there's a pile of pipe pieces placed to one side. They must be used, in sequence, to create a circuit through which the liquid can flow for a set number of grid squares.
None of this soldering/welding business is needed when fitting the pipes, thankfully. Simply guide a cursor over the square you want to plumb-m, press the fire button, and bish, bash, bosh it's down. Now life would be easy if all the right sections of piping popped up at the right moment. Then, any would-be plumber could fly about the screen laying networks of tubes... but that wouldn't be any fun, would it?
The pipes are dispensed from a see-through container four sections high. The bottom piece is the one you can currently use, but it's also possible to see the what the next three pieces are to aid in planning (or panicking) ahead. With corners, crossroads, straights and one-way pipes, the wrong bit invariably turns up at the right time! When slime's oozing through the pipe you've already laid and you desperately need one specific shape to save the day, guess what shape you're bound to see sitting happily at the top of your stack, gloating!
There are two ways to deal with the above situation - OK, three, if you count throwing a wobbly! Firstly, you can go to where the right piece of pipe would go if only it would have to decency to show up, and keep pressing fire - effectively laying then destroying piece after piece until the right one turns up. 'Bombing' costs points, though! More together plumbers can try to use the pieces they don't want at the moment to build up a network for later. The danger here is becoming obsessed with the new bit, forgetting the tide of slime about to spill onto the grid.
In two-player mode you can try to work as a team, yelling out who's laying what and where [Sounds like Dallas... er, no, forget I said that - Ed]. Or if you want to be cruel and go for the big score you can 'bomb' out opponents' pieces with your own. Points are only scored when the gunge goes through a section of pipe. You can tell the pipes apart because each player has a different coloured set of tubes, and a different colour marker. This latter course of action, while fun on the lower levels, won't do either player much good when the going gets tough. On levels 20 plus, the liquid positively spurts out of the valve and so teamwork's essential just to survive.
Every four levels there's a password and a sub-game. But when you fail to go the distance with a pipe system, then it's game over - no credits, no hope, no future. So passwords are vital if you don't want to play every level, every time. There are masses of little tricks and bonuses for the better player to go for. Using five crosswords earns bonus points and looks really pretty, while doing the virtually impossible and filling every eligible square with a connected pipe is score central!
On the later levels (there are 36 in all) there are start and finish points, and still a distance quota to meet. Throw in blocked squares and bridges to cross, and it takes on the nightmare proportions of London tube maps than the bathroom variety.While only average on the graphic front and mediocre on the sonic level, Pipe Mania's playability is overpowering. Once you finish a game, you won't want to play anything else until you know every password. More sub-games would have been fun, but even this cannot prise loose Pipe Mania's vice-like addictiveness. So if you ever spring a leak in the middle of the night and need a plumber, but none of them will answer the phone, just play Pipe Mania - it's probably what *they're* doing.
Plumbing has never been so much fun. Pipe Mania isn't a graphical great, but has so much playability that it's guaranteed to send you round the bend!
Green pipe is fine.
P. Colourful and clear.
N. Limited by the nature of the game.
N. Tolerable tune and effects.
Grab Factor 91%
P. An instant smash.
P. Password power makes life easier.
Staying Power 83%
P. 36 levels of piping hot fun.
P. Play, play the game.
One day, all gaming will be made this way...