Aside from the many puzzle games I’ve played over my yearsas a gamer, Pipe Dream has a longhistory with me as being a highly addictive experience. Whether it was playedon the Microsoft entertainment packs or on SesameStreet ABC’s 123’s, I used to love the game. And, this long history is alsoa testament to the skills that I have while playing the game (and many gamesfrom the puzzle game genre). The gameplay just comes natural to me and I lovethem dearly.
So, with Puzzle Mania reaching 4 platforms, it’s time to analyze the game to find out if it trulypays homage to the original game and how determine which platform houses thebest version of this game. Does this classic pipe placing gameplay still havesome life to it or is it just another washed out rehash of an older title?
If you’ve never seen or played a game similar to Pipe Mania, the gameplay is very easy tolearn. Essentially, the goal is to add pipes of different shapes (Straight,Ell, Cross, etc.) between a starting point and an end point. A liquid willbegin to flow from the starting point after a set amount of time and willcontinue to flow until the level is over. If the liquid spills out of anunfinished part of the pipe, you only have a few seconds to fix the leak beforeyou lose. You can replace existing pipes with new ones if you laid the wrongpiece but this can only be done at the expense of a score penalty. Finally, ifyou can manage to connect your pipe entirely to the ending position, you winthe level once the liquid hits the end.
The game can be controlled using either the D-Pad orL-analog stick to move a cursor while any of the four buttons (triangle,square, circle, or X) place pipes. Also, in Vs. mode, L&R attacks. Asidefrom laying pipe, you’ll also make use of the 4 above buttons in actions suchas repairing pipes during boss battles or flipping switches.
Overall, the controls are best on the DS and PC as having amouse or stylus is much more effective than using a D-Pad + a button to move acursor and drop pieces. That’s not to say that the controls are bad in the PS2version of the game, it’s just that the game was meant to be played with apointer of some sort. And though the DS controls were the best, that’s not tosay they didn’t have one small flaw: every now and then the game may detectyour tap as a double tap and will cause you to lay down your first pipe andthen immediately replace it with the next (this can become extremely annoyingif you’re trying to lay pipe frantically, as it can often lead to defeat).
One part of the PS2 version that is absolutely intolerableis the immensely long load times. Most of the time you’ll actually have to waitaround 10-15 seconds between any menus or levels before you can play. Thiscompletely disrupts the flow of the gameplay and pales in comparison to thelittle to no load times on the DS and PC versions of the game (this reminded meof how annoying the load times were on the PSX versions of FFIV, V, VI, andChrono Trigger). It is truly an annoying aspect of the game and I could seemyself getting frustrated and quitting just because of them.
Pipe Mania beginswith a nice looking opening sequence featuring good looking animations andvoice acting and providing a brief overview of the purported story as well asan introduction to all of the characters and the situation. And if you’rewondering, the DS version of the game looks equally as good as the PS2 versionof the game (which is more of a problem for the PS2 version than a praise ofthe DS one). The story is purposefully silly, which is the case with most puzzlegames, as gameplay is generally the main emphasis. Basically, Alfonso Senior,the star of previous Pipe Mania gameshas had his retirement interrupted by cowboy plumbers. Thus, he puts one of hischildren, Alfonso Junior or Fawcett to work learning the tricks of the trade sothat they can be prepared to face the evil Buffalo Bonzo.
There are four modes to PipeMania, featuring World Mode, Arcade, Bonus, and Classic. Though all ofthese modes can be unlocked after playing just a few levels, World Mode is theonly type of game available at the start of your game. In World Mode, playersplay through a series of 7 different areas, each of which contains 7 levels anda boss fight. Gameplay is as simple as getting the “flooze” (or pseudo-floozein the case of trains, electricity, and toys) from a start point to an endpoint. Though the first world is simplistic like the original Pipe Dream (also operating as a trainingsession), levels become more and more difficult throughout your adventure asyou travel from world to world (each world has a different set of rules as wellas different ways to modify the gameplay strategies).
For instance, in world 1 you’re typically just trying to addpieces of pipe between the starting and end point. World 2 is similar to world1 but in this area, a few new pieces are added to the mix including a pencilpiece that allows you to pick any pipe you want by drawing the shape on a 3x3 grid(something that is only available in the DS and PC games, and a lot morecreative than the “random” piece that is included in the PS2 and PSP games thatbasically cycles through all possible pieces until you place the pipe). World 3begins to change the game up a bit by giving you command over train tracks. Inthis world, the flooze (a train in this case) has a finite length but you havenew modes of gameplay such as switches to change turns from one direction toanother, an overall time limit, and special pieces that add one car to yourtrain, increasing its length (which is necessary for some missions).
World 4 features a factory where an endless line of coloredobjects flow along the conveyer belts you lay down and you have special piecesto change their color, split the flooze into two, or converge two groups offlooze into one. This reminded me of the gameplay from Prism: Light the Way as there is a lot of strategy to turning theflooze into the right color to finish the mission. World 5 features electricitythat moves extremely quickly through the wires you place and special piecesthat slow the movement of the current are necessary to buy you time.
World 6 is the internet which doesn’t feature a lot of newpieces but does feature new types of gameplay. By this time, the game’sdifficulty has jumped enormously and one level in particular took me around10-20 tries to finish (so the game is difficult and it will challenge even thebest puzzle gamers). World 7 tests all of your skills by providing someextremely sick levels.
As you progress through the World mode, there are a fewdifferent goals to achieve on each level, awarded in the form of a bronze,silver, or gold medal. Bronze is awarded if you just beat the level with theminimum requirement, silver is awarded if you can manage to reach a certainscore and gold is awarded to players that go above and beyond. At first itseemed very easy to obtain gold on every level but once the actual leveldifficulty ramped up, golds became almost impossible to achieve at times (whichis a good thing in my opinion). Once you gain six medals in a world (of anykind) you can move on to the next world.
If you choose to finish off the levels in a world by playingthe last two levels, the last specifically is a Boss battle. Boss battlesfeature classic pipe laying gameplay with a twist: the boss will attack youfrequently by either damaging your pipes or affecting your ability to laypipes. Each world has a different boss with different abilities so battles aren’talways easy. Players must continue laying pipe to finish the level in theallotted amount of time and they must also repair any pipes that are damaged orthe leak will cause them to lose.
The next mode of gameplay is Arcade Mode. This mode featuresa set of levels that are several screens long and rather than just trying toguide flooze from the start to finish, you must also keep the flooze movingfast enough to outrun the scrolling screen. If it gets left behind, you loseimmediately. There are 16 levels of Arcade mode in all and if you begin atlevel one, you can play all the way through to 16 with an accumulating scorefrom level to level (though starting on later levels still provides you with anice starting bonus to your score). There are also 3 levels of speed, each ofwhich gives you a higher starting bonus proportional to the increase of speed.Also, if you can obtain a silver medal on a level from every world, you canobtain a hard mode which consists of 16 more levels that are much moredifficult.
Bonus Mode is another excellent addition to the gameplay,featuring a series of short levels that require quick thinking to obtain thehighest level. Either of the bonus games can be played on either a 3x3 grid, a4x4 grid, or a 5x5 grid, each of which is more difficult respectively. Thefirst bonus game is called Match, where players must fill in the missing piecesfrom the puzzle (in the correct order) before the time runs out. The otherbonus game is Spin, where some of the pipes are rotated in the wrong directionand you must rotate them to complete the chain. Both versions only contain 8different levels per grid size and neither takes very long to finish but theykeep you on your feet and the strategy of these games is lightning fastthinking and reflexes.
The final mode of gameplay is Classic Mode, which allowsplayers to play through a 8 subsequent groups of 8 levels. Each level isunlocked once you finish the level before it so it’s one long journey to finishthrough the 64 classic levels. If you do manage to finish every level, the gamerewards you with a hard mode, that features 64 more levels, each of which aremuch more difficult than the regular mode.
As it stands, this game has a whole slew of options and thiscan make any puzzle fan happy (quantity is the secret to puzzle gamingsuccess). Players will have multiple hours of gameplay to finish the game,giving completionists a large amount of gameplay (maybe 60+ hours to achieve everything?).I really liked all of the options in the game but I do have a few regrets:
Any great puzzler features a level editor to further extendgameplay (this would also artificially create/extend a multiplayer experience).None of the versions of this game contain a level editor, which is a littledisappointing. Finally, internet would top it all off, making the game a trulycomplete experience. Internet isn’t necessary for puzzlers but it’s a one-twopunch when paired with level editors to give puzzlers potentially unlimitedreplay value.
The Art of Plumbing
As was stated before, the visuals look nice on the DS butequal visuals on the PS2 are a little bit disappointing. That’s not to say thatI think puzzle games need elaborate graphics schemes or incredible music, justthat a PS2 release should warrant a little bit ramped up graphics and sound todifferentiate the versions of the game (and make you actually want to buy thePS2 version rather than the DS version). I also felt like the grid was a littlesmall as presented on the TV. The two screen presentation of the DS was theperfect implementation in my opinion and thus a split screen view would haveprobably looked best for the PS2 version.
The music is pretty catchy with different tracks for eachworld you. However, it’s nothing to write home about as the music and sound arenearly identical to the DS version (which is not a good thing for the PS2version). I will say that a few of the sound effects can annoy at times butaside from this, the stereo sound was implemented well, allowing you to hear whicharea the flooze is in at any given time (so you don’t have to constantly lookback to wonder where it is). Also, if it gets too close to an opening, themusic will change to a more upbeat, but still suitable, song.
If you couldn’t already guess, this game matches qualitywith quantity, providing gamers with 4 unique experiences and a whole slew oflevels within each. The variation from mode to mode, world to world, and levelto level, was an exciting surprise and the experience never really got old. Ifound myself getting lost in time playing this game on my DS (especially sincethe portability allows you to play in any location). All-in-all, this gamegives a lot of bang for your buck at only $19.99 (a very low price for any newPS2 game available). The only reservation in giving the depth a perfect scoreare the two abovementioned features that would have made the game a trulycomplete puzzler experience (level editor and online features).
Pipe Mania for thePS2 is a great game at its core but suffers from some key issues that the othergames don’t. Sure, it does have a multiplayer experience that the DS versionlacks, but the load times are absolutely unbearable. Considering the graphicsand sound are not any different than those on the DS and it still takes 10-15seconds to load most of the time (while the DS takes no time) is a hugehindrance to the flow of gameplay. Also, the controls work well but aren’t asperfect as a stylus or mouse pointer. Top that off with the complaints aboutall of the games not including a level editor or online play and you’ll realizethat the PS2 version is not the right choice of the game to purchase. If youhave a DS, pick this game up on it for the same price, and if not, the PCversion is also excellent.