Pipe Madness is, as the name implies, a maddening little diversion available on the PlayStation Network for the PS3 or PSP. Pipe puzzle games have been around for a long time and Pipe Madness offers nothing to push the genre, but they don’t do anything to hurt it either.
Play is simple, requiring only the use of the arrow keys on the PS3 controller and the X button. Actually the use of the arrow keys instead of the left joystick to move around the board was my biggest obstacle to game play. I’m so accustomed to moving with the left joystick that getting used to the arrow keys took a few minutes. However, after I adjusted to the arrow keys, I happily went about building my pipe networks.
Obviously inspired by the classic Pipe Mania game, which has inspired everything from full-featured titles to arcade games to the lock-picking mini-game of the original Bioshock, people are obviously fond of trying to quickly build pipes before the approaching water can catch up. The concept of trying to keep ahead of flowing water is a bit of a silly one, but it resonates well with most people.
Even if you have never played any of the many Pipe Mania type of titles in the past, the simplicity of the gameplay will have you there in the trenches in no time. There isn’t even a tutorial or instruction manual with Pipe Madness. But you’ll be up an running in no time anyway.
The goal of the game is to build out a prescribed amount of connected pipe sections before glowing green toxic sludge comes barreling through the pipes. Although you get a visual clue that the sludge is coming, the music doesn’t change at all to increase the tension. Personally, I like this, but it does limit some of the drama of a timed game to hear the same smooth jazz beat even as you’re about to lose.
Scoring is based on how much pipe you laid minus any unused sections. This includes sections that are connected to a mainline, but not actually accessed by the sludge, which I think is unfair. If you managed to connect to the mainline you shouldn’t be penalized for the sludge not taking that route. Another small quibble is the game prompts you to press O to complete the level when, in fact, you press X.
You will get bonus points for performing certain actions, like building your main line through a special pre-placed reservoir or having your pipe double back over itself using an intersection tube. The game gives you the next four pieces, so if you are really good, you can build far ahead of the main line and can connect it all together later.
There are also special mini-games that come up as rewards for completing a certain number of puzzles. These are pretty quick, like a Tetris-like level that has you building pipes falling from the ceiling, but add just enough diversion to clean your mind up for the next pipe level.
As with all pipe-based puzzle games, Pipe Madness is a game of both skill and luck. No matter how good you are at spatial thinking, if you get several of the same shaped pieces in a row and the sludge is coming, you’re not going to fair well. That being said, it does challenge you to think fast about what you get and where to put it. It’s not a very complex concept or something most people will want to play for hours on end, but for a quick game break and a mere $3.99 asking price, it can be a fun diversion.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Network. The download size is pretty small and can be gotten in less than a minute with most broadband connections.