If the PSP Minis have been good at anything, it's vaguely imitating some of the greatest classic games of all time. That may sound like a veiled insult, but I've been impressed with the constant parade of familiar games with brand new names. Pipe Madness is a perfect example of this phenomenon. On the surface it's nothing more than the classic 8-bit puzzler Pipe Dream (also known as Pipe Mania), but the developers bring enough new ideas to make this title well worth the $4 asking price.
Make no mistake about it; this is a loving homage to Pipe Dream. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's modeled off of one of the greatest puzzlers of all time. Heck, the game was so memorable that it even influenced BioShock. Pipe Madness is an inexpensive way to recreate the same sort of thrill on your PSP. The good news is that this cheap downloadable game works as both a solid homage and an insanely replayable puzzle game.
The rules of Pipe Madness are simple enough. You lay down tile pieces trying to string together one long pipe. There are a number of different pipe pieces, including corners, straight pieces and even a tile that lets you cross over another pieces. The pipe pieces are pulled at random, so you'll need to think fast and plan ahead. Thankfully you can see the next few tiles, but there's no way to rearrange or rotate the pipe pieces. The object of the level is to link a set amount of tiles together before the goo escapes. If you can do that you'll move on to the next level.
But don't think it's going to be that simple. The game penalizes you for every unconnected tile placed on the board, so you'll need to plan ahead in order to earn the most amount of points. Extra points are given out for the size of the pipe and how many times it intersects with the rest of the active tiles. Even though the level only requires a certain amount of pieces, there's more than enough incentive to see how many points you can earn before getting goo everywhere.
Even though the rules remain consistent, the game likes to throw a number of objectives your way. At first you'll be tasked with laying down a certain amount of tiles, but soon enough you'll have to put down enough tiles and make sure the pipe pieces lead to a drain. In another mode you'll have to deal with tiles falling from the ceiling, an inspired play on Tetris. There are speed tests, point runs, bonus rounds and so much more. One round of Pipe Madness offers a surprising amount of variety.
Like any puzzle game, Pipe Madness has its share of repetition. Even with the variety of objectives, you'll find that the game repeats the same concept over and over again. You'll find yourself performing the same puzzle multiple times, only this time with the added challenge of faster goo or a longer tile requirement. Given the repetitive nature of the source material, this minor complaint is understandable. On the plus side, gamers can reach check points and start at later levels the next time they power up the game.
Pipe Madness is a simple concept with a no frill mentality. There aren't a lot of bonus modes and you can forget about multiplayer matches. The game tracks your high score, but there's no way to share that with your friends online. Even with these minor gripes, I wasted a lot of time trying to best my score. Perhaps it's because the rounds don't last very long, but there's something that kept me coming back to Pipe Madness for more.
At four dollars it's hard to say no to Pipe Madness, even if it is a blatant rip-off of a popular computer game. There's more than enough originality in this title to warrant a look, especially at the inexpensive price point. I have a hunch you'll still be addicted to Pipe Madness long after you forgot how much it cost. This is yet another PSP Mini that is not to be missed.