At school we had special lessons focussed on careers. The idea was to give us all an idea of what we were going to do once we'd left education. At the time there seemed to be some kind of push to get kids into professions such as carpentry, electrical engineering and plumbing. The hook was that these professions weren't going to die out and that you could earn a decent amount of money. Not wanting to get our hands dirty for fear our PES playing skills would suffer, we ignored the advice, but given the incredibly tricky scenarios encountered in Empire Interactive's PipeMania that probably wasn't a wise decision.
If you started gaming in the 90s or later you probably won't be aware that PipeMania first appeared as a fairly popular puzzle game on the Amiga in the late 80s. The goal was to lay down pieces of pipe and build a route from the start to the finish, preventing the precious liquid (flooze) from spilling all over the place. With pipe pieces handed out randomly, Tetris block-style, and with no ability to rotate them, you had to plan ahead, placing things where you thought they could be used later on. Alternatively you could just build over the top of another piece, but that would lose you points.
After a certain amount of time the flooze would start flowing and you'd frantically place piping in order to keep it flowing. It was easier said than done, with levels requiring you to lay down a certain amount of piping in order to progress, with simple lines not being nearly long enough. Later stages introduced reservoirs and one-way sections, and obstacles got in your way to further your frustration. Players suffered from headaches due to the repeated slamming against brick walls as flooze oozed all over the place. PipeMania was an incredibly difficult game, and Empire's modern remake is very similar indeed.
The core principles remain, so you've once again got to guide the flooze and use a variety of pipe types, navigate obstacles and take special items into account. It's so similar it would be easy to think that this is the same game but with a modern visual makeover, but on top of the classic gameplay you get numerous new gameplay modes, two-player head-to-head play and a story of sorts.
PipeMania's story ties into the World mode, in which you travel across the Isle of Ducts and restore order via a series of pipe laying challenges. These challenges cover eight areas, each offering something slightly different, from standard pipes to railway lines that carry trains and even multiple flows of flooze. Early stages are simple enough, but pretty soon you'll have to lay down fancy pipes, contend with an endless amount of pieces you don't need and attacks from other characters that seriously hinder your progress towards plumbing nirvana.
Compared to the original game you do have a little less frustration to contend with, mainly thanks to a leak meter. Where it was game over in the original if the flooze hit the end of a pipe, here it's game over when the leak meter is full. If this change in rules isn't to your liking the included classic mode, which plays exactly like the original, will be the better option. The scrolling arcade mode is also good fun and a novel twist on the formula, while the two-player versus mode is a good laugh and can be played on the PSP even if you only have one copy of the game (via game sharing). Sadly, and quite bizarrely, the DS game doesn't support multiplayer at all.
With plenty of puzzles, numerous game modes and two-player support (on PSP) PipeMania is a fun, tough puzzler that is different enough to other puzzlers on the market to warrant a purchase. Its quite severe learning curve might put off some people, but once you get in the pipe laying zone you'll find an incredibly addictive game.