Here's a fun way to spend an afternoon: Fill you pockets with loose change, then seek out your nearest arcade - there aren't too many of these places left nowadays, so you may have to visit the seaside. Once you're there, ignore the battered old Double Dragon cabinet and take a good look around. In some dark corner of the room you should find a dribbling old man with filthy clothes and matted grey hair. Ignore the urine stench, and pay your respects: this man is what we refer to as a Veteran Gamer.
If you give him your coinage and let him play Pac-man for a bit, he'll tell you his stories of days gone by. He'll speak about his war with the Space Invaders, and regale you with tales of Dizzy - Prince of the Yolk Folk. With a teary eye, he'll recall the moment when Peter Molyneux invented the god genre, with Populous. And if you ask him nicely about puzzle games, he may mention the words "Pipe Mania."
Back in the fluorescent 80s, Pipe Mania was one of the world's most popular puzzlers - with ports available on every big format, from the ZX Spectrum to the Atari ST (stop laughing - they were huge at the time). To the current generation, the title's frantic gameplay will be something of a complete unknown - although a rough equivalent can be found in BioShock's hacking mini-games. In essence, the idea is that you're presented with a grid of squares, with an entrance pipe. After a short period of time, water (or "flooze," as the game calls it) begins to flow out onto the grid. Your job is to build a course for the liquid, keeping it contained for as long as possible using a series of pipes, in tetris-style shapes. That's it in a nutshell, but this description fails to convey the sheer panic of advanced levels - when the speed of the flooze increases and you find yourself flailing around for the one pipe that will save your bacon (and your high score).
Back in the day, the sole aim of the game was to rack up points. As you might expect, Empire Interactive's forthcoming revival of the series will add a series of tweaks and reformations while retaining the core concept and gameplay. In the past, allowing the flooze to reach the end of your pipes resulted in instant failure, but now the player is given a small reservoir which begins to fill if your track is incomplete; only when this overflows is it time to start again. This concession in difficulty will be balanced out by the inclusion of new hazards, the most prominent being enemy characters who attack your pipe networks with special powers. While you're laying down new pieces, you'll be forced to go back and fix leaks caused by these bastard saboteurs.
Empire is promising over 70 levels, spread across five different game modes - including one with a full narrative (a crucial element of any puzzle game). You won't just be messing around with pipes either: seven themed worlds will set you various tasks, from laying down electric cabling to building a track for a runaway train. The changes between scenario will affect gameplay, rather than just being a mere palette-swap; the locomotive levels reminded us of an ancient out-of-control-choo-choo puzzler by the name of Guttang Gottong - if you remember this, you're either very old or the kind of person who enjoys digging up extremely rare games.
With multiplayer modes and the chance to play the original title, it looks as though Empire is giving Pipe Mania a thoroughly comprehensive revival. It'll be out at some point this year on PC, Wii, PS2, DS and PSP - although there'll be no Atari St version, sadly. There's no word yet on whether the box-art will feature the terrifying bloke whose screaming face decorated the original release. Fingers crossed!