HOW do you think the experts at Amiga Computing spend reviewing a game? A day? A week? Well here is a program which has been under test for a year. That's how long it is since I first saw a game which was then called Pipeline. And it is as fresh today as it was in the spring of '89.
Pipe Mania has a shade more plot than Tetris, and a tad less than Bombuzal, but it rates alongside those two as one you can't put down. A real "It's three in the morning so I'll just have one more game" jobbie.
The pipe has got to be built, presumably because that is what you do with pipes. For every extra bit you add on you score more points.
Sections are added against time, they come off one - easy mode - or two - experts only - stacks. In a two player game each player has one of these, but when playing solo you can choose which stack to use.
You can see five shapes ahead in each stack. This allows you to build in an unconnected area and then join the sections up later.
Playing two player is vicious, you need to absorb so much information - where the pipe is, what your shapes are and most importantly what your opponent is planning.
When the time limit expires all pipes mjust be connected, but if you use a cross-shaped tube the side pipes do not need to be linked. A liquid then runs down the pipe and you are awarded points for each section filled. As the liquid runs along you can add bits of pipe, but eventually you'll fill the screen or the gunge will catch up with you.
To help you there are reservoirs which slow down the flow. Make sure an early bit of pipe goes to one of them.
You must fill a minimum number of elements to progress to the next level. Any segments of unused pipe on the screen are destroyed at a cost of 100 points. This can be especially annoying when you have built a long loop and missed out one section which renders connected pieces redundant.
As you progress through the levels there are more hazards and bonuses to be found. There are funny fish-
The graphics have been spruced up considerably in the past year. In most respects this is an improvement, however sometimes arrows which show the direction of flow in one-way pipes are a bit difficult to see.
The sound is similarly lukewarm, the left-over pieces exploding at the end sound a lot like Michael Barrymore's "awright", and the simple tune is a let-down on the Amiga.
Still it is the gameplay which matters and which shines. This is a case of a game where the score doesn't tell the whole truth, I've played it nearly every day for the past year. Nothing else comes close in addictiveness.