It’s hard to imagine that the core concept of Pipe Mania on the Amiga, which released way back in 1989, would’ve still been inspiring games three decades later. Elements of it have recently been used in numerous Artifex Mundi titles, and even Strange Brigade had a pipe connecting conundrum to get your head around. But can a game that puts all of its eggs in the proverbial pipe-filled basket still work in this modern era of gaming? Well, the latest offering of Pipe Push Paradise on Xbox One wants to take the plumbing-based puzzles to the next level, aiming to be both challenging and innovative.
Pipe Push Paradise is an island in desperate need of a plumber due to all of its piping system being disconnected. The inhabitants usually rely on their own specialist plumber, but he’s been asleep for months and so they’ve called in the next best option – no, not Mario or Luigi – his niece. Just like you, the player, she’ll have to learn on the job if order is to be restored in this idyllic place. That’s essentially the long and short of it, with various NPCs offering little more than pointless chit-chat in text form.
A story is the least of anyone’s worries in a puzzle game though; instead, the success relies upon the quality of 47 piping issues that are present, which is quite a lot in truth. The island works as the hub for all of the puzzles and you’ll wander into each self-contained water leak problem, able to exit and enter ‘levels’ freely within each designated area. There is a mixture of Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert levels throughout, with the latter sure to drive you insane. Completion of certain puzzles open up the next area, ensuring that should you become stuck, chances are you can at least complete the easier ones to gain access to more.
Unlike the purest form of such puzzles, Pipe Push Paradise doesn’t just need you to rotate bits of piping that are already in their correct position, oh no, you have to use the character from an isometric viewpoint to push the various bits of piping into place to form a whole circuit, using the limited space available. The initial puzzle has two pipes leaking water and one connector nearby, which must be manoeuvred into the gap to complete the connection. It’s very, very easy, but you should enjoy that small victory as much as possible because the rest are going to really put your brain through its paces.
There’s a pretty steep curve of difficulty, mainly due to no explanation of what each new puzzle mechanic introduced actually does. So trial and error is the order of the day to get a feel for things. The most ordinary of these see new pieces of pipe that are curved in various ways and often must be flipped 180 degrees before being useful, which brings about the idea of pipes also going vertical, even if just to flip it over – thus essentially becoming a 3D problem to solve. And that’s the simplest of mechanics, with tiles that lift up and then rotate whatever is upon them by 90 degrees, holes in the land that will envelop your pipes, and magnetised piping that stays connected, all playing a part in creating an incredibly tough challenge.
One of the cleverest concepts involves the rotation tiles, five straight pipes and a leak that needs fixing. The pipes that start and finish the connection are way up high though; therefore you must somehow stack the pipes to form a kind of scaffolding to manoeuvre a piece into position. That’s only a Medium puzzle and you’ll still spend a good 10 minutes or more on such problems, at the very least – you might even have to go away and think about the harder ones. You will no doubt come unstuck a lot throughout; moving pipes to the point of no return is a regular occurrence.
Fortunately there are buttons to reset the puzzles, undo movements one at a time and redo them if necessary. And it’s a good job really as your little plumbing hero moves far too fast for her own good, even when using the D-pad instead of the Left Stick. You may want to move a piece of piping across just one space, but she’ll no doubt push it further due to the ridiculous sensitivity in place. Solving the puzzles is hard enough without having to undo a step after almost every single movement and it’s undoubtedly a hindrance.
In terms of visuals, there’s nothing here that’ll have you thinking ‘wow’, but the tropical style colour palette and the backing audio combine fairly well to ensure a calming atmosphere is created. Whilst the music is quite repetitive, it isn’t annoying at all, which is good news because the last thing you want when a puzzle goes awry is to be further aggravated by the sounds.
Pipe Push Paradise on Xbox One does an acceptable job at setting the scene and providing a relaxing environment, but where it succeeds the most is in the designs of the pipe-based puzzles that really take plumbing problems to a whole new level. There’s not much hand holding though, so you may have to mess about in some puzzles to figure out what the quirk is and even then, it’s a damn hard game. The rewarding feeling upon completion of a single conundrum is worth the struggle and pain, although the movement may just be the biggest issue to overcome which will definitely put a damper of proceedings.
Given that it’s priced under a tenner, Pipe Push Paradise is a good option for your next puzzling escapade!