Modern video games are wonders to behold. They blend cinematic graphics with complex storytelling in a way that transforms the act of gaming into a deeply involved, sometimes emotionally exhausting experience. Take the 2010 classic Heavy Rain. It’s a nuanced drama with branching storylines that involves a serial killer, kidnapping, divorce, and the grief of losing a child in a car wreck. On the other hand, the 1982 arcade game Joust gave us knights battling each other atop flying ostriches.
Still, as much as I enjoy modern video games, there are times that I long for those simpler days. After dragging myself through another soul sucking, Office Space like day at work, I just want to relax and the prospect of throwing myself into a video game with a story that Charles Bukowski would describe as “a bit of a downer” doesn’t seem particularly appealing. It’s at moments like these that I thank the digital gods for the existence of games like Pipe Mania.
Released in 1989 for the Amiga and Atari ST, Pipe Mania was a puzzle game. In it, you built a path out of pipes and fittings. You had a set amount of time to lay down as many strategically placed pipe pieces as possible before the flooz started flowing. Flooz was the sludge that crept its way through the pipes. Similar to games like Tetris or Dr. Mario, there was a queue which showed the next piece available for you to play. However, unlike those games, you couldn’t rotate it. The pieces had to be played as they appeared (though they could be played anywhere on the screen). If they didn’t work, you could replace them with the following piece.
To complete a level, you had to get the flooz to travel a specific distance indicated on screen. Certain levels also required you to reach a stopping point. Fail to reach that spot or to move the flooz through the required number of pipe spaces and the game was over. Succeed, and you moved onto the next level. As levels progressed the flooz got faster and you were given less and less of a head start.
That was it. The game was mind numbingly simple and incredibly addictive. It had almost limitless replay value and no two games were ever quite the same. Best of all, you didn’t have to drink away the memory of your digital sons dying words when you were finished. You could just enjoy playing the game. Crazy idea, huh?