Review: Pipe Dream (Gameboy)

By Drew Wilson

Pipe Dream is a puzzle game that revolves around building a pipe with randomly generated pieces before the fluid reaches the end. The version released on the Gameboy was one of many remakes this particular game underwent. We take a look at one of the more classic versions of this game.

This particular version was released in 1990 and would be a puzzle game that, at the time, attempted to rival the sensation of Tetris in the puzzle game genre.

The premise is quite simple, you, a plumber, need to build a pipeline using randomly generated pieces to accomplish a particular goal without letting the fluids get to the end of the pipeline before you complete it.

When you start, you are shown the playing field and the first few pieces you are given. You build the pipe starting at the piece with a small “S” (presumably for “Start”) and try to accomplish one of two possible goals. The one goal that is part of every single one of the 36 rounds in the game is to get the pipe to cover a certain amount of distance. Each piece counts as one unit of distance. If you can burn through that distance, whatever you do with the pipe afterwards is completely up to you. The player is given a head start as denoted by the little lines next to your distance indicator before the fluids start entering the playing field.

The pieces the player has to work with is pretty much every possible configuration the player could possibly need. There are “L” shapes that go in every direction. There are straight pieces that go horizontally and vertically. Finally, there are “+” pieces that allow a player to create an intersection. If the player uses both sides of the piece, the player obtains a 1000 point bonus. Otherwise, it’s just a regular piece.

If a player makes a mistake building the pipe (inevitably, that will happen), then the player can press “A” to lay another piece over top. The result is that the old piece is blown away and the new piece is placed where the old piece used to be. There are two drawbacks to this, though. The first drawback is that you accrue penalty points (50 points deducted for each piece you blast off of the field, I believe). In addition, it takes longer to blast a piece away from the field than placing a piece on an empty space. So, some strategy can be used when building the pipe to help make it easier to survive each level.

Any pieces remaining on the playing field after each round will also get blown away off the field, adding to your penalty, at the end of each round as well.

In the initial levels, there is typically just a simple start piece and an empty playing field. These levels, I found, were great for filling in each space with a used piece of pipe. If you get the fluids to touch every single available playing space, the player is awarded a 100,000 point bonus at the end of the level. It is very worth it to try and get that bonus if you ask me. It’s the fastest way I know to rack up a massively high score in this game.

As the player progresses, the playing field gradually becomes more complicated. At first, there’s pool-like pieces that briefly delay the fluids. These are incredibly useful if you find yourself in a desperate situation and need to buy yourself some extra time. These pieces can offer some bonus points if you use them. Another piece that can be found on the playing field are the pre-set moat-like pieces. They don’t delay the fluids, but they offer a bonus if you use them as well. In addition, there are pyramid-like blocks. All they do is obstruct the field, so you have to work around them. Finally, in later levels, there are “End” pieces. If you find a piece of pipe with an “E” on the side with a small white arrow pointing into it, you must end your pipe on that piece in order to advance.

While not a piece found on the middle of a field, there are also gate’s that appear on later levels as well. Normally, there’s a black line all the way around the playing field to denote a wall. If there is an open gap on this wall, it means you can send the fluid through this wall. It will appear coming out of the opposite wall (the corresponding gap). Using these will give you a bonus as well.

Also found on later levels are arrow pipes. These are simply straight pieces with an arrow on them. These merely mean that fluids can only travel one direction in these pipes. Using them will yield a bonus. This can complicate things a little if you are frantically building your pipe and looking for a straight piece. If the arrow faces the wrong direction and fluids reach the arrow, the round ends and the fluids will be stopped before entering that piece.

Every so often, the player will get to watch a short little animation sequence where the plumber fixes a gap in the pipe. At the end of these sequences, the player receives a fixed pass code that allows the player to jump to the level they just completed. While good for seeing later levels, it’s usually better to play the game all the way through from beginning to end to obtain a higher score.

Another way to boost the score is to build the pipe quickly. Once you are done, all you had to do was hit Select to make the fluids go faster. The results is that you get through to the next stage quicker and every piece the fluids pass through in the faster mode gives you a much higher score than what you would get in normal speed.

Graphics in this game are pretty straight forward, yet quite workable. I can’t really visualize whole lot more that could be done to improve this particular game, so I thought this was very well done for a game of the time.

The music was well done. Music was hardly needed for this game as the music was all that was needed. A simple little sequence of notes that speeds up if you are close to the end or if you hit select. The music available is pretty good, but, I think, get annoying after several rounds as you have an urge to change it. I wished there was a way to change the music part way through between rounds, but unfortunately, that sort of thing isn’t available. Have no qualms with the sound effects used.

Overall, I’m a little surprised that this game doesn’t share a similar prominence as Tetris to this day. It’s simple, fun, addicting and fit for all ages like Tetris. Unfortunately, Tetris seems to garner more attention than Pipe Dream for some reason. Great game all around. Worth checking out.


Furthest point in game: Filled the penguin pool (won with nearly 1.5 million points).

General gameplay: 23/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 10/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 90%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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