One of the staples of my childhood puzzle game collection was Pipe Mania which has seen several iterations of the years. The idea of connecting pipes together in weird and wonderful shapes to make the water flow to the taps before it spills out has always been an interesting if often frantic game. Push Pipe Paradise takes an element of this and an element from the surge of line drawing mobile puzzle games to create an absolute brain melter of a puzzle game.
You play as a young girl needing to reconnect pipes so that she can provide water to her ill grandfather (that is my interpretation of it anyway). This involves a selection of around 100 handcrafted levels where you need to push the pipes into place to connect the system together. It is a simple premise that gets complex quickly when you realise that the pipes are not pushed… they are rolled.
This seems like a really weird thing to point out until you play the game. What looks like an L shaped pipe will roll 90 degrees into the air if you push it from right to left and then a second push makes it a mirrored L. This mechanic applies to S bends too. It means you’ll be rolling pipes up into a corner to clear the area to allow pipes to connect and then flopping these more tricky pipes into place. It takes a bit of getting used to because you need to map out in your head where the bend will roll to and then come back down on again and my brain is not the most visual!
Over time this mechanic gets added to with magnetic pipes that pick up anything it touches, holes in the ground to avoid (and often to use to build bridges) and also switches that rotate pipes around. Push Pipe Paradise will give you a level or two to introduce a new mechanic and then proceeds to really eek out some really difficult puzzles. About half way through you’ll be stacking pipes and moving them along your own conveyor belts and the later third of the game becomes an exercise in spotting a pattern to move things around and then slowly moving the pipes you need through it.
One other addition that really threw me off was the introduction of height. As soon as you could lift and stack pipes, sometimes the faucet you needed to plug was actually three pipes up and whilst that gives you a clue (along with the level title) you then spend a few minutes thinking ‘how the hell do I get there?!’.
Whilst the puzzles are devilishly fiendish, the soundtrack is not. To go alongside the dusty island graphics, a sweet bossa nova guitar soundtrack tries to calm you down. It does help somewhat but occasionally I found the colour palette of the game would blend the pipes and the surroundings together and I couldn’t always see the orientation of my pipes properly.
On the flip side, there is a key moment when you think you have completed the game but really you’ve only got half way through. The game throws you an absolutely fantastic curve ball. I don’t want to spoil it but there is an entire section of the game that takes place which had me genuinely marvel at the game design and how much thought and cleverness had gone into its gameplay mechanics for everything to come together.
Speaking of the overworld, one thing I did appreciate was how Push Pipe Paradise creates level hub areas. Often you are able to access five or six levels at once. You do need to complete them all but you can dive in and out of them all at the same time and they’ll stay in the state you left them. If you need to take a brain break from one level, its ideal and then if you need to start over, you can simply reset the level with a single button, or undo moves as you go.