It is the year 1866. The Queen has sent the interplanetary steamer HMS Victoria to claim Mars in the name of the British Empire. You are an engineer responsible for the pressure release valves on deck 43. To release water pressure you have to connect the valves on both sides of the console by rotating pipes and working with tools.

I'm not a fan when games seek to cram plots into games which have no relevance whatsoever to the gameplay and/or make an in-game appearance to justice the words wasted on seeking to establish a story. Nothing about Paipa's descriptive text has merit in the game itself: there's nothing remotely futuristic about the graphics or gameplay, and I'd like to think that the presence of hammers and oil cans would indicate a game taking place in the present or past than a future in which the colonization of Mars is a possibility. The only truth in developer Papercut's plot reveal is found in the game's British setting and only then because the game will occasionally congratulate the player with a "Jolly Good!" when a line of pipes are connected. Just as Super Breakout didn't need some convoluted story of an astronaut tearing away at a force field trapping him out in space so can Paipa do without its futuristic or steampunk attempt to provide a background story where one is unnecessary. None of the preceding rant will impact a player but I point it out because this anal-retentive nitpick is the worst thing I can say about Paipa, a wholly enjoyable sorting puzzle game available on Xbox Indie Games.

Developer Papercut's new Xbox Indie game Paipa is an excellent puzzle game which recalls Pipe Dream with a twist. Instead of just building pipes to outpace the flow of liquid as in Assembly Line's classic game, players must connect an opening on the left with an opening on the right by turning a series of pipes to form a single path. With the pipe completed, the gradual flow of liquid over the screen diminishes and stalls for a moment, and the remaining pipe parts drop down to fill the screen anew. Each wall has six exit points available, and the player may link any one of them along the left side to any along the right -- that is, it's not necessary for the starting and ending points to be along the same vertical level. This is necessary as the available pieces of piping will dictate how the player will go about constructing the completed line, sometimes veering backwards and making all number of U-turns before being able to be completed. Rotating each piece is easily accomplished via moving a cursor to the target and pressing the A- or X-button which turns the piece one quarter around either clockwise or counterclockwise. With no other shapes available, Paipa initially feels rather easy to grasp with success a simple matter of rotating the next adjacent pipe so that it connects and extends the line.

However, in short order Paipa will start making life difficult for the player. Firstly, there's the matter of the ever rising water; the game ends when the screen becomes flooded, draining just a bit with each fully connected pipe line. Secondly, the game introduces four tools which can block a section of piping from being rotated until the player removes them with a specific right analog stick gesture. If an oil can appears, the player can highlight it with the cursor and hold down to remove it while a hammer requires three taps up to clear it from the field. None of the gestures are difficult in practice, but they do take time to dispatch them, allowing more water to fill the screen and leaving less time to shift pieces accordingly. Finally, there will come points where the limitations of pieces available can spoil a player's plans later in the game as the water rises faster and faster with each level, quickly flooding the screen should the player stumble along an inadvertent dead end with little room left to make necessary adjustments or seek a new route before the level is flooded.

Paipa is a wonderful puzzle game, and the challenge feels just right. While the right stick gesturing feels a bit awkward for this sort of game, it's a welcomed complication given the simplicity of rotating the two pieces of piping to form lines. Paipa feels suitably stressful with a nice difficulty curve, and the level count display give a precise indication of how well the player is performing. While there isn't much to Paipa visually, the graphics are excellent a well designed background and colored pipes which make everything easy to see even when flooded behind a haze of water. I do wish the local high score board would allow more than one instance of a player's score (only the top score is saved by Gamertag) so that good efforts which fail to exceed the player's best one don't feel so wasted. The four tool icons would look better rendered in polygons to match the 3-D of the pipes and level, and the game probably could use more game modes to appeal those who dismiss simple games such as this.

There's little more to say about Paipa other than it is a fun, simple puzzle game worth playing. People who cannot last long in Paipa will have little cause to grab the full game as eight minutes is plenty of time to get enjoyment from the game. Regardless of whether or not players find the game worth its measly 80 points price, Paipa is a solid game which should appeal to puzzle fans, casual Tetris players, and those looking for a bargain.

October 3, 2010
May 16, 2010 | 80 points
Developer | Video | Download

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