Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#110 – Pipe Dream

I can’t imagine anyone really dreams about pipe laying.

Featuring some very peppy music for pipe laying.

To Beat: Beat Round 16-1 in Game B
To Complete: Beat Round 16-4 in Game A, Beat Round 16-1 in Game B, and get the high score in Game C
My Goal: Complete the Game and get the high score in each game mode
What I Did: Met my goal
Played: 12/14/18 – 12/26/18
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Videos: Pipe Dream Game A, Pipe Dream Games B & C

I have not played a puzzle game for this project in a very long time. Tetris certainly counts as a puzzle game and I think you can count Lemmings too. Other games like Mendel Palace and Q*bert are more action and arcade oriented and less centered around puzzles. There’s a fair amount of other puzzle games on the console so maybe this is a turning point where we will see more of them come up soon.

Pipe Mania is a 1989 Amiga puzzle game developed by The Assembly Line. The game was widely ported to many different platforms by Lucasfilm Games over the next couple of years, where they distributed the game as Pipe Dream. A popular version was the Windows version as part of the MS Windows Entertainment Pack. The NES version was released in September 1990 in North America only. This version was developed by Distinctive Software and published by Bullet-Proof Software.

Pipe Dream is a straightforward puzzle game. The game takes place on a grid and you have to build the longest consecutive pipeline as possible. One piece is the start where the liquid called the flooz will flow from. You get a series of pieces at random and must lay them down on the board so that you can build out a pipeline to help contain the flooz. The goal in each level is to meet a minimum pipeline length before moving on. There are three different game modes.

Starts out simple enough.

The controls are simple. Use the D-pad to move your piece around the grid. Press A to place it down on the board. The Start button pauses the game. The Select button speeds up the flow of the flooz, typically used when you have built a long enough pipeline and want to complete the level quickly. There is a menu before play that you control with the D-pad. Up or Down moves the cursor and Left and Right adjusts the values on that line. On the menu you can change the number of players, game mode, starting level and round, and the game music.

The screen consists of the top status bar, the main playfield, the flooz timer, and the dispenser of pieces that you will place on the board. The status bar contains your score and your bonus points. Wrenches are shown which act as your lives. You also see the level number and round number. Level represents the complexity of the game board, while round influences the speed of the flooz. Dist is how many tiles the flooz must occupy before you can clear the stage. There is a vertical bar to the right of the playfield called the flooz timer. It counts down before the flooz starts flowing out of the start pipe, giving you time to get a head start on building your pipeline. The dispenser on the left side is your queue of pieces to place on the board. The bottom most piece is the current piece you are placing, and the queue is always five deep so you can start to plan out your moves a bit ahead of time.

Your dispenser only distributes a few types of pieces. There are straight pieces, both vertical and horizontal. There are four elbow pieces. You can’t rotate the pieces you are given so you’ll need to wait for a specific elbow. There are also cross pieces that you can use both horizontally and vertically. In later levels, you will get arrow pieces and the flooz may only flow in the pointed direction.

The special reservoir piece slows down the flow.

The first level just contains the start piece while later levels introduce other special fixed pieces on the board. Reservoir pieces are thick, straight pieces that take longer for the flooz to fill up. These are nice to incorporate so that you get some more time to work in a round. Conversely, pump pieces speed up the flooz for several tiles. An end piece is labeled with an E. You are not required to finish your pipeline with this piece, but if you do you get double bonus points. Tunnels may also appear on the playfield edges. They aren’t pieces, but instead let you direct the flow from one edge of the playfield to the opposite side.

It’s very likely that you will put a piece in the wrong spot. As long as the flooz hasn’t entered a piece already, you can drop a different piece on top of another one. This is called blasting a piece. The primary downside of blasting a piece is that there is a slight delay introduced before you can drop the next piece. You also lose 50 points per blasted piece.

Pipe Dream has two ways of scoring points. First are the non-bonus points which are scored per piece as the flooz moves through. Normal pieces give you 50 points. One-way pieces earn you 100 points. Special pieces are more lucrative. Reservoirs give you 200 points each. Pumps give you 1000 points, which is the price to pay for forced increased flow speed. Crossing a tunnel gives you 800 points. End pieces don’t award you any points. Once the flooz can’t proceed any further, the level ends. Each piece not used by the flooz loses 100 points. A pump piece speeds up the flow temporarily, and you can also force the speed to increase for the rest of the round manually by pressing Select. The base points are doubled for each piece filled during the fast flow.

Make loops to add bonus points.

The big points are earned through bonus points. You earn bonus points each time you create a loop in the pipeline through one of the cross pieces. Basically, you need to guide the flooz through a cross piece in both directions. The first loop gives you 100 points times the level number. Subsequent loops increase this value by 100 times the number of special pieces on the board, tunnels excluded. Let’s use Level 3 as an example. This level has two special pieces, the start piece and a pump piece. The first loop is worth 300 points. The second loop adds 200 points to the first loop score, and so on for each further loop. So, loop 1 is worth 300 points, loop 2 is 500 points, loop 3 is 700 points, and so on.

There are also loop bonus multipliers granted for including special pieces within a loop. So, for instance, if a reservoir is one of the pieces within a loop, your bonus is doubled. Pumps give x4 multiplier, while incorporating a tunnel gives you a x8 multiplier. These multipliers are additive if multiple special pieces are included within a loop. Including both a reservoir and a pump gives you a x6 multiplier, as an example. Once you can wrap your brain around using tunnels in a loop, you can get a huge multiplier giving you a bunch of points. If you can do these things while also linking to the end piece, that doubles your entire bonus score for the round. There’s one additional bonus. If you somehow manage to have the flooz touch every square on the playfield, you get 10,000 points times your level number added to your score.

Pipe Dream features a simultaneous two player mode. Both players can lay pieces on the game board and each player gets their own dispenser. You need to work cooperatively to make it through each round. The fun of it comes if you want to compete for score. Each player gets credit for the basic scoring for each piece utilized, including losing points for blasting pieces or leaving some unused. The player dropping the piece that directs the flooz into a special piece gets the points for that special piece.

There are three game modes that all function about the same. Game A is Standard Play and for each level you play four rounds. In Game B, Tournament Play, you only play one round per level. Game C is one-shot play and you only play a single round. The gameplay in each game mode is exactly the same. In Game A, you can choose the starting level from 1-12, but you always begin at round 1. Game B is the opposite; you pick the starting round from 1-4 but always begin from level 1. For Game C you can pick both the level and round you want. The main games have 16 levels. In Game B you play only 16 boards, but in Game A you play a whopping 64 game boards. Once you complete Level 16 in either mode, you start back at Level 1 on a new round. In Game A you go to round 5 and in Game B you go to round 2. Sadly, there is no ending to this game as play will continue indefinitely. Each game mode has its own high score table as well.

There’s a falling block style mini game!

After every four rounds in Games A and B, you play a bonus game. This is a falling block style game. The starting piece is in the center and new pieces appear from the top left corner, one at a time. Each piece slides along the top of the playfield automatically and you press A to drop it straight down. Then a new piece will appear. Simply build the pipeline as long as you can for the most points. Typically, you will have a very short pipeline because you can only see one piece at a time and all pieces fall to the bottom of the pile every time. Still, it’s possible to do a loop or two for some big bonus points if it comes together correctly.

Pipe Dream has lives in the form of wrenches. You get three wrenches at the start of modes A and B. If you fail to meet the minimum pipeline length, you lose a wrench and start the round over. You can’t earn any more wrenches throughout play. There are no formal continues in the game, but in Game A you can choose your starting level up to a certain point which achieves the same function.

This was my first time beating Pipe Dream. I’m sure I’ve tinkered with the game a little bit but didn’t play beyond one screen. This game was supposed to come one game earlier in the list sandwiched between Robocop and The Terminator. I had a little problem with my game cart. I normally play on my AVS so I can record video in 720p, only this time the graphics were glitchy and the game would not play. That cart worked just fine on a regular NES console. I really like having HD video longplays where possible, so instead of recording off my CRT and stock console, I decided to try buying another cart in hope that it would work. While waiting for my replacement to arrive in the mail, I decided to skip ahead and beat The Terminator. Luckily the other cart worked great and I was able to clear the game.

With some hard work, you can set up for huge points.

Pipe Dream has an unclear winning condition with all the modes and levels and whatnot. My take is that the levels are what is most differentiated in the gameplay. There are 16 levels in all, so beating Level 16 should be enough to consider the game beaten. The quickest way to get that done is to play Game B, so that is what I chose for considering the game done. Just for completeness sake, I also did all 64 rounds of Game A and also played some Game C as well. I ended up beating both Game A and Game B and set the high score in all three game modes. I had to continue a few times in Game A and I beat Game B on my first attempt. It took me quite a few tries to get a good round going in Game C.

I believe the trick to getting high scores in Pipe Dream is to best understand conceptually how looping works. The way I think about it is that a loop begins when the flooz passes through a cross piece the first time and it ends when the flooz crosses it the second time. Any piece in between that is part of the loop. What I do is put a cross piece in the pipeline early on, cross it once, and then leave it alone. Then I work on directing the pipeline through as many special pieces and tunnels as I can before I connect it back to that initial cross piece. Pulling that off makes almost the entire pipeline one giant loop and makes it eligible for a huge multiplier. My best multiplier was a x48 in Game A and I managed a x40 in my Game C high score.

Pipe Dream is a good puzzle game that is a good fit for the NES. The controls are simple and responsive. The graphics are nice for a game like this. I thought the music was catchy and not bothersome. The gameplay is solid and I found it very satisfying whenever I got the right piece at the right time to pull off a clever turn in the piping. It felt good to pull off a big multiplier too. The game modes leave a little to be desired since the game is almost always the same no matter what, and playing an extended game gets tiring and monotonous. That kind of comes with the territory of a puzzle game like this. I would say this game is best enjoyed by fans of puzzle games, otherwise, you probably won’t find the game interesting.

#110 – Pipe Dream (Game A)

#110 – Pipe Dream (Game B)

#110 – Pipe Dream (Game C)

Posted In: Finished

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