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)


#39 – Little Nemo: The Dream Master

What dreams are made of!

I usually listen to the good music for awhile here!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 11/27/16
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
Video: Little Nemo Longplay

There are quite a few games I have discovered in the NES library where I play it and immediately realize that I have been missing out for years. Little Nemo: The Dream Master is one of those games for me. I had most of the popular games growing up and many other good games, but there are so many games on the console that some end up being skipped. I am sure I had my opportunities to play the game much earlier since I was definitely aware of Little Nemo long before I played it. Either way, it’s better late than never! Little Nemo is a game that I really like and I am excited to tell you more about it today!

Little Nemo in Slumberland is a comic strip created in 1905 by an American cartoonist named Winsor McCay. It follows the story of Nemo and his adventurous dreams where each strip ends with Nemo waking up out of bed. The comic was published in the New York Herald until 1911 when McCay moved to the New York American. McCay was able to retain the rights to the characters and he brought Nemo to the American under the name In the Land of Wonderful Dreams from 1911 to 1914. In 1924, McCay returned to the Herald and revived Little Nemo in Slumberland until 1926 when it ended due to lack of popularity.

Little Nemo branched out into other forms of media over the years. A play was created in 1907 and another was created much more recently in 2012. There was a film made about McCay in 1911 that involved him creating animations of Little Nemo characters. There was an original opera performed in 2012. There have also been compilations of McCay’s original work, and McCay’s son even tried to bring back Little Nemo after his father’s death with lackluster results. However, the most notable work was the joint American-Japanese film named Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. This 1989 movie serves as the basis for the NES game.

You know you’re in for a treat when one of the first things you see is a giant mushroom!

Little Nemo: The Dream Master was released on the NES in North America in September 1990. It was both developed and published by Capcom. The Famicom release, titled Pajamas Hero Nemo, was released a little later in December 1990, and the European NES release debuted in December 1991. The story of the game follows closely to the 1989 movie. Curiously, the film was not released in the US until 1992, two years after the NES game. Capcom also released a separate arcade platformer simply named Nemo in 1990.

Little Nemo: The Dream Master is a platformer game. You play Little Nemo as he is tasked by a messenger of the princess to rescue Slumberland and King Morpheus from the Nightmare King. Nemo must work his way through eight areas to beat the game and save Slumberland. True to the source comic strip, each area in the game is a separate dream with Nemo hopping into bed to start the level and being woken up by his mother after the level.

On his own, Nemo is not very powerful. He can move around reasonably well, including jumping and ducking, and he can throw pieces of candy. However, the candy can only temporarily stun enemies without dealing any damage. Nemo can feed certain animals three pieces of candy which causes them to fall asleep. He can then take a ride on the animal or sometimes actually become the animal, which gives Nemo the means to clear obstacles and fight enemies. You can press Select to switch back to regular Nemo and from there take control of a different animal if desired.

The Frog lets you make these tall jumps.

There are several animals in the game and each one provides Nemo a set of additional capabilities. For starters, each type of animal has a certain amount of health points that may vary from Nemo’s own health. Enemy attacks deal one point of damage to Nemo and he loses a life when he runs out of health. More important than health are the different animal abilities needed to properly explore the stages. For instance, in the first level Nemo can become a frog that can jump higher than Nemo to reach tall ledges, and he can defeat enemies by jumping on them. Later you come across a mole that lets Nemo dig underground to explore even more. Some animals can climb walls, some can swim or fly, some have useful attacks, and so on. You have to play around a bit to figure out what you can do with a new animal. If there is an obstacle in the level, then there is an animal nearby capable of tackling it. Therefore, the platformer has some puzzle elements to it where you need to track down different animals and experiment with their capabilities.

There are a few items that will help Nemo out. Small bottles restore a single point of health, and first aid kits restore all of Nemo’s health. There are 1up icons that give Nemo an extra life. Finally, the most important items in the game are keys. At the end of most levels there is a locked door with several keyholes next to it. To finish the level, you need to collect enough keys scattered throughout the stage in order to unlock all the keyholes. Unfortunately, you have to reach the end of the level first to see how many keys are required, and you are forced to backtrack if you come up short. Some of the keys are well hidden in alcoves and branching paths. You will need to master all of the creatures in the game and search high and low to meet the level requirements.

There are many different environments in the stages. The first level is a mushroom forest with giant mushroom mountains as well as caves to explore and waterfalls to climb. There is a jungle level, a sea level, and others. There is also an auto-scrolling train level thrown in there for something really different. There is always something new to explore and there is a lot of variety to keep things interesting.

What kind of toy house has crushers like this?

This is a bit of a spoiler, so jump ahead a paragraph if you don’t want to know. Toward the end of the game Nemo gets an actual weapon that he can use to take out the bad guys when he doesn’t have an animal helper. The difficulty gets significantly bumped up here in part by introducing boss battles. Not only do you have to get more used to controlling Nemo on his own, but you have this new weapon to figure out. It may seem like an unnecessary change in the game, but I find it quite a bit of fun.

Little Nemo is typically regarded as a difficult game, and to an extent I agree. The difficulty curve feels a little bit uneven with some levels more taxing than others, and then the game takes a significant bump up in challenge toward the end like I just mentioned. The game has infinite continues which limits the difficulty, however, the whole game is long and challenging enough where you may not be able to grind through it in a single sitting.

I didn’t own Little Nemo until much later in my NES collection, but I remember reading about the game quite a bit. I probably ended up emulating it first but only just to try it out for a bit. One of my good friends has a very small collection of NES games but Little Nemo is one of them, and he would tell me about how good the game is to play. That sold me on the game enough to seek it out. I don’t remember when or how I ended up getting my copy, but when I did I ended up playing through it shortly thereafter. I have played through it at least a couple of times before covering it now.

You can “bee” deadly if you must!

Despite my experience with the game, I don’t know it well enough to just breeze right through it. I remembered enough to beat the game in a single sitting, but not well enough to look good doing it. I recorded my playthrough but it is definitely not my best effort. I had to continue a few times, and I forgot some of the keys and had to go back and find them. Thankfully this blog is about finishing the games regardless of skill or style, so I’m satisfied with getting to the ending of the game.

I want to take a moment to praise the soundtrack. Capcom games tend to have really memorable music, and Little Nemo follows that trend. The soundtrack is often upbeat and I think it really captures that dreamy feel that should accompany a game like this. Some of my favorite tracks are right at the start, including the prologue, title screen, and Mushroom Forest theme. You can listen to all the songs at the VGMPF website.

Little Nemo: The Dream Master is one of those games that should be in any NES library. The graphics, music, and gameplay are all top-notch. There is quite the variety of animals, level layouts, and obstacles for a game of this length. Despite that fact that each animal behaves differently, the controls feel good and make sense all around. This is a title that is still affordable for any cart collector. The only negative I see is the uneven difficulty and the endgame challenge, but I welcome it so that’s not a problem for me at all. If somehow you missed playing this game like I once did, I would recommend giving it a try!

#39 – Little Nemo: The Dream Master