Jun 25, 2010
by Kieffer Bros.
Quickly now, off the top of your head, what are the games you instantly associate with plumbing? Chances are just two names came up. Everyone gets Super Mario Bros. straight away, and if you're a bit dirty-minded, you could have said Leisure Suit Larry for bonus points. But somewhere in the back of your mind a dreadful panic stirred, didn't it? You felt a leaky anxiety fill the pores of your palms, your lungs constricted; a hint of effluent terror surging from a memory long forgotten in the interests of self-preservation. When I say the names Pipe Mania and Pipe Dream, it all comes flooding back.
Younger readers will know this demon as the tiresome hacking minigame from Bioshock: water flows from a faucet on one end of a playing field littered with pipe pieces, and the player must construct a working viaduct to the drainage point on the other end before being overcome by the flow.
When the Kieffer Brothers sent word of their latest puzzle offering, Aqueduct, with screenshots that looked just like Pipe Mania, my own plumbing nearly evacuated. Thankfully, it turns out Aqueduct is meant to be a RELAXING game. A cross between box-pushing warehouse management classic, Sokoban, and a declawed Pipe Mania, Aqueduct has no time limits, only soothing music that gave me a lotioned back massage.
Each of its more than 140 stages is a carefully crafted puzzle, solved by putting all the pieces in exactly the right positions. This sounds tedious, but responsive touch controls make all the difference. This isn't your dad's Windows CE game. There's no poking about like with a sliding tile puzzle. There are no stone-against-stone grinding sound effects to accompany each move, and the blocks don't inch along, they slide as fast as your finger. Downside: modern additions like conveyor belt tiles, warp gates, and pressure-plate door switches will need explaining to aforementioned dad.
The Kieffers have a track record of producing beautifully designed games for the iPhone, in fact, I'd say they top the list of indie developers when it comes to eye candy. Take a look at their previous efforts, Abca, Orba, and Enso•Dot for examples of how a good amount of polish can turn simple puzzle concepts into compelling games. Aqueduct is no different, but they've traded in their usual slick, futuristic style for a bright hand-drawn look that I'd hate to call cute, but goshdarnit, it's adorable.
So far, I've spent quite a few visits to the bathroom playing Aqueduct, and I've never once as a consequence pictured the toilet disastrously backing up after a flush, which as any recovering Pipe Mania player can tell you, is quite an achievement.
Aqueduct comes out June 29, 2010 and will cost $2.99.
Positives: Beautiful graphics/sound, good controls, an enduring puzzle concept without the stress.
Unpositives: Finite number of levels (no random generator), but add-on packs might solve this problem.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Buy Aqueduct in the iTunes App Store.