Sunday 8 January 2012

Gorby no Pipeline Daisakusen

Joy of joys, it's some words I can't pronounce.

Blog Squirrel 2012 game of the year alert! It's Gorby no Pipeline Daisakusen for the MSX2. I can feel the  excitement resonating through the telephone lines.

But before you move on in your internet adventures, something must be pointed out - this game has former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, single handedly create a water network for people of the USSR. Yep, it's political. And amazing.

On the list of "games they'd never make today", Gorby's Pipeline (new name - I'm not Japanese) is up there with the Journey Escapes and Shaq Fus of this world. Released in 1991 by Compile and Takuma Shoten, it's a falling-piece puzzle game with a Russian theme. It also plays the folk song, Troika in stage five. Could it be... a Tetris clone?

The Soviet Union was an odd place in 1991. For one, it was on the brink of collapse, but other regular features included small Russian girls hurling bits of pipe of ledges, in a bizarre attempt to channel Japanese water supplies across the breadth of Russia. How sensible.

Of course, as we know from Pipe Mania's bonus stages, relying on gravity was not a new thing. The only difference is that in 1989, it was generally considered to be a fruitless affair - back then you'd channel gunk away from a source, but never to a specific destination. You would, however, be awarded brownie points, even though the work was yet unfinished. That's the sort of thing the construction industry needs as economic recession looms once more. Though remember, always pay by cheque.

Water sprouts from the bottom right of the screen, and you're tasked with diverting it to one of the many tubes on the left. Screw up, and the supply will be moved to the pipe above, until no more available pipes remain. But as a testament to Russian (or Japanese) engineering, life isn't quite that simple - you need to make the connection using pre-formed blocks, which sadly come randomly attached to another, potentially different type of tubing. It tends to lead to wasteful situations where masses of unused pieces of pipe collect at the bottom of the screen, but hey, it's putting people in work.

Complete a connection, and every block used to make that connection is destroyed, making way for a second pipe to be constructed. This is a useful feature, because although you're occasionally given drills to delete an entire column of blocks, the game unfortunately isn't as well balanced in regards to garbage collection as Tetris. This is so much of an issue that the game feels the need to wipe the stage completely every time two pipes are constructed. The problem, I assume, is that you can't destroy garbage blocks as quickly as you can create them, so unless you're playing an absolutely perfect game you're always destined to lose after a few minutes.

On top of this, you're occasionally granted with some sort of "water block", which I must admit I don't fully understand. If it drops in the wrong place, several rows of garbage block will be created and gameplay will be forced a few lines upwards. However, sometimes this block can help create a connection and speed up your progress. Without an English instruction manual I'm a bit stumped by this one, and because these special blocks only turn up once in a blue moon, they're a challenge to test.

Otherwise Gorby's Pipeline is a fairly simple concept, and very little changes as the game progresses. There are fewer start and end pipes available to use as you work your way inland (and the force of gravity magically becomes stronger), but there are otherwise no surprises. The music changes, the graphics don't, and you're not given many options to vary up your experience much. It's a game that desperately needs some modernisation, though since none of the companies involved exist anymore, I can't see that happening in the near future. And I certainly can't see Russian leaders being involved.

There are some minor differences between the MSX2 and Famicom versions of the game - the Famicom copy sports a larger playfield (12x12 vs. 10x12), while the MSX2 version looks a good deal nicer on the eye. The Famicom version also has slightly different rules in regards to garbage blocks - in that version, all blocks below a completed pipe become garbage, whereas in the MSX2 version they can be recycled for future pipe building.

But regardless of which one you should chose, Gorby's Pipeline is a lovely game. It definitely needs a bit of refurbishment (I'm tempted to do it myself) but it's certainly one to check out.

1 comment:

  1. I have a freeware game named TUBES in my games folder that plays much like this, except the blocks fall one per time instead of two and can only be moved once they hit the floor. All water sources are available from the beggining as well.

    It's interesting to see where the concept came from.

    Tsk, i don't remember where i got TUBES from and Google isn't helping...