Full Pipe review
The Good: Clever concept; pleasing art style; welcome mini-game diversions; handy map travel; cheap.
The Bad: Illogical puzzles; repetitive environments and music; no story or character support; lacks tangible motivation; just never becomes fun.
Our Verdict: Full Pipe's initial charm and intriguing concept soon give way to a tedious and frustrating gameplay experience. It has its moments, but if the complete lack of story doesn't alienate most adventure fans, the poor quality of puzzles mostly likely will.

If you hear a gurgling sound in the background, that's just the potential of another promising game being needlessly flushed away.

Back when new hope still flowed freely, Full Pipe seemed an ideal choice to be the debut adventure on Valve's renowned Steam distribution system. Even beyond the remarkably synchronous names, this unheralded adventure is exactly the sort of game that both benefits from and contributes the most to the cause of digital distribution. Previously available only in the developer's native Russia, Full Pipe is arguably too quirky, too raw, too "niche" to warrant an international release as a boxed product. But with the ability to download a game without borders at a click of a button, now even the underdog has a chance to reach worldwide audiences.

Plunge a little deeper, however, and the quality of Full Pipe itself soon begins to clog up the perfect plan. It doesn't happen right away, as the game swells from a delightfully simple premise to a deceptively complex design, and has undeniable charm oozing out of every seal and gasket. Unfortunately, the experience quickly sinks under an endless stream of illogical puzzles, and with virtually nothing in the way of story to keep it afloat, much of the enjoyment is ultimately sucked down the drain for good.

Of course, there are those who might argue that Full Pipe qualifies more as a puzzle game than an adventure in the first place, though that distinction seems unnecessarily restrictive. Nevertheless, the game does forsake many of the genre's conventions, stripping the gameplay down to its core basics without any pretense of characterization and plot.

Full Pipe, subtitled (total flue) in the Steam version, begins with a scene of the nameless protagonist sleeping soundly until a monstrous hand emerges from under the bed to snatch one of his slippers and disappear back to the depths. Upon awakening, our hero -- a rotund little bald fellow who looks something like a Mr. Potato Head with a disproportioned coil on his back -- discovers the theft and decides to pursue the shoe down a giant hole beneath his room. That's right, there'll be no saving the world or exposing grand conspiracies in this game. Following footwear is what it's all about.

Actually, even that's not true for long, as the slipper is found immediately, depriving the game of its one tangible motivation. Instead, the singular abstract goal becomes finding a way back to the surface. Doing so will require working your way through eight levels of a subterranean sewer-like world consisting of 36 different "cells", each connected by a series of pipes and elevators. Naturally (or in this case, quite unnaturally), many of these passages are inaccessible at first, blocked by the various denizens of the deep and requiring you to solve puzzles or succeed at mini-games in order to advance.

In some ways, gameplay in Full Pipe is reminiscent of Samorost or the Goblins games of old, presenting a series of individual challenges in what is essentially a mental obstacle course. But while those games continually push the player forward in a linear fashion, the world of Full Pipe is intricately interconnected, so the deeper you go the more complex the puzzle possibilities. Or at least, that's the theory. Unfortunately, the developers rarely capitalized on the benefits of their own clever design. So while you'll often find yourself backtracking to rooms you've visited previously, you'll usually just be passing through or performing variations of earlier actions instead of finding new strategic opportunities available to you. It's a waste, though hardly the least of this game's problems.

The puzzles themselves are pretty standard fare, relying almost entirely on basic inventory applications. You can't combine items, so progress is generally just a matter of applying the right object in the right place. But that would be too easy, so to increase the difficulty, Full Pipe opts for the time-honoured tradition of using puzzles that make no sense whatsoever. Someone, somewhere, thought this was a good idea. I'm here to proclaim, right here, right now, how very very wrong they were.

Just this once, I'll reject my own principle of never giving spoilers, as I'm not sure I could make up examples as both pointless and absurd as some of what I encountered here. (For those who hate spoilers, rest assured that there is plenty more frustration to discover on your own.) Very early in the game, one particular bespectacled creature was babysitting a lever that I presumed I needed to flip. All efforts (both strategic and otherwise) to overcome this dilemma were futile, but lucky for me, the creature was willing to trade me his glasses in exchange for a cupboard drawer he proceeded to wear as a hat. Why did I want the glasses? I didn't, or at least I didn't know I did, but I was glad to be rid of the drawer, as it had proven too big to turn into an egg in a previous room. If you're not exactly following this line of reasoning, join the club. That growing look of bewilderment on your face is exactly the same one on mine as I played, only without the frequent bouts of cursing. This is neither an isolated incident nor the worst offender of the lot; just a random early indicator that logic and reason are generally unwelcome guests in the land of Full Pipe.

Continued on the next page...





Game Info

Full Pipe

Platform: PC

Genre: Fantasy

Developer: PIPE Studios

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Releases
Territory Date Publisher
Download December 1 2006 1C Company

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Jack Allin
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Comments

dg10050
Jan 13, 2008

I have to say that I disagree with this score. While this is a very odd game, it can still be very interesting. However, there is probably a very limited audience that would enjoy it. I like it because there aren’t many “goals”. Usually what happens is you roam around clicking on objects and watching what happens. Sometimes, usually by chance, you will click on something that is meant as part of the “storyline”. (I’m using the word “storyline” very loosely here Tongue) If you go around looking for a certain object, you will probably never find it. So in general, this isn’t so much a normal game with goals, but more of an interactive environment where something resembling a storyline will occasionally appear.

Charlytrippo
Feb 3, 2008

ya, I think the score`s a bit low too… but then again.. I`ve played gobliiins, and that was way more fun. more clever jokes, more stuff to do, and it takes quite a longer while to play it out. and I totally disagree with 1 of the bads of the game: illogical puzzles -.- . how did gobliiins ever get a rating then? weird logics are the basis of these kind of games. if you think logically on an absurd game, then you`re the one at fault.
I guess if you look at most games nowadays, this game should get at least half or 1 point higher. Just for being something completely diffrent. But comparing it to the goblins series… and other old games of absurdism humour. Well, this game just doesn`t go as far as they`re used to be. actually, I feel like most ‘adventure’ games are getting too short nowadays… quick production seems more important than a longer quality time. but it`s still a fun toy to play with on a rainy day.

Jackal Jackal
Feb 3, 2008

There’s “real world” logic that games don’t need, and there’s a consistent internal logic that all games DO need if they’re going to be all comprehensible. This game had too little of either, which makes it badly designed. No bonus grades for being different. Different still needs to be good.

Wracky
May 29, 2008

I agree with the first too. I’d give it a higher score too. I loved it actually ;-)
To me, this game is about meeting the different weird creatures that inhabit this pipes, and finding out what drives THEM. Doing so will eventually get you out.  The puzzles are not completely random. Each puzzle is designed around the behaviour that is specific to a certain creature. His actions, his reactions, or stuff/hints in the rooms will tell you what a creature expects of you. The puzzles are not frustratingly hard and the map interface lets you travel the rooms very quickly, which helps with trying different things in the odd puzzles. I do agree that the way the puzzles work together is perhaps too coincidental. But they are definitly logical (in a full pipe kinda way :-)) and I never had to look for too long before figuring them out. Great animations, loved the atmosphere, still a good game in my book Wink

BoredNL
Jun 15, 2008

I agree with Wracky.  Although I’ve only played the demo so far, I thought the game was hilarious.  The puzzles are “illogical” by any sort of normal standards, but in the world of Full Pipe, they make perfect sense.  Your goal is to think by the terms of the very strange characters.  The thing that is great about this game is that you can’t really expect anything.  If you think something is going to happen, it isn’t.  Or maybe it is..  You never really know.

Don’t expect anything epic like King’s Quest though, this game seems to go by pretty quickly.  It’s just a nice little diversion away from sanity.  Smile

Jackal Jackal
Jun 15, 2008

I enjoyed it at first, too. That feeling was long gone by the time I’d played through the whole game. Wink I think anyone claiming the puzzles make sense are doing some reverse engineering. Yes, once you know a solution, you can backwards-deduce how it was reached. But I’d wager good money that most people simply stumble on many “solutions” just by trying things to see if they’ll work. I’m glad people are trying it anyway. I’m a big supporter of offbeat titles. I just don’t think this is a good one.



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