Aqueduct is a new puzzle game from developer Kieffer Bros. that combines the concepts of pipe connecting games like Pipe Mania with classic tile sliding puzzles that have been around for ages. It's a really clever idea and Aqueduct manages to pull it off with a style and simplicity that's perfectly suited to the iPhone. The result is a beautiful game with a ton of brain-taxing content that lends itself well to just a few minutes of play or hours upon hours of puzzling goodness.
The underlying goal of Aqueduct is to connect a starting valve piece to an ending drain piece using various segments of pipe. The type of pipe segments available are predetermined, so rotating them to fit isn't part of the equation. Each game board is laid out on a grid, so each piece must be moved and dropped onto a square of the grid. Sometimes stationary segments are placed on the grid that you must connect to (but not always) on your way to completing the pipe to the drain. Various other elements enter the game like conveyor belts that will move your pieces if not blocked properly, switches that will open gates, or moveable pieces of the grid that act like bridges to get segments across gaps.
Aqueduct features over 140 levels grouped together in 5 different sets. The first set of 23 levels basically serves as a tutorial and gently guides you through the various elements described above. It's easy to breeze through this portion of the game, but once you start in on the second set of puzzles and beyond, difficulty ramps up appropriately. Some of the puzzles are serious mind benders, and the solutions can be so clever you can't help but grin when you finally figure one out. What's really cool about Aqueduct is how it retains the characteristic of a slide puzzle and forces you to use what free space you have to maneuver the pieces around. Sometimes there's only just enough room to move the pipe segments where they need to go, and beyond thinking logically how the pipe fits together you must think spatially as well.
Aqueduct has a captivating visual style, using a hand drawn colored pencil look that's really appealing. The ambient music is similarly enjoyable and non-intrusive, and gives you something nice to listen to while you play. There's no time limit or scoring of any kind, just the goal of making a completed pipe in each unique situation you're given. It reminds me a lot of Blocked in it's elegant simplicity, although some would argue that it's missing features like high scores or social network integration. For my money, I prefer Aqueduct how it is.
One thing that can be frustrating is how each level is only unlocked one after the other, so if you get stuck on one you won't progress until you finally figure it out. Still, Aqueduct is a fresh take on two classic formulas with hours of content that should please the puzzle fans out there.
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