Mobile games are usually hit or miss for me. There has also been a tidal wave of absolutely abysmal games designed with micro-transactions in mind. Its an unfortunate practice that has seeped into bigger budget games as well. But every now and then, I find plenty of great games on mobile both from big companies and smaller indie developers. Hearthstone, Robot Unicorn Attack 2, Plants vs Zombies is a classic, Yuigoh Duel Links, Threes, and Reign just to name a few notable ones. There are plenty of fun, easy to pick up, and in cases completely free mobile games with no annoying micro-transactions. Sometimes, and especially in my case, you have a dig to find them. Pipe Dreams, made by Little Bird Solutions, is an example a completely free, tiny game that has a charming theme and provides a very casual experience.
As a quick note, Pipe Dreams was a recommendation and the developer actually reached out to me on Reddit when I was asking for some ideas on what games would fit the sub genre for this blog. There was obviously no money or any compensation given to me for this article on the game but I wanted to make my readers aware.
What is the Gameplay?
The object of the game is to score the highest within the time limit you’re given as indicated on the upper left side of the screen. The game starts when a disc falls into a pipe that then shoots out as a triangular shape. You have to flip and turn the triangle as much as possible before it drops back into the pipe and out the other end where you repeat the same process until the time runs out. You flip and turn the triangle by using your touchscreen to swipe over the shape to make it move. If the triangle is in the middle of turn or flip as it lands back in the pipe, you lose and have to start from the beginning of the timer again.
The concept is very simple and for a small game, I can see how it would be an enjoyable experience on a platform aimed for more casual video game users. I’ve seen games similar to this type before in browser games or on newgrounds.com. It reminds me of a game called Learn to Fly 1 and 2 where you have to keep a penguin flying in the air for as long as possible to gain as much points as you can.
Would I recommend it?
Its really hard to not recommend a game that is free and accessible to people as this game is free to download on most mobile devices including IOS and Android.
The game is also extremely simple and easy to play so anyone can try it. I do have a few small criticisms. One is that when I first played the game I had no idea what I was doing until I realize I had to swipe and move the triangle. The game could really benefit from a quick splash screen or the instructions in an options menu, to explain the rules and controls so its less confusing. I think the game can also do with a little more content down the line. Maybe upgrades to the triangle you can add using the score as an in-game money system to buy upgrades to keep increase in the air time. It had a lot of potential to have more options and maybe another mode to keep players coming back.
Graphically, it fits the 1980s/retrowave aesthetic more as opposed to strictly vaporwave which is rare to find games on mobile game or PC/Console. I also like how the “Success” screen looks a lot like the “Seinfeld” logo from the TV show. In terms of its style, user interface and how it performs, its well designed for a game made in such little time, easy to navigate, and runs extremely smooth on my phone with no technical glitches.
This is not a game where you should be downloading right now. I would mostly recommend this to people who really like this style of graphics and want something simple with no internet connectivity needed. Its fun but not addictive. I considered more of a game with a good amount of potential to have more features and other modes thrown into the mix in the future.
Overall it’s not bad.
Q&A with the Developer
I was able to have a Q&A with the developer, Edward, who answered my questions regarding the game.
1.) So to clarify for my readers, the game is published under the company Little Bird Solutions which is a publisher and developer with a focus on mainly mobile apps. What is your role in the company? Is it a one-person operation or a team?
Edward: Little Bird Solutions comprises myself and my girlfriend. We’re currently living in Tokyo making whatever apps and games that we feel like. I’m the developer and my girlfriend is the designer.
2.) What is your background in mobile development and some of your previous projects?
Edward: I’ve been an Android Developer for 8 years in London before we moved to Tokyo last year to work for ourselves. I worked for some FTSE 100 companies and built apps with 100m+ downloads while in London, but this year has been my first time making games.
3.) Is Pipe Dreams your first video game?
Edward: It was the first game that we released, but not the first game that we have worked on. I wanted to challenge myself to see what I could make in a short amount of time while I was learning Unity.
4.) What was your inspiration for Pipe Dreams?
Edward: Being in Japan was definitely the inspiration. I was overwhelmed by all the neon and just how crazy everything is here. The phrases that you see in the game are all phrases that I’ve seen on signs around Tokyo.
5.) What made you decide to call the game Pipe Dreams?
Edward: My girlfriend came up with the title – the game revolves around a pipe (an early concept was a ‘space pipe’) and the goal is to try to get the highest score possible in a time limit. It seemed to fit with the aesthetic.
6.) What were some of the challenges in developing the game?
Edward: I challenged myself to make a game in one week. My girlfriend usually does the art, but I did everything for Pipe Dreams on my own: the coding, art and music. I wanted to see what I could do in a short amount of time and try out what I was learning in Unity. I’m not an artist, so that was definitely the most challenging part for me.
7.) Would you ever consider making a game outside of the mobile platform such as PC or console?
Edward: I think people expect a lot more from a PC/console game and I don’t have the time to spend on such a fully-featured game.
8.) Who on your team created the music or was it a commission by a third party?
Edward: I made the music myself. I’ve been playing with ableton to make techno for a few years, but this was my first attempt at vaporwave. I hope I did it justice!
9.) What are you up to now? Any new projects in the works?
Edward: We’re leaving Japan in a month to return to the UK so preparing for that move. We’re also working on some transport apps for Tokyo to help tourists get around the city. It’s not as exciting as making games, but it pays the bills.
10.) Do you have any advice for aspiring mobile developers and what are the major pitfalls in developing for the platform? What do you like about the platform the most.
Edward: Whatever platform you want to develop for, it’s really important to get a good grasp of fundamental software engineering first. Don’t try and go from zero to making a huge game with Unity straight away. For example, learn C# to a good level before you even open Unity. Mobile development is great because everyone has a phone and can play your game. It does come with challenges because of limited hardware, especially on older Android phones. However, this just means you have to come up with creative solutions – which is part of the fun.
11.) What do you enjoy about vaporwave overall and what does it mean to you?
Edward: Vaporwave takes inspiration from a lot of the things that I was around growing up and it does feel nostalgic. I also associate vaporwave and related music/art like outrun with Japan, which, in places like Dotonbori, Osaka, is like real life vaporwave. I think I’ve become a bigger fan since moving to Japan and this game wouldn’t have been made if I didn’t live here.
I wish the best to Edward and his girlfriend and hope they decide to make more games in this style in the future.
Please see the links below for the game download itself and to Little Bird Solutions itself to see their other apps if you are interested. I also linked the bandcamp account they have if you like the in-game music.