Version Reviewed: 1.1
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The last thing I needed was another pipe-building puzzle game. Or so I thought. Aqueduct is the latest app from the Kieffer Bros., makers of excellent puzzlers such as Abca (formerly Lexic), and it breathes new life into some over-utilized genres. By combining a pipe-building motif with sliding block style gameplay and sprinkling in a variety of special tiles, Aqueduct brings just enough originality and polish to the mix.
Each level in Aqueduct is essentially a large grid on which you need to move and connect a series of blocks that have different shaped pipe segments on them. The goal is to connect the pipes so that there is a closed loop from the water source to the drain. This is easier said than done, as there are various obstacles in your way such as unmovable blocks, conveyor belts, warp portals, and locked gates triggered by floor switches. The levels themselves have various tight corridors, or even large chunks of empty space, that need to be navigated skillfully, sometimes with the use of moveable bridge blocks. Unlike most pipe-building games, the tube segments cannot be rotated, and there isn't the timed threat of slowly advancing water. The real star of Aqueduct is the strong, spatial element of the game, as you need to skillfully maneuver the blocks in physical space to unblock, decipher, and build the perfect waterways.
Aqueduct was released with a whopping 140+ levels over 6 chapters, and has since received 2 more chapters to bring the total to over 190 levels. The first group of 23 levels serves primarily as a tutorial, introducing you to all of the obstacle types that you'll be encountering. After that, it's basically more of the same, although progressively harder. With each level solved, you unlock the next 3, and you must complete a chapter to get to the next. Because of this no nonsense structure, where progression is your sole reward and the basic bag of tricks is revealed early on, Aqueduct loses a bit of its excitement after a few chapters. The clever level designs and core mechanics, however, are always top-notch, and they offer up a welcome challenge when you need to scratch that puzzle-solving itch.
With Aqueduct, initial looks can be deceiving. It's a somewhat no-frills, yet highly polished package. Aqueduct innovates in some tired territory, and offers a lot of stimulating content in the process. Besides having been quickly updated with new levels, it was also upgraded with universal support across all iOS devices, which only adds to the quality and value of the game. So, although my gag reflex was initially triggered by the thought of more pipe themed puzzles (I'm looking at you Bioshock), I'm glad I suppressed that instinct. Aqueduct's mix of pipe-building, sliding tiles, unblocking, and special hazards, is a truly holistic effort. It's good fun, too.
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