iPhone Review:Aqueduct — the Most Fun With Plumbing Since Mario

Geek Culture

Aqueduct title screenAqueduct title screen

See this screen? Don’t be fooled by its innocent—almost cute—appearance. This is the face of your downfall.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but just a little.

Remember Trainyard? It was an elegantly-designed puzzle app that probably ate up hours of your life if you tried it out. Aqueduct is here to claim the rest.

Aqueduct screenshotsAqueduct screenshots

Aqueduct screenshots. Left to right: Easy, Harder, Evil.

When you first start up Aqueduct, it looks pretty familiar. There’s a spigot and a drain, and a bunch of little pipes in the middle. The goal is obvious: hook up the pipes to connect the path, and then turn on the water. There’s a slight catch: the pipe tiles have to slide around—you can’t pick them up and drop them in anywhere you like, and you can’t rotate them.

So far, so good.

But as you progress through the levels, you’ll discover new types of tiles. Orange pipes can’t be moved. Blocks get in your way. Narrow catwalks (evidently floating in space) restrict your movement. There are floating bridges which you can use to help bridge gaps—but they can’t be moved unless they’re empty. There are conveyor belts which shove tiles along, gates which must be held open by depressing buttons, and teleporter gates.

The difficulty level progresses gradually. I managed the first world (23 puzzles) pretty handily without too much trouble. World 2 wasn’t too bad, with a few puzzles here and there I skipped and came back to later. But by the time I hit World 3, I was no longer firing up a level, confident of success. If you manage to complete five worlds, you get a special reward: Evil World, marked with a skull instead of a number. So far I’ve solved two of those. (And there are two bonus worlds listed under “Extra Puzzles,” in case you just can’t get enough — or more likely, because you got stuck and can’t unlock the next level.)

The Kieffer Bros. have done a fantastic job with Aqueduct — I love the graphics, which have a hand-drawn look but aren’t overly sketchy, and the happy little tune that plays in the background belies the difficulty of the task. The interface and controls are nicely designed: it just works, so you can spend your time figuring out the puzzles and not how to play the game. My only complaint is that there’s not an easy way to jump from a completed puzzle to the next available puzzle—you’re forced to kick back to the puzzle selection screen each time.

Since Aqueduct is a universal app (it runs on both the iPhone and the iPad) it’s a little pricier than most iPhone-only apps at $2.99, but if you like puzzles it’s probably worth the price. Not sure? Try the free Aqueduct 101 which includes 48 puzzles to get you started, though be warned that the full version gets much more challenging.

All right. Only 54 more puzzles to go and then I can finally sleep…

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