Overall Score 71%
Here's another offbeat production from the developers of the "Strange Adventures in Infinite Space" series. Brainpipe is a simple and addictive experience where the player navigates an unknown and unexplained manifestation of themselves through the twisting, contorted neural connectors of somebody or something's brain. As you weave your way around the Nasal Ganglia, bridge the Synaptic Gap, and ultimately attempt to transcend your humanity at the Ulterior Lobe, you'll be bombarded with obstacles at every stage of the way.
That probably sounds a lot trickier than the game actually plays. Indeed the game mechanics are extremely simple and the time needed to learn them is next to none at all. With one hand on your trusty coffee mug and one hand on your mouse, you'll be ducking and weaving your way through all 10 levels in next to no time. Simply by moving the mouse, you control your own manifestation through a pipeline that is filled with obstacles. Along the way, there are glyphs (that act like score bonus pickups) to be collected as well. As obstacles are hit, a visible iris around the play area will thin out, and progressively turns red. This forces the player to use a braking manoeuvre to heal up, which needs to be charged-up over time.
At the end of Level 10, the last glyph - if successfully collected - will grant unhumanity [sic] and the ability for the player to choose their new non-human avatar that will appear in the high score list. That's all there is to it.
The gameplay relies on good reflexes at the beginning when the scenery is flying past at a reasonable speed but, in the latter stages, superhuman feats of evasion and even precognitive skills come in handy as you scream down the tunnels at Mach 3. Levels are randomly generated with each new game - some are next to impossible to get through without elevating into a trance-like state of heightened consciousness. Luckily for you, this is quite attainable, with the game providing a real treat for your eyes and ears.
The sounds and music are amazingly good and perfectly accompany the gameplay by ramping up and scaling down with the action. There are dozens of obscure samples that fade in and out to trance style-beats (Dr Who's TARDIS even makes a cameo) that seem to confuse, disorient and unsettle the player, while at the same time retain an overall cohesiveness and beauty. In fact, the game was a well-deserved finalist in the 2009 Independent Games Festival's Excellence in Audio category.
Visually, Brainpipe is almost as impressive with a retro-chic style that is minimalist and polished. The colour palette is diverse and dynamic from level to level and the animations are smooth and hypnotic, even on my old clunker of a desktop PC. Presentation-wise, it's hard to find fault at all.
The only real question mark that hangs over the game in my opinion is the longevity of the title - especially once the game has been cleared on the one and only difficulty level. I can see myself coming back to Brainpipe every now and then for a quick chill-out session, but it's really not the kind of game that I could sit down for hours with at a time. Still, it has an addictive appeal in the short term, and this, coupled with a unusual concept and some excellent presentation makes the demo at least well worth a look.
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