Current events tend to make for excellent iPhone game fodder. With recent catastrophes like the economic collapse and Swine Flu outbreak, timely iPhone games have seized on these news stories to bring a bit of levity to very serious problems. Plug the Pipe was no doubt assembled hastily to capitalize on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and it’s apparent in the awful gameplay.
In Plug the Pipe, you have to drop trash from above to land on a busted oil well beneath the sea. This is a play on the ‘junk shot’ tactic that BP attempted in the first few months of the oil leak. While it’s not a bad concept (and if we couldn’t laugh at the oil spill, we’d cry) Plug the Pipe is so terribly designed that it renders the game unplayable.
The biggest fault with the game is its terrible physics. You drop each item into the ocean by tapping on it, then tapping on the screen where you want it to fall. Pressing on the screen will show you which direction the current is going, so you can try to drop to the left or right of the oil well. No matter what you do, though, your trash will bounce around the ocean floor, making your efforts futile.
Pollution ain’t pretty.
The fish in the game are a prime example of the game’s awful physics. We’re pretty sure that dropping a refrigerator on a clown fish is not supposed to bring the fridge to a dead stop. If you happen to hit two fish with your trash, the two fish bodies will actually raise your barrel, lamp, or light post back up to the surface.
The controls in Plug the Pipe are equally atrocious. You have to tap to select every time you want to drop an item, an unnecessary step that is just aggravating. If you want to flood the ocean with trash, you have to keep tapping back to the corner before tapping again on the ocean. Flooding the ocean with trash, by the way, is the only meaningful way to attempt each of the game’s ten levels.
The only good thing we can say about Plug the Pipe is that it provides a ‘lowest’ score in addition to your (offline) high score. We are all in favor of recognizing the weakest attempts in gaming as a subject of shame and ridicule– sort of like Plug the Pipe itself. Plug the Pipe’s problem is not that it tries to make fun of a tragedy; it’s that the game itself is laughably shoddy.