Oil v1.1- by David Seldon

OS/2, like most other OS's, attracts a lot of tinkerers who want to try their hand at programming but not necessarily at the other skills required to produce a good game. The result is a boatload of silly little diversions and toys that look like they were slapped together in someone's garage. Oil v1.1 is not one of those programs.

In fact, Oil is a well put together little game that may keep you happily diverted from your spreadsheet or database for hours.

The Basic Premise

Oil is a puzzle game. It is similar to other such games available for OS/2 and other operating systems but is possibly different enough that it can be called somewhat "unique".

The object of the game is to connect a pipeline from an oil tank somewhere on an island to a filling station on the edge of that island so a cargo ship can pick up the crude and carry it off to billions of anxious consumers. The playing field is a grid and each square can take one piece of pipe. The trick is that the different pipe shapes (crosses, straight pieces, bent pieces [GIF, 1.5k]) come in random order so you have to work with what you are given.

So What's the Problem?

Sound simple? Well, it might be except for a few things. First of all, there's a time limit on each level. An experienced player will find it easy to complete a pipeline in the allotted time but a beginner will most likely struggle.

Also, each level has a set of goals that must be met. The player must get a certain amount of points (points are awarded for time left over and for the number of pipeline pieces laid) and must build a certain number of "crosses". As I mentioned, some of the pipeline pieces that you are given to work with are in the shape of crosses. This means that instead of just connecting them on two sides, you can attach pieces to all four sides. If you do this correctly (GIF, 1.8k), the oil will turn as it flows through the finished pipeline. You also get bonus points for each "cross" the oil flows through.

After you complete the pipeline, points are deducted for any pieces you have placed that are not part of the main line. And on the higher levels there are occasional obstacles (rocks and bushes) which you can not place pieces on. (Actually, the whole game takes place on islands which are sometimes irregularly shaped so you do not even necessarily have a square playing area.)

Is It Fun?

Yes! This is not a shoot 'em up or a game that will get your adrenaline running (unless you lead a very boring life) but it is really entertaining. It's fairly tricky to build your pipeline without leaving loose ends and orphaned pieces and even if you do, there is the element of time and the goals for each level to keep things interesting. The higher levels can get pretty hard (especially level 11!).

One of the game's assets is its nice graphics (GIF, 20k) and small touches like animated fish jumping out of the sea occasionally. This is not Myst, mind you, but the game could have been programmed with just squares and line drawings so it's nice that the author took the time to add these touches.

What This Game Needs

What Oil does not have is sounds. It's purely incidental to game play but the game could really use some background music and maybe some sound effects. Another missing feature that would be appreciated is a "save game" or "jump to level..." option. There are 11 levels in the registered version of the game and it can get tiresome going through the earlier ones just to tackle that one level that has eluded you.

Oil's one other glaring shortcoming is its manual/help file. Well, let me rephrase that: its help file. There is no manual, not even an on-line one. And if you go looking in the help for instructions you may be disappointed. In fact, when I first attempted to play the game, I couldn't figure out how, despite reading the on-line help! It actually took about a week before I went back and tried again, this time with a little more persistence, and realized how fun it really is. A clearer "How To Play" page or possibly some tips and tricks in the on-line help would be a major improvement.

Other than these items, the only complaint I had is that there isn't enough of it! More levels or added obstacles would spice the game up some.

Conclusions

Overall, Oil is a good, solid, fun game. While the shareware version is somewhat limited (it only has 3 of the 11 levels included in the full version) it will certainly allow you to find out if you want to buy the program. And for US$10 it probably won't take you long to make that decision.
 * Oil v1.1
by Martin Schulz
download from Walnut Creek CD-ROM FTP site (ZIP, 285k)
Registration: US$10
David Seldon is a part time language teacher and part time student. When he's not travelling or playing games he enjoys surfing and skiing.

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