Brainpipe is, at first glance, a simple game. It’s a game about falling down a tube, trying to last as long as possible, while collecting glyphs for extra score, and not being hurt by various things. But that’s quite a reductive way of looking at it. Let’s look at it some different ways.
Brainpipe appears to have an ending. I’ve never seen it, but it would appear to have a finite number of levels, with a finite number of glyphs. Providing you’ve done extremely well, there are 9 glyphs in each level. Missing one makes you lose out on the rest for that level. There’s something there. But again, that’s still too reductive. Whether it has a win state, or is an endless falling game, or a fail state (Yes, it has that, for sure, as well as regenerating health) isn’t important here, that’s not the selling point. Nor is the fact that, on Steam, it’s all of £1.59. No, there’s more to it than that, something quite clever.
It makes references to the oblivion of the self (You are falling down the brainpipe to self-oblivion.) The guide for whether you hit or miss an obstacle looks like a wireframe of an eyeball. Your eyeball… If you focus where the eyeball is, you genuinely do better. Get distracted, and you hit things. Hit things, and the eyeball dilates (Like it does when you’re shocked, or in pain.) If it dilates all the way, you lose. But again, this is too reductive. This is mechanics, and Brainpipe is clever, in that the mechanics blend into the experience it wants to present. I have no doubt somebody is reading this and saying “What, it’s an arcade tunnel falling game, what the fuck kind of deep insight are you looking for here?”
You’re probably not getting it because it’s something that has to be experienced, to be seen, and, just as importantly, heard. You see, your own mind struggles against the concept of self oblivion. It wants stimulus… And in Brainpipe, stimulus is precisely your enemy. The game assaults you, with sound, with pretty lights, with smoke and shifting walls and morphing numbers… When your eye should be on the prize… The subsumation of the self into a single goal… The eye must catch those glyphs, eat them up, as the brain tries ever harder to stop you focussing, the game tries ever harder to trip you up, and you get the urge to move, quickly now, out of the way of an obstacle. You can slow down for a bit, if you want… But if you do, you earn less… You have to rush to oblivion.Oh, you don’t fool me, Brainpipe. Or rather, at first you don’t. You start off distracting me only a little. And then you ramp it up. Opera. Showtunes. A man crying “pew pew pew”. A lady muttering, and the only word you can catch is “death”. You’re ominous, then bright, then silly, then dark, then… Fuck, I’ve hit an obstacle. Fuck, I’ve hit ano-fuck fuck fuck TINKLE…
…High score. But those glyphs… Those glyphs still taunt me. I’m almost certain there’s something there, but I’m sure as hell not begging. I’m not asking. And that’s…
…That’s self destructive. There’s the moment of revelation, right there. This is a game that makes you want to destroy your avatar, makes you want to take risks… For a secret that may not even exist, an enlightenment of no-thought, only subtle movements of your eye and mouse, getting twitchier the further you get in, more frightened of failure, of your own forthcoming oblivion.
It’s secretly a really fucking clever game.
Brainpipe is available on Steam . There is only one achievement, and it is not a Steam achievement. It is an achievement of the self. Nobody I know has attained it.