Monday, 16 January 2012

No One Can Stop Mr. Domino (PSX)

Look what I found in the cupboard!

It's Nobody Can Ever Frickin' Stop God Damn Diggety Mr. Dog Damn Domingo.

Great. How the hell do you play this again?

Level 1: Phat Tony's Casino.

This muzak is getting on my nerves already.

This doesn't look familiar. I really can't remember how to play this at all. I've only ever played a demo of this once, and that was over a decade ago. I remember there's a special knack to it and it probably involved (shock!) dominoes.

Mr. Domino's automatically running to the top right and I can't get him to do anything else. It does kinda look like a race so full speed ahead, Mr. Domino!

It's Ms. Domino! Hello, Ms. Domino! She's guarding the road ahead, but Mr. Domino isn't too good at lateral movement, so I speed up, run headfirst into her and smack her clear off the stage. Mr. Domino's stunned momentarily, but he shakes it off and runs onward. Go go!

If this is a race, I've just finished my first lap. I don't think I'm doing that well... I'm yet to score my first point.

I've scored five points by making Mr. Domino run faster!

I've also laid a trail of dominoes leading to this die on the ground. But... I can't push 'em over!

Unless... I go around the entire track again?

I am hurrying, damn it!

It's too late. Mr. Domino turns dark grey and degenerates into a regular domino. He doesn't even topple over. (Which is a bit silly, because that would've made an understandable death animation and a useful desperation move in one.)

It looks like there's an off-screen time limit of just over two laps, so you need to set everything up on the first lap perfectly and then trigger it on the second lap. And somehow that leads to you completing the level.

ARGH!

Running into Ms. Domino doesn't only stun Mr. Domino, but it makes him leave a gap in the domino chain! How am I supposed to make an 88 domino chain if you're in the bloody way, missus?

Around and around I go. Placing dominoes, running into them. It takes me a while, but I eventually remember the knack. You're supposed to make a chain of dominoes leading to the symbols on the ground. When a domino falls on the symbol, it triggers an animation and makes something fall on the track somewhere further along. There's a marker on the track showing where the debris will land, allowing the chain of disaster to carry on onto other tricks. Trying to arrange an entire level's worth of dominoes in exactly the right place without hitting a single enemy might sound like a hot-dog manoeuver, but you don't have time to do it any other way.

The time limit is unforgiving, but the controls are worse. Mr. Domino just doesn't wanna stop running. You have to hold down the directional buttons to get him to (eventually) change lanes and it's not clear what lane you'll end up in when you go around a corner. It's easy to hit a speed-up or speed-down tile and waste dozens of dominoes on a completely useless chain leading nowhere. There are health tiles that restore the time limit, and there are Reset tiles that reset everything except the time limit, but they're really hard to hit intentionally (and really easy to hit unintentionally).



Okay, now, lookit. It's a couple of hours later and I've dropped dominoes leading up to the first trick tile and bridged its clue tile to the next trick tile and so on.

Domingo's gone dark grey and he's flashing like mad so this had better work.

The white dominoes hit the red switch, which knocks the stack of dice onto the green dominoes...

... which whizz past Ms. Domingo, who is still blocked by the chain, they now hit the white switch...

... causing the off-track domino series to fall onto the domino castle...

... which hit's the 1-ball switch, knocking the cue ball into the 1-ball, which hits the green dominoes...

... around the corner onto to the light green dominoes...

... onto the orange dominoes and onto the spade symbol...

... which collapses the house of cards, knocking the die onto the white dominoes...

... which hit the green dominoes onto the round switch, which releases the ball bearing down the spiral slide.

All five tricks are done in one chain of dominoes. Please tell me that that is how to complete level one, because I'm completely out of ideas.

WOO! YES! YES! YES! I AM THE BEST IN EUROPE!

Victorious intermission. (YouTube)

Now for Level 2.

Mr. Dom's hit the supermarket. Seven tricks. 130 dominoes, so it's going to be a longer lap. Will they have given me any more stamina to make up for this? I wouldn't bet on it.

These panels in the floor move up and down every couple of seconds. I don't have enough control over Dom's speed to time it right so that I cross the panels on ground-level, so I'm splattered here. That tile just behind the rising panel is a trick tile as well, so you have to pass this obstacle perfectly to make an unbroken domino chain.

Mr. Domino gets electrocuted by an electric snowman domino and another chain is broken just before a trick tile. Thanks, snowman.

We've also got speed up and speed down tiles just before this electric trap, which is just great.

Mr. Domino floats down to safety in a carrier bag, earning me the first 100 points I've got so far.

Lap 2. I'm fairly certain that this chain of dominoes leads to nothing, thanks to the rising floor trap. I deftly weave diagonally through my placed dominoes and try to fill in the gap so I can trigger this properly on the next lap.

Wait, I only just noticed... What the hell do I think I'm gonna do with 1 domino left in my pocket? I really didn't stand a chance there, did I? Damn.

These Pocky cartons swing back and forth on the rack. You don't have a hope in hell in avoiding them deliberately, especially if you've already taken up a lane with a domino chain and you're planning on weaving diagonally through an existing domino chain.

When (not if) you get hit by the Pocky, Mr. Dom gets stunned for five seconds and moves to a random adjacent lane. In my case, he kept moving left and right getting hit by the Pocky box over and over again until he triggered the white dominoes and then hit the Reset tile.

This message doesn't get any more helpful when you're stuck in a freezer that forces you to go slow and takes your points away.

Oh no what a pity.

If you want me to learn the level to figure out how to avoid your obstacles and plan the 'right' way to place dominoes, you really should give me infinite lives. Finite lives have no place in a game where each level has a different score. And where's the God damned level select?!

I'm surprised this game doesn't have passwords. You can save your progress on a memory card, but I bet it saves the number of Continues you have left as well. By the end of the game, you'll have used up all your continues and drive yourself mental going back and forth between the main menu and the loading screen just to have another go at the level.

It's strange, I can't figure out any way to fix No One Can Stop Mr. Domino. There's no technical difficulties that could be fixed with more time and care. It's just a plain old bad idea. If you took out the domino system completely and made it a straight up race, you'd have Trailblazer (or Jump 'n' Roll or SkyRoads), which are all way better games than NOCSMD.

You could sit there for hours, playing the same level over and over to learn the only correct way to link everything together, drawing it out on a piece of paper, and then spend even more time hoping desperately that Mr. Domino's git family isn't waiting up around the next bend off-screen to screw everything up, or you could call your parents, learn a foreign language, take up juggling or go rock climbing. Anything other than play Mr. Domino.

2 comments:

  1. If I remember correctly, this actually originated on the Net Yaroze, a sort of cut-down PSX devkit aimed at the hobbyist market. This was pre-digital distribution, so most Net Yaroze projects were only distributed as gaming mag cover discs. But Artdink apparently decided this one warranted a retail release.

    Artdink also released this thing.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Bob, thanks for the comment!

      This is the first I've heard of Domino being a Yaroze graduate! Can you remember where you heard that? I'd love to see a WIP Domino if he's lying around on an old OPSM coverdisc.

      I've read that Devil Dice was a Yaroze game though.

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