[Every month (since 2 months ago) Analoge showcases an overlooked, under-appreciated, or just plain weird piece of video game history in a segment called Object Obscura.]
No one can stop Mr. Domino.
Not you. Not your big, burly dad. Not your brother who played football in high school and drinks protein shakes. No one can stop Mr. Domino. This is what Artdink would have you believe, but is it true? Is there really no one alive capable of halting the progress, nay, impeding the doom-like march of an anthropomorphic piece of rectangular plastic?
The answer is no. Just about anyone or anything can stop Mr. Domino: Shirt buttons, pool balls, The occasional tiny hill, other anthropomorphic dominos. In fact, unless you are very talented, Mr. Domino will be stopped quite a few times, but if you've got an eye for the strange, and if you don't mind slogging through some occasionally overly hard gameplay, Mr. Domino might interest you.
No One Can Stop Mr. Domino is a unique game, to say the least. The look can be best described as "Katamari-esque". The characters and backgrounds are blocky and very Japanese, which works well with the also "Katamari-esque" premise of a little guy running around causing havok in the big people's world. You play as Mr. Domino (or some variant of a domino-person including a domino woman and a domino alien) and run around a circular, track-based level trailing dominos by holding the circle button. Around this track are obstacles to dodge and buttons that need to be pressed by a domino (non-anthropomorphic). When you set up a domino to press the button, you'll let go of the "trail dominos" button until you get to a cue a bit later in the level telling you to start trailing dominos again. When done correctly, You'll do a full circle around the level, and when you get back to where you started, you'll knock over the first domino starting a level-wide chain reaction. Your chain of dominos will hit buttons which will cause something silly to happen and knock over the domino you set up at the cue point continuing the chain. Pulling this off is really satisfying and makes you feel like an all-around cool person.
It is extremely hard to pull this off.
No One Can Stop Mr. Domino is hard. This game might as well have been called No One Can Control Mr. Domino As He Plows Headlong Through The Level Tripping Over Anything In His Way. You can control your speed by pressing up and down, which is quite awkward. You can also land on a speed up/slow down tile to control your speed, but you'll more likely run into them on accident, sending poor Mr. Domino careening towards peril at breakneck speed or reducing him to a crawl. Not being able to control your speed well makes it even tougher when you consider that each level is timed. I really really wish you could opt to turn off the timer. I've said before that timers are outdated features that rarely make a game more enjoyable, and this game is no exception. Half the time, I'll go through the whole level only to knock over my first domino and realize that there's a gap in my chain. The timer makes sure that you don't have enough time to go all the way back around, place a domino where one needs to be and go all the way back around AGAIN to knock it over, meaning you're forced to strive for complete perfection every time.
That being said, the game has undeniable charm. If if didn't, it wouldn't have stuck with me as long as it has. I first played this game off of a PSX Jampak in a Wal-Mart somewhere when I was a wee lad, and now, years later, I recommend it to you. Give it a try. It's bizarre enough to be worth your time.