Last week’s Retro Rundown was an interesting one, as Sonic R for the Sega Saturn was both entertainingly bad and frustratingly broken. If you haven’t read that one yet, take a look right here.
Anyway, from there, we’ve now moved on to another game; No One Can Stop Mr Domino for the original PlayStation. And I’m sad to say that we have a similar tone for this Retro Rundown as well… However, I’ll cover that in the article itself.
So, with that, we should probably take a look at this unique game…
The very first thing I need to mention about No One Stops Mr Domino is the soundtrack. On the opening screen and main menu, the music honestly sounds like a stock dance track from Random DJ Number 320453. There’s nothing particularly special or interesting about the music at all.
For me, the first bit of music you hear when you get to the menu of a game should get you excited for the game. Sure, not every game can have New Disease by Spineshank playing (shout out to Shaun Palmer’s Pro Snowboarder for an epic opening track) but it should still be uplifting or invigorating. Take the opening music from Final Fantasy VIII for example; the drumming builds up the anticipation of the game, whilst the rest of the track fills you with a fantasy vibe. It sets you up for the game.
With No One Can Stop Mr Domino, it doesn’t achieve any of that.
Even though this isn’t a big storyline-focused blockbuster game, lying firmly in the “weird Japanese game” category, the music doesn’t even fit that! It’s just a very generic sounding track with no real character. It feels empty and hollow… Disappointing, even.
Sadly, that feeling isn’t limited to just the soundtrack either.
We will keep most of this discussion for the gameplay section, but once I got into the first level, I was instantly confused. It may not be the same if you have the manual to look at, but when you start the game, it doesn’t actually give you any information about what you are supposed to do.
In fact, as you can see in that clip, it wasn’t until the good old members of the 16-Bit Tribe explained bits of it to me that I started to figure the main goal of the game out. Now I’m not a fan of long tutorial levels, but at least some dialogue or instruction is necessary. No One Can Stop Mr Domino doesn’t even have that!
Right then… Where to start?
Now, I don’t like to rant and rave about things that annoy me. I’m actually a pretty calm person. However, when it comes to No One Can Stop Mr Domino, that all changed! In fact, it’s the first game I’ve ever rage quit on a stream, so that should be enough for you to know my feelings about the gameplay. But, we should actually look into why I disliked it so much.
To begin with, due to the fact that there isn’t even the slightest bit of instruction, I immediately starting trying to control Mr Domino like a racing game. After all, you are on a cyclical track like a race track, and you get speed boosts and obstacles as well… It seems like a racing game, except that you’re the only person going around the track.
So, I kept trying to turn Mr Domino by holding left or right on the D-Pad, but it seemed really hard to do. After eventually figuring out (with help from those in chat) that you need to lay dominoes in front of specific points on the track, this difficulty to turn became even more infuriating.
It took me far too long to realise that the game runs on a minimum of 4 individual tracks and pressing left or right moves you between them. You can’t actually turn your character. But this, again, isn’t explained in-game.
Then there’s the fact that you are on a timer of sorts, in that if you take too long, you run out of health. However, this didn’t actually seem to be any bar or anything to show how much health you had. Instead, you had to rely on the colour of your character, which is hard to pay attention to when you’re desperately trying to place dominoes in the perfect location to hit a switch or something.
This then led to one of the most absurd moments I have ever experienced in a game.
On the ground, there are little Red Cross squares that you can run over. When you touch them, they are supposed to give you health back so you can keep going. Yet, somehow, No One Can Stop Mr Domino is the very first game where I died on the health pick up.
The game is badly made that when you’re basically dead and really need that health pick up, it doesn’t kick in immediately, meaning that you die far too often. This is infuriating, especially considering how few continues you get as well. And because of this issue, the game actually ends up feeling stressful, which is never a good thing.
Moving on, or rather, continue on from the fact that the game is stressful and the controls are aggravating, we need to talk about the “enjoyment” factor of the game. Now, it is important that this is based upon my own experience with No One Can Stop Mr Domino (as all reviews are based on the reviewer’s personal experience). So, when it comes to enjoyment, I can explain it in one phrase; there was none.
Now I am actually pretty easy to please. As long as a game is even slightly fun, or so bad that its fun to laugh at it, I can be okay with the game. But that’s not the case with No One Can Stop Mr Domino.
I said it at the end of the stream, but I have no interest in ever playing No One Can Stop Mr Domino. It’s a frustrating and infuriating mess of a game that just makes you want to rip your hair out in despair. Part of that comes from the Reset buttons they include on the track, which not only resets your dominoes but also every switch you’ve struggled to activate! You basically have to start the level again, but with lower health. Even Bubsy 3D didn’t annoy me as much as this!
A game can be frustrating at times and that’s fine, as long as the other parts of the game are fun. But there wasn’t actually a single aspect of No One Can Stop Mr Domino that I enjoyed.
So yeah, I’ve played it for a few levels on stream and I’m glad I did, as I now know that I don’t ever want to play this game again.
And That’s All Folks
All in all, No One Can Stop Mr Domino fails to achieve success in a variety of game design aspects. The music is just empty and flat, yet the gameplay doesn’t manage to remedy this.
If you want a strange game to play for the original PlayStation and don’t actually care whether it is fun, then this could be just what you are looking for. That said, if you prefer games to be well designed and entertaining, you’re looking at the wrong shelf of games!
Have you played No One Can Stop Mr Domino? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!