mrdomino1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column features PlayStation game No One Can Stop Mr. Domino!, published by Artdink in Japan in January 1998, and released by Acclaim in the U.S. in October 1998.]

No one, I tell you. NO ONE!

It's easy to hate a company like Artdink. In years past, the Japanese development house has covered genres that vary from the niche (Oh boy! Train simulators!) to the hopelessly obtuse (Oh boy! Uh, aquatic reef simulators!), with many of their titles further hampered by the fact that they aren't very much fun to play.

No One Can Stop Mr. Domino, on the other hand, was one of Artdink's few games that successfully combined an interesting concept with compelling gameplay. Put out in America by Acclaim (of all people) back in 1998, most gamers never gave the title a second look, resulting in a quick and unceremonious trip to bargain bin obscurity for Mr. Domino.

mrdomino2.jpgGrandpa's in the house.

The game stars a little domino man out to use his domino powers to create havoc in the human world. Despite his mighty aspirations, Mr. Domino's powers are limited to placing a series of dominoes behind him as he runs a circular path around each level. Once a level is lapped at least once, Mr. Domino can run into previously-placed dominoes in order to cause chain reactions and trigger traps that will teach those filthy humans a lesson for ever taking him so lightly.

Make no mistake: Mr. Domino is the jerk to end all jerks. The game begins with him performing various acts of benign mischief against inanimate objects, but once you get to level three, the gloves come off. In this level, Mr. Domino attacks an innocent family by using dominoes to trigger traps around their house. Dad gets punched in the genitals. Mom gets caught in an explosion. At the end of the level, grandpa is crushed by a giant bell. Through all this, Mr. Domino never stops smiling.

mrdomino3.jpgSeriously, don't even try to stop him.

A level is completed whenever the required number of traps are triggered by falling dominoes. These traps can be set off one by one, but ideally, the player wants to trigger them all in succession in order to earn the highest scores. This is made difficult and occasionally frustrating thanks to the fact that Mr. Domino marches continually forward (no one can stop him, remember?) during each level, and the slightest misstep can ruin what was once a perfect domino setup. Skillfully dodging the obstacles in Mr. Domino's way and then watching a well-placed series of dominoes trigger several traps in a row offers the kind of satisfaction that makes it all worthwhile, however.

It's rare to see a puzzle game strive to accomplish something beyond the geometric shape dropping/matching/clearing archetype, and Mr. Domino does so with style and an inexplicable sense of humor. Don't let the terrifying prospect of an Acclaim and Artdink collaboration throw you; No One Can Stop Mr. Domino will only set you back a few bucks for a used copy, and it could very well be the most important story ever told about a domino man's struggle against humankind.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com , and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]