Domino Master

It’s a little known fact, but during the early noughties, I could kick anyone’s ass at dominoes. I used to play over on Yahoo Games an awful, awful lot – usually against shouty Americans who would TYPE IN CAPITALS (see, even before the advent of voice chat they could annoy the crap out of you). I could spot 3s and 5s as though I was driven by some kind of domino-based Spider sense. I had bones* in my bones, you could say. So I’m actually genuinely pleased to see the release of Domino Master on Live Arcade this week.

Jumping straight into the single player game gives you five different game modes to choose from – straight, 3s, 5s, Mexican Train and Bergen. Even if you’re not sure what you’re doing, dominoes is a doddle to pick up. The main aim is to get rid of all your ‘mos before your opponent shifts theirs. You do it by matching the numbered spots. That’s it. Piece of cake.

I’m biased towards this game because I genuinely have a love of the game. I have played a few games of 5s against each of the difficulty levels available in the game and loved every minute of it. For anyone not familiar with 3s or 5s, let me explain. Along with getting rid of all the ‘mos, you score points if the total of the end, playable, dominos is a multiple of 3 or 5 (depending which you’re playing). This is where you get a real sense of the strategy involved in a good game of dominos, although you will find if you play against a beginner level AI opponent and have even a limited grasp of what you’re doing you’ll win by a ridiculous margin. I’m fairly good at 3s and 5s, so cranked the difficulty up to master and guru levels. Far enough, I lost but the games were exceptionally close and in one I only lost because of an incredibly bad move on my part which is my one problem with the game.

You need to pay attention to your moves. There are many games available on Arcade where pressing A makes your move, and quite often will make the best move available for you. This isn’t the case in Domino Master. I have made some stonking errors while playing because while I was looking at the move I wanted to make I didn’t move the cursor to that particular area. Roll on the mind-controlled games, I say. The controls, and domino placing interface, do seem a bit clunkier than necessary. Having been brought up on Yahoo Dominoes I feel a little spoilt – I could drag my domino around the screen to wherever I wanted it. Here, I need to make sure the destination area is flashing before I confirm my move otherwise bad things happen and my opponent beats me.

Aside from the lack of mind control, I don’t actually have any quibbles with this game. It’s ridiculously easy to pick up the rules and the games are fully customable to allow for long or short games depending on how much time you have. I found that the default settings played out as a quick game on Beginner levels and longer games on the higher difficulties as the strategic play tends to yield lower scores (and thus, more rounds to complete). And there’s always the other domino sets to change the way the game plays – if double 6s are just too easy to get your head round, why not try the 9s or 12s for a high scoring and more challenging game.

There is, of course, a multiplayer mode complete with Xbox Live Vision support so you can take on up to three of your friends and pull faces at them as well. The last time I played real-life dominos was a few years back in a slightly smoky pub in Bradford with a few friends from work. The fact that I could find people on Live to have a good laugh with whilst playing the game from the comfort of my gaming chair does quite appeal to me and does make me think back to the times when friendly games of Uno used to run into the early hours. I think that Domino Master does have the potential to be quite a nice social game to play with friends across Live without being too serious.


* bones is another name for the game, as the dominos were often made from, well, bone.







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