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Dominos - The Atari Times


Block 'em out in this pre-Tron classic
by Matthias Jaap

January 26, 2002
One of the early arcade genres that was created in the 70's survived because of a movie from the 80's. The movie is "Tron" and the "Light-Cycle" part in the film became so popular that it became the brand name for a whole genre. After 1982, everyone talked about a "Light-Cycle" or "Tron" game although the gameplay was already born in 1976.

The early arcade machines featured simple but fun gameplay and the idea behind the blockade games is quite basic. You control an object which moves automatically and leaves a trace. The trace is deadly for your opponent and yourself and therefore you have at best three possible directions. The longer the players survive the more complicated it gets. In the movie the objects were cycles made of pure energy and they looked quite impressive for that time. There were also a couple of "official" Tron games.

Atari released a game called Dominos in 1977. Dominos is a blockade game for up to two players. The aim is of course to blockade your opponent so that he/she won't be able to move. If you win a game you will gain one point. The arcade machine can be set from three to six games.

The computer's strength varies from weak to strong. Sometimes the machine blocks itself only seconds after the start. The game is - unlike other blockade games - quite fast. The graphics are of course weak by today's standard so they should be compared with competing blockade games.

The other blockade games are Checkmate, Comotion, Blockade and Hustle.

Checkmate (1977) by Midway is a four player blockade game. The graphics consist of simple ascii strings but look a bit nicer than Atari's Dominos. Playing with four players means of course more fun but the game is slow compared with Dominos.

Comotion (1976) is also a four player game. The difference is than remaining players are not controlled by the computer. The graphics are more simple and the speed even slower.

Blockade (1976) is played by two players. The arcade machine uses a green monitor.

Hustle (1977) introduced the game concept which is known as "Nibbles" or "Worm". One player has to eat up objects to gain points. The player sprite looks like a worm and grows after "eating" an object.

The simple concept of the blockade games inspired many programmers. There are Open-GL based remakes in 3D which look like Tron's "Light Cycle" sequence. Jim Kent (Cyber Paint) wrote a four player version of Hustle. Other programmers tried to program the smallest version possible. It is also a great introduction to game programming.

It is difficult to rate an old game. Of course it is not as appealing today as it might was in 1977. But it can certainly be fun today if you play it with a friend. The graphics of Dominos are weaker compared with competing games but the game is faster. The game is also emulated by JAE which means that you can even play it in your web browser.

"Back in the day, we didn't have fancy COLOR video games."
Face off against a friend to create the longest domino chain ever!
System: Arcade
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 33%
Sound & Music Score: %
Gameplay Score: 65%
Control Score: %

Final Score: 60%

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