Domino FX (PSP)

HiScore TV // May 2007 – May 2008

At HiScore TV, we were always pitching original game ideas to publishers in the hope of securing new development deals to keep our small but merry band afloat.

It was often a dispiriting process, familiar to all small devs: you’d come up with some great ideas, spend ages writing and designing pitch documents, traipse to the publisher in your smartest suit and shiniest shoes, give good pitch and get a resoundingly positive response, and then… Well, then you waited. And waited. And waited. And finally, after much chasing, you’d get a “Thanks but no thanks” rejection email.

Except one day in early 2007, we didn’t.

Yes, to our great excitment, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) took a shine to Domino FX, an idea I’d had after watching a domino-toppling world record attempt on TV the previous Xmas, and wanted it as a second-party release for the PSP handheld console.

Domino FX was essentially an action puzzler: the player was given tiles bearing random configurations of dominos, and the aim was to build paths of dominos linking the Start to the Goal before time ran out. Bonus points could be earned by using the dominos to trigger stunts (launch rockets, activate robots, light fireworks, that sort of thing).

In the original design, the game had two alternating timed phases: one where you laid tiles, and another where you defended the tiles from domino-eating monsters (an idea inspired by an old fave, The Horde). However, SCEE never quite got the second phase and scoped the project back to just the tile laying (which I thought made the gameplay feel a little too ‘thin’ but, hey, they were paying).

Development started in the summer of 2007, with coding outsourced to the incredibly-talented Zareh ‘ZZKJ’ Johannes. Progress was going well (as you can see via the video link below). Bar a start-of-project meeting we were never visited once by our SCEE producer, and his occasional emails were always positive.

So it was a complete shock when, early in 2008, we got an email from SCEE announcing that they were canning the project. Apparently the games was “too DS-like” for the PSP brand – ironic, given that many commentators would now argue that that’s exactly what the PSP needed back then.

And so began a frantic search for a new publishing partner. However, the game now came with a price hefty tag (as SCEE wanted to recoup some of its costs). Worse, most publishers already saw the PSP market as, er, ‘difficult’ and were unwilling to pay for work they’d chuck away to start again on another format.

Domino FX was finally laid to rest, and with it came the demise of HiScore TV. In May 2008 the company closed its doors forever.

Gameplay Video  View GDD (.pdf)

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These shots are from the early pitch video and are a little slicker than the 'real thing'.
Tiles were allocated randomly, but could be rotated and placed anywhere.
Every so often, monsters would attack – you had to zap them and defend your dominos.
If the player activated stunts they were rewarded with bonus points and eye-popping spectacle!