|System: DS, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Playfirst||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 23, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
June 19, 2007 - Diner Dash is, at best, a good little cell phone game. It's fun and quirky and possesses enough depth to impress the mobile crowd. But remember we're talking phones here. That generates lowered expectations. Diner Dash on the DS is a one-dimensional novelty game. It's reminiscent of classic arcade games, or modern-day budget titles. While I admit I did have fun playing this game, the experience was short lived. For this reason I would only recommend it as a rental.
Making good use of the DS's touch control system, Diner Dash comes up short in other areas. Graphically it's weak but it does have some style even though it doesn't push the DS's capabilities. The gameplay is repetitive, and come to think of it, so is the music and sound effects. The dual screen has to be scrolled through to see the characters that require your attention. This slows the process down considerably, and time is of the essence in this game. When the restaurant gets busy, it can be difficult to discern the various customers due to the one small screen. It's hard not to think of this game as a budget title considering all of the little flaws. You can play a trial version of this game on your PC for free. It's a great way to see if you like it before you buy or rent it. There is a multiplayer component, but this game is designed for the single player.
As a young female entrepreneur named Flo, you follow your dream of opening up your very own restaurant. This requires leaving the security of your desk job. In order to make a go of it you have certain monetary requirements that have to be met each day. We're definitely in the Sims neighborhood here. There is even an element of economic simulation in the vein of the Tycoon series, but it's all very light. That may be good news for players that don't want to get bogged down with all kinds of micromanagement, because you certainly won't. What you will have to do here is learn a routine and then expand upon it by executing it faster in addition to experimenting and improvising with the method. As I mentioned, it's quite fun for a while but once you get things down pat, the challenge feels more like a make-work scenario - literally.
At the outset of the game there is a tutorial which will train you in restaurant management. Essentially you will learn how to please the customers that enter your fine establishment by catering to their whims. You'll learn where to seat them, what kind of foods they prefer, how to make them happy with coffee and entertainment, and how to serve their food in a timely manner. You'll either please them or piss them off. A meter in the shape of a heart gauges your success with them. Every day you have to make a specified amount of money to stay in business. Unhappy customers will deplete your meter, while happy ones will make your venture profitable, and allow you to progress to the next stage.
There are eight different kinds of customers. Each have their own idiosyncrasies. Some, like the elderly, are slow and don't tip very well. Others are good tippers but are noisy customers. Some customers don't appreciate noise so you'll want to seat them away from the yahoos. Families with kids require booster seats while customers with reservations will have specific seats and should be treated with more respect as they tend to be a little bit more upscale. Don't give the reserved seats away to the lowlife. Food critics demand the most attention. Everything should be perfect for the critic so that you can get a good review. Once you learn how to treat all the various customers, you'll be put to the test as the difficulty increases.
You start out small. There are only a few seats in your restaurant and only a handful of customers. Your tasks are as follows: Seat your customers; take their order; bring their food when it's ready; collect your money, and clean the table for the next round. Things get more complicated when the restaurant acquires more tables and ultimately more customers. Prepare to get swamped during lunch hour. By performing these tasks in the proper sequence, you'll eventually clear the screen of customers - hopefully satisfied customers. Extra points are awarded for combos. How do you pull off a combo? Simply kill two birds with one stone. Take more than one order at a time. Bring a couple of orders out instead of one, and clear a few tables on your way back to the kitchen. It's an interesting and compelling challenge that will have you using your noodle for things other than making spaghetti.
With the stylus, all you have to do is tap, and Flo will head in that direction. Whether you want to chat with some of the customers, pour them a cup of Joe, or seat them in a section that matches the colors of their outfits, all you have to do is tap the stylus on the appropriate command. The control system couldn't be easier, but when the restaurant gets crowded it can be difficult to tap the right table, which can cost you some valuable time. Customers don't like to wait and if they get fed up by not getting fed, it can cost you dearly.
Once you get the hang of things, there's little reason to replay the game. It's probably best to play the multiplayer modes before you become a seasoned vet. It makes things more interesting since you'll likely be playing by rote once you've completed the single-player mode.
You will learn a few valuable lessons playing Diner Dash. First of all you'll learn that the hospitality industry can be a total grind, and second, you'll understand why so many waiters and waitresses are so miserable.
CCC Senior Writer