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Diner Dash

For: DS   Also on: Mobile, PSP

The McGame of the McJob

Product: Diner Dash | Developer: Climax | Publisher: Eidos plc | Format: DS | Genre: Casual, Puzzle | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Diner Dash DS, thumbnail 1
Does anyone still remember when fast food was the best thing since sliced bread? Bringing mass production into the kitchen meant cheap, honest, grub that was served quickly so you didn't have to wait around. The alternative – booking dinner at your one snooty local restaurant two months in advance and then having to eat a pile of expensive leaves – wasn't anyone's idea of fun.

It's certainly not Flo's, who after a bad day in the office decides to throw in the towel and pick up the menu instead. She's the fleet-footed hero of Diner Dash, a game where you have to rush around a variety of 2D fast food joints, seating, serving and clearing up after the progressively more annoying customers.

Put like that it doesn't seem like a very appetising sort of interactive experience, but in the world of casual online games, Diner Dash ranks up there with the likes of Zuma, Cake Mania and Bejeweled.

Sadly, it doesn't really sizzle on DS. Partly this could be because you never get the complete restaurant on one screen – you have to stylus-tap the arrow on the bottom left of the screen to see and pick up queuing groups of diners, and then drag them to an available table with the appropriately number of free seats. Because of the sheer pace of the game, this doesn't always work: it's usually your fault, not the game's, but that doesn't improve your mood much, and also breaks your rhythm.

The game's developer, Climax, has tried to work around this with icons and sound effects that display the growing impatience of the off-screen and unseated queue, but adding another task to the lengthy list of seating, picking up the order, distributing the food, dealing with any spillages from family tables, as well as serving desert or entrees (where requested), and finally collecting the bill and clearing the table for the next set of diners, isn't the most welcome feature to an otherwise solid arcade experience.

Yet even in this relatively mediocre outing you can see why people like Diner Dash. Within the strictures of its highly sequenced tasks you'll enjoy a certain amount of freedom, and therein lies the ingredients for tasty gameplay.

As you become more ballsy, for instance, you'll decide to leave certain customers waiting for their food or menu collection, so that a bit later you can combo them up with an adjacent table and earn extra cash. Or when the yuppies with their noisy mobile phones arrive, you'll leave them hanging in the queue until there are some joggers (they wear headphones so aren't affected by the noise) to seat them next to.

After all, as every restaurateur knows, success is all about the numbers of covers (tables to you and me) that you can serve in a evening (if any diners become too impatient, they vanish in a puff of smoke reducing your takehome pay), as well as their satisfaction (which changes the size of your tips).

There are a couple of other side-order features you can dial into. At the start of a level, the seats are plain in tone, but as you seat customers (each comes in striking shades of red, green, purple, and such like), the seat will take on that colour. Matching the seat colour with those of future customers provides extra combo scores. You can also overcome the anger of people left in the queue, once seated, by plying them with free drinks, which will top up the heart-shaped satisfaction meters sported by all your customers. The fuller the hearts, the better the tips.

By exploiting such ruses, you must meet the minimum financial limit for each shift in order to unlock new stages within the game; Diner Dash is structured so that your waitressing career takes you through eight eating establishments, each of which consists of ten progressively longer and more complex sessions.

Such progress is not very satisfying, especially as you don't get many rewards for completing levels. As you switch between restaurants, Flo gets a new uniform, while you get the choice of two interior decoration schemes – such as floor, door, or counter decor – between each diner level. Pretty meagre rations.

Sure, there is some pleasure to be had in completing the game to your own rhythm, but overall this is a title that should have been more fully reworked for a full-price DS audience. There's little use of the reservation system for instance, and the graphics are seldom more than workmanlike (the audio is better).

But the main problem is the lack of variation. Whether playing the Career or Endless Shift modes – let alone the head-to-head multiplayer mode – what you end up with is more a relentless pile of cheese and pickle sandwiches than a variety meal bargain bucket combo. You'll have your fill of Diner Dash, but it won't ever really excite your tastebuds.
Diner Dash
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 6 June 2007
A reasonable conversion of the successful casual PC game, Diner Dash isn't sophisticated or filling enough to truly satisfy DS gourmands
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