Score: 6.5 – XBox Live Arcade – 800 Microsoft Points ($10.00)
The name Diner Dash is nothing new to casual game players as this downloadable Flash game has been floating around for some time. Unfortunately this game has been stuck in the purchase to play sector of the casual games market, not letting players try before they buy. But now, coming to XBox Live Arcade, Diner Dash has been given a second chance to capture a new market of players.
The basic premise behind Diner Dash is something any food server must deal with on a regular workday. Keep the customers happy. The longer they wait, the less happy they will be. As Flo, the player must seat customers, take orders, deliver food, bring bills and bus tables as quickly as possible to keep everyone happy.
In the early stages, the game quickly adds new elements such as changing party size so that certain parties can only fit at certain tables (much like real life). By placing customers in special seating arrangements by color, players earn bonuses. They can also earn further bonus points by doing multiple table actions at once, like picking up one tables order while busing another at the same time.
Players are also given the option to bring coffee to tables that have been waiting a long time for food or to be seated for a quick boost in their happiness factor. All of these add extra dimension and actual strategy to what could have been a simple button masher and take it to the next level.
The controls are fairly simple. The left analog stick allows players to move around the screen to the hostess stand, tables, garbage and pickup window. The “A” button is the main action button used for anything the player must pick up, put down or select. There are times though that the game can be played by simply mashing down the “A” button while running through tables and timing of the button taps doesn’t mean anything, just making sure the right path is taken. “X”, “Y” and “B” work as hot keys to quickly move flow to either the hostess stand, pickup window and garbage respectively.
This option becomes increasingly valuable as players must navigate through more and more tables.
Though basic, Diner Dash comes equipped with a story that is actually easily relatable, though slim. Our protagonist (though she has no real antagonist in the game other than her somewhat fickle customers) Flo starts off in the corporate world where she is hounded by reports and other busywork that drives cubicle jockeys insane. Flo runs away and comes across a diner for sale and decides to open her own. From there, the game is entirely action driven without much else of a story to speak of.
Graphics and Sound:
Much like the story, the graphics and sound effects of Diner Dash are fairly simple. The game’s cell-shaded style lends itself to a very cartoony, but appropriate feel for the game. When looking at the comic book style cutscenes, it sometimes resembles a Japanese Manga as well. The animations are quick and fluid and the simple style never has to worry about framerate slowdown or other hassles of higher powered graphics.
That said, as an XBox Live Arcade title, Diner Dash doesn’t do anything to push the envelope either as the sound of the game feels very generic with unobtrusive background music and stock sounding effects.
Diner Dash is a fun game, thought it is best taken in small doses. Like many casual games, it is a quick drop-in, drop-out experience that doesn’t contain an enthralling story that doesn’t let the player leave. Instead, it relies on quick and addictive gameplay that perfectly fills small increments of the player’s life when they have a few minutes to kill.
The simple controls make it easily accessible in early levels with increasing difficulty as it progresses to make sure the game does have a challenge as well. Diner Dash continues to show that a simple and fun formula can still make for a successful release on the XBox Live Arcade.