Diner Dash (XBLA) Review
Title: Diner Dash
Publisher: Hudson Entertainment, Inc
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Players: 1-2 (local), 1-8 (online)
In late 2003, Diner Dash was unleashed upon the world. Through a simple shockwave game, the original spawned mobile released and multiple versions being released. In fact, there have been over twenty-four games in the Dash series, which is pretty impressive for a casual game. But does the casual series translate well on a console, especially something as powerful as the Xbox 360? In short – yes and no.
After recently leaving her terrible corporate job, Flo (the game’s main character) has decided to go into the wonderful world of…restaurant management. Ok, so she doesn’t have the highest inspirations in the world, but it works. You’re placed in control at the beginning of her career, which consists of a small restaurant with a table or two. The goal of the game is pretty much the goal of any server – get your customers in seats, give them food, and get them out of there to refill the seat. As you advance through the levels you will receive upgrades to the restaurant that make the experience a bit easier. Giving your customers a cup of coffee while they wait will make them more patient, while standing at the podium will increase the happiness of those waiting in line. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to decide what upgrades you want – they’re given to you when you get to a certain level.
As mentioned earlier, the game flow is pretty simple. You seat the customers, take their order, then to the chef for him to prepare the food. Once he’s done, you serve it to the customers, then give them their bill before cleaning up and grabbing your tip. Of course, it gets a bit difficult when you have a restaurant filled with guests, but what can you do? Oh yeah, and these are some of the least patient people in the history of the restaurant business. You’ll encounter a variety of guests, including senior citizens, business people, the proverbial hot shot, and of course the food critic. They all tip differently and also have different expectations. One last thing you have to worry about – color is very important in this game. You want to seat blue people in the blue seats, red people in the red seats, etc etc. Doing all of these events in a row will net you a chain bonus, which is sometimes the only way you’ll complete a level’s monetary goal.
One of the biggest improvements offered in the console version of the game is the graphical update offered. While some people may be pleased with the switch, I find that it actually makes the game look a bit worse. The colors aren’t as crisp as they should be and some of the charm of the original PC version is lost in these creepy-looking 3D models. And there’s also still the problem of being one of every customer, chef and Flo. Even in multiplayer, her twin comes in and helps Flo. Considering the power of the current gen systems, you would have to think that putting in at least a couple different models would have been easy, but apparently not.
The controls are another issue that will vary from person to person. The 360 version offers two different control schemes and you’ll probably need to use both. As with most computer-based video games, the point and click method doesn’t work out quite as well on home consoles. You can try to use the controller and walk Flo around to each station, but on the later levels this can get quite difficult. Thankfully, they have set a bunch of hotkeys up for each station, making things a bit easier. Regardless of which control scheme you use, it’s still just not as fluid as it was on the computer.
The multiplayer aspects work pretty well and make things a lot more fun and manageable. Being able to work as a group and decide how to divide the customers reminds me of my serving days…except it’s not nearly as terrible. Overall, Diner Dash is simply a victim of being a casual game on a non-casual console. While these are fun time wasters on the computer, it doesn’t translate as well as it should and it’s simply not as fun. The graphics are bland, the controls are flakey, and most people probably played it on the computer (or any of the other twenty-some versions). The multiplayer features are the game’s strong points, but it’s not enough to warrant a purchase.