Conceptually why would a game about being a waitress at a sit down restaurant be appealing to anyone interested in games? Most of us had to work these terrible jobs just to support the hobby of playing video games, there’s no reason to make a game about it. Most job or career simulation games have you taking on control over massive endeavors like controlling a train station or building up an airport, not a position that anyone who walks through a door with a help wanted sign can get. Now you’re probably arguing with these statements saying Diner Dash isn’t about simulating a job, but about mixing puzzle genre elements with everyday activities. You might be right, but my job as a reviewer has never felt more like a chore than the time I had to spend beating this pocket of horror. By the end of the experience I felt like I just quit the worst job in the world and now I can go back to playing games that actually contain more fun.
Flow has lost her luggage and will need to take jobs as manager to earn enough money to replace them. Each set of levels or restaurants have a set number of goals to achieve to advance onto the next. You achieve these goals by seating the customers at their table; each one is either blue or red, allowing you to activate multipliers by seating people of the correct color in the seat that matches. After seating you can bring them drinks, take their order, deliver their order and clean their tables when they leave. Sometimes events will occur that require you to revisit the table a couple more times, these are normally to give the little children high seats, mop up their droll or clean the decks when water splashes up. All these actions can only be done after the characters indicate with poorly drawn symbols above their head that they are ready.
Each time you neglect to perform the action they are demanding, their heart meters will slowly drain. The less hearts you have after they finish their meals, the less likely they are to pay which will make you fall short of achieving the harsh goals set by the game. A couple unhappy customers will spell doom for you right away so the idea is to keep people moving. This is a major problem due to 2 flaws with the design. First, if your restaurant is full the people waiting in line will start to lose hearts almost immediately. Second, Flo can only hold 2 items at once so performing actions like moping, waiting, and table clearing will take twice as long if you can’t find enough places that need to be cleared of water. Drink stations will only allow you to get one table worth of drinks at a time early on, making multiple trips to tables necessary but causes penalties to the customer’s heart meter if you mistake what they are asking for. The grand scheme is to keep customers happy, hit multipliers to increase your general score and hit the goal to unlock the next challenge. This might be fun to younger kids but experience players can see flaws with the gameplay.
The game only gets worse the more you have to look at it. Each character is represented by a sprite that has less than half a dozen animations. Customers are reused quite frequently and it makes moving around the screen a hard thing to accomplish. All of this would be understandable if the game could even keep a stable frame rate. Once the game gets into full swing with every table full and customers making demands the game will chug to unplayable levels. This is even more frustrating when the taps you make to send Flo to a table are lost or interrupted while the game tries to decide if the baby wants to wet himself again or customers want to leave. I understand that the major draw of the Nintendo DS is the touch screen, but that doesn’t mean I should have to accept subpar touch screen controls when using the d-pad would be quicker. Playing Diner Dash on Xbox Live Arcade is perfect when you have direct control, making trips to the tables and quickly getting people seated is a whole lot easier. If you want the real Diner Dash experience it on XBLA or on PC.
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