Pros: Easy to learn, simple and fun gameplay, challenging levels, highly addictive...
Cons: ...some levels are difficult, but hard work and practice will get you to the end.
The Bottom Line: Diner Dash is a great game. Try the demo first, and I'm sure you'll want to buy the full version before your free hour is up!
Yahoo has plenty of fun games to keep me occupied when I'm not busy doing homework or writing reviews here on Epinions. One of the games I originally loved was Diner Dash. After having the demo on my desktop for quite some time, I eventually gave in and purchased the full game.
Diner Dash happens to be such a fun and addicting game, that I've been playing it (and the sequel, Diner Dash 2) non-stop since I bought it.
Plot/Story Flo, a former lawyer, decides to give up the office life in favor of her dream- to build an empire of high-class five star restaurants. She starts off at a dumpy diner with just two tables, and with your help builds her way to a restaurant chain of Flo's Diners.
Gameplay Diner Dash is a relatively easy game- and that's part of the fun. You play as Flo, and you use your mouse to direct her throughout the game. The Career Game begins with a simple tutorial; it's the beginning of Flo's shift, and she has two customers. There are also two tables, and you must click on the customers and drag them to the appropriate tables to "seat" them. Once the customers are seated, you must hand them menus and wait for them to order. Once the customers have ordered, you collect their meal tickets and hand them to the chef, who cooks the orders. Once the orders are done, you bring the meals over to the tables, wait for the customers to finish eating, leave their checks, pick up their plates and the bill and (if you've done a good job) the tip.
The game continues on in this fashion, and after the tutorial, things get a bit harder. The second level of the game adds more tables, and you and Flo will quickly learn how to multi-task. The next levels add more tables and more customers, and sometimes you'll have more guests than tables to seat them at. You'll have to be careful with wait times- each pair of customers (you'll start off with two customers, but customers later come in groups of four or even six) have a set of heart icons above their heads. The hearts indicate how happy they are with the service, and the longer they have to wait to be seated or for their food to arrive, a heart empties. If all of a customer's hearts are empty, they'll storm off from the restaurant without paying for their bill, and you'll be docked a certain amount of points.
The success of each level depends on how many customers you seated and how much money you've made. Losing a table is never a good thing, but if you keep enough customers happy to receive enough tips, you'll make your money goal for the night and go on to the next level. As each level goes along, you'll have options to upgrade the diner- you can add a coffee pot (which you can use to keep seated customers happy while waiting), hire a faster cook (which obviously makes business easier), decorate the diner (which adds to the ambiance, and also increases the popularity of the diner), or add desserts and other appetizers to keep customers happy.
If this sounds easy, no fear- gameplay becomes more advanced. At the beginning of the game, your only customers are young teenage girls, who are moderately patient and tip well. By the sixth level, senior citizens start dining at the restaurant, and they happen to be slow eaters who don't tip at all. There are a total of five different customers throughout the game; each with their unique behaviors and expectation of service, and you must keep them all happy in order to succeed. Customers also come in colors. As you seat them, the chairs turn the same color. If you continuously seat customers in the appropriately colored chair (i.e. an elderly man dressed in yellow should be placed in a yellow seat), you'll get bonus points that will add to your score for the level.
As the game goes on, levels get progressively harder and harder. Customers will pile into the diner and you'll have to move quickly in order to keep up with seating them, handing out menus, taking tickets to the chef, delivering meals, refilling drinks and passing out snacks, bringing bills, cleaning up tables and taking checks. Some of these levels are hard, and I struggled to get through them, but as you play the game, you'll learn the tricks of the trade and find ways to keep customers happy and earn bonus points and bigger tips.
After completing the first ten levels, you'll move on to a new restaurant, and a total of four restaurants will be opened throughout the game (including a fun tiki-themed diner). There are over 50 levels in the game, which amounts to loads of game time, and even once you've beat the game, you'll want to go back and play again for higher scores (and if you complete each level with an expert score you'll unlock a secret fifth restaurant).
Besides the Career mode, there's also the Endless Shift, which is exactly the same, except that Flo's shift never ends. The game plays as one long night of continuously taking care of customers, and the game ends if your restaurant losses all four stars that it starts off with (if a customer leaves unhappy, you'll lose a star).
Graphics Basic cartoon-style animation is used in the game, but the graphics are still cute. Flo and the customer's faces are nicely drawn, and you'll be able to tell how happy or angry the customers are by looking at their expressions. Most of the diner is animated- you can see a silhouette of the chef cooking in the back of the restaurant, and if you watch the customers as they eat, you'll be able to see their food slowly disappear from their plates. While the graphics aren't anything too note-worthy, theyre still nice enough to make the game even more enjoyable.
Sound Effects Each level has accompanying background music that goes along with the restaurants theme. The music is pretty catchy and not overpowering during gameplay- usually you'll forget it's there. Besides the game's soundtrack, a few other sounds are heard throughout the game. When a meal is ready to be delivered to the table, you'll hear a bell ring. As customers wait in line, you can hear the shuffle of feet and their "conversations". Youll also hear an occasional fork scraping across a plate, and as you dump all the dirty plates into the dishwashing bin, you can hear them clang against each other. Like the graphics, nothing too special appears in the sound effect apartment, but since the game only takes up 14 MB of space, I really can't complain.
Overall Diner Dash is a fun and thoroughly addicting game. Children will have fun pretending to be Flo, and working in her busy restaurant, and adults will love to escape into Flo's world and climb up the restaurant chain. Though the game is slightly challenging, you'll find yourself working hard to pass levels and eventually see Flo's joy in having her own set of diners. Diner Dash is a great game, and at only $19.99 (you can buy it in some retail locations, like Office Max or Wal-Mart, but it's easier to buy the game from online sites such as Yahoo!Games or MSN Games) it's a steal.
System Requirements Windows XP, Mac OS X 600MHz processor 128 MB RAM Free hard drive space: 14 MB Sound Card SVGA Graphics Card