As hard as it is to believe the original Diner Dash is now a hefty six years old. This casual phenomenon started on the PC and eventually made its way into millions of gamer’s hands over the last half decade. Now the time-management restaurant simulator has arrived on Xbox Live Arcade and some are probably wondering why it took so long. Xbox Live Arcade has become a breeding ground for both established concepts and original ideas to spawn, but with recently released titles the bar has been raised for quality. Diner Dash is an addictive title that will likely intrigue some people, but honestly most of the people interested have likely already played it.
The premise is simple. You have to manage customers coming into the restaurant by seating them, taking their order, delivering the food and cleaning up their table. Sounds simple enough, but once things start heating up the essence of managing them all becomes quite challenging and addictive. Each customer requires certain treatment and if you take too long to deliver they will get frustrated. As you progress you will earn new items that help calm them down such as entertainment and even cups of coffee, but in the end you will have to deal with the overwhelming task of keeping each patron satisfied.
Frustratingly enough these upgrades are entirely out of your control. The idea of adding in perhaps a restaurant customization mode much like the one found in Hysteria Hospital would have gone a long way in increasing the game’s replayability. Still once these things are added it makes handling multiple lines of customers much more manageable.
The career mode from the PC version has survived the translation as well as the Endless Shift mode. These are par for the course for anyone who has played the game. What is new here though is the ability to take the game online in either competitive or cooperative modes with a friend. I actually found the game to be more enjoyable when divvying up tasks between me and my partner. This makes some of the more challenging levels more manageable when you have someone there to back you up. The competitive modes are more chaotic as everyone is trying to manage things at once. It also doesn’t help that there are bouts of lag from time to time and the visuals are so small and detailed that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of everything that is going on.
The visuals have also received a fairly nice upgrade from the traditional 2D palette. The game now moves around in 3D space and the bright colors and soft expression make the game a little easier on the eyes. The problem lies in the fact that some objects are just so small that they become lost on the screen. Even when playing on an HDTV things are not as clear as you might like them to be. This becomes more of an issue when you get into later levels or, as mentioned before in the online realm.
The biggest hit the game takes comes in the form of controls. On PC and even iPhone things were much easier to navigate thanks to the drag-and-drop method. This time around you are controlling everything using the standard game pad. This makes navigating around the environment a challenge, especially when trying to select between different patrons. Thankfully the developers have helped remedy this a little by adding hotkeys on some of the items in each level. Even with this though the game will still find you frustrated at times as your failures result more from aesthetics as opposed to pure skill.
Diner Dash is a solid offering to XBLA if not an expected one. The classic gameplay is entirely new to the service, but fans of PC and iPhone games are likely use to the genre. The price tag is definitely worth it though if you are like me and have not been oversaturated in the genre. While it certainly may not be the most exciting addition to the service it is another solid offering and one that will appeal to more than the shooter crowd. If you enjoy mindlessly addictive management games, there is a reason this one has sold millions and millions of copies since its inception.