Game Reviews

Diner Dash

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Diner Dash

Diner Dash seems to be making the rounds in almost exactly the same way Flo does at her café.

Beginning on the PC then working its way onto the DS and mobile, this highly accessible little puzzle game has now been served up on the iPhone. But does this latest incarnation have any unique flavours to differentiate it from – in the case of the DS – the enjoyable, but slightly bland version that came before it?

Well, not wanting to spoil this review's climax, it's pretty clear even from the screenshots that we're being given a faithful conversion, rather than any kind of dynamic update to the culinary format. The iPhone offers some inherent updates purely on account of the hardware differences – coming as close to the PC version as we've seen so far – but it's not easy to recapture the game's original vitality now the novelty has worn off.

But that's not to say Diner Dash has nothing to offer an iPhone gamer who also happens to own a DS. One of this version's most prominent features is the price – weighing it at around a quarter of what you'd pay for the same game on Nintendo's handheld, and that adds significant value points to a game that struggles in terms of variety.

Cast in the role of eager, yet beleaguered waitress Flo, it's up to you to turn her struggling greasy spoon into a thriving bistro. As customers enter the café, you must first seat them, then wait until they've read through the menu, return to the table and take their order.

During these inactive moments, other customers arrive, so you can take the time to seat them and, as the game progresses, set them up with drinks while they decide what to have. The order must be taken to the chef, then the prepared meal delivered to the table as quickly as possible.

After their meal, some customers (assuming they're enjoying their dining experience) might order a desert, before paying up and leaving you to clear the table for the next punters.

This is a round of events that's rotating continuously at each table, and keeping on top of your duties without neglecting any of the diners for too long quickly becomes a frantic task, and it's this swiftness and observational capacity that provides the challenge in Diner Dash.

As the 50 available levels progress, further considerations are thrown into the frenzied mix. Old people are slow to place an order, while glamorous girls on a night out don't like being sat next to a family of screaming kids.

An ignored food critic can cost you some serious star ratings, while unsupervised children will knock drinks all over the floor for you to clean up. The pace can become ruthlessly fraught, but the non-stop action ensures you remain addictively active.

Visually the iPhone version offers a larger screen (and therefore scope for more tables) than the DS or mobile were able to reasonably handle, though it also seems to have been given a coat of rather drab paint during the conversion. But this isn't really a game that hinges on flashy visuals, so it's definitely not a deal breaker knowing the walls and floor are a bit washy to look at.

The hidden ingenuity of Diner Dash is the superbly camouflaged puzzle mechanics. At first glance it's hard to place this game in a genre, but strip away the restaurant veneer and you're left with a superbly simple yet beautifully executed set of dexterity and momentum based puzzle mechanics.

That they've been skinned with a waitressing visage serves to give those mechanics an understandable and accessible purpose, and although the game suffers from a little too much repetition, it's impressively difficult to put down.

Diner Dash on the iPhone also offers up a more standard pre-game presentation, which is something too many App Store games are neglecting – and not because of technical restraints, but simply because designing menus and implementing 'save slots' are a programming pain.

It's quite a small matter, perhaps, but Diner Dash provides the kind of menu system and option to save different games for different players under their own names that most consoles provide as standard – belying Apple's apparent concept that everyone owns their own iPhone and don't pass it around for other people to have a game.

A small issue, sure, but seeing it here on Diner Dash iPhone makes it apparent how many other games neglect it.

Although this version doesn't really add to the established canon of Diner Dash conversions, the reduced cost and more suitable platform make it a simple joy that's very easy to recommend. A must for anyone who's never played it (at least on a pocket platform), and a blessing for anyone who's found themselves unable to put Flo away on either the DS or mobile, Diner Dash on the iPhone is the equal of any other popular puzzler currently heating up the App Store.

Diner Dash

A little heavy on repetition, but Diner Dash fits the iPhone beautifully and provides a lot more entertainment than the concept would suggest
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