Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
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Almost a decade after its launch, the classic time management franchise Diner Dash has returned once again to cause stress headaches in a whole new generation of mobile gamers. It’s been about four years since the last entry in the series - Diner Dash 5: BOOM! - and PlayFirst has revamped the venerable workhorse into a mash-up of classic and all-new styles. And, for the first time ever, the series has embraced the free-to-play model. How well do Flo and the crew make the transition to freemium? Well, let’s take a look, shall we?
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone these days who isn’t at least passingly familiar with the basic concept of Diner Dash. Players are in charge of Flo, a good-natured (but doubtlessly exhausted) waitress whose job is to seat, serve, and generally keep happy all of the customers of her restaurant - many of whom have specific quirks and needs. Unfortunately, as Flo is only one person with two hands, she can only do so much at a time. This leaves her sprinting about madly to take orders, make coffee, clean up dirty tables, and more, all before customers lose their patience and leave. You really have to wonder why this place doesn’t hire at least a busboy, right?
Well, as Diner Dash expands into the free-to-play realm, the restaurant staff sort-of bring in some new people. Or rather, new gadgets in the form of a Roomba-esque robot who can take over for Flo when it comes to mopping up spills. Or how about a vacuuming attachment to the bus tub that sucks the dirty dishes out of her hands from across the room? Or what about a coffee maker that lets you dispense multiple cups without downtime in-between? Did you guess yet that all of these are available using premium currency?
It’s not as if the levels are unbeatable without investing those precious limited dollars in these enhancements, but some of them may take multiple tries to do so. Unfortunately, you can only store three attempts at a time and there’s a half-hour refresh timer on them. What this does is shift Diner Dash from being a “can’t-put-it-down-just-one-more-try” addiction to a more measured, “play-it-a-bit-every-day” sort of relationship. Doubtless there will be some who just can’t wait and who will pony up cash for more attempts (a fact I’m sure PlayFirst is banking on) but for those who can be patient, it doesn’t feel like the sort of abusive player/publisher relationship that some freemium games engender.
The visuals are crisp and clean and look better than any previous entry in the series (which to be fair, still looked kind of rough and janky even in 2010). Everything is stylish, smooth, and all of the different customer types have abundant personality that you’ll quickly learn to anticipate (and loathe) in no time. The only big issue I had is that, as the levels progress, sometimes it became a traffic jam on my first pass through a level. It was only after failing spectacularly that things seemed to level out and become more manageable, but by that time I was two tries (and and hour of refresh) down. Also, the temptation to squirrel away the small bit of premium currency they give you may be strong, but do yourself a favor and at least invest in the lower tiers of upgraded equipment. Your blood pressure will thank you.