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Diner Dash
Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 1 - 2 (Local/Online)
Genre: Action/ Puzzle/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:
I've been a fan of Diner Dash since it first came out and when I got the opportunity to check it out on the PlayStation Network, I was excited. After all, I had played it on the PSP and it really translated well, so what could go wrong? Read on and see.

First off, Flo's gone all 3D on us. Instead of simply porting Diner Dash to the PS3, the developers decided to revamp it for the console. Now, that's all well and good, but the final product doesn't shake out too well. For starters, Flo's look is really offputting. She just looks wrong in 3D. She looks stoned out of her mind most of the time and just plain creepy the rest of the time.

The other characters don't look nearly as disturbing as Flo and that's a good thing. Flo's surroundings, however, could really benefit from a pick-me-up. Her diner and the subsequent locations of her new restaurants sport only a few charming details and most simply fade into the background. The Indian-inspired cafe is really weird with its faces staring up at you from the tables. ((shudder))

While the background music sounds nice and uses iterations of Diner Dash tunes, the sound effects leave a bit to be desired. More often than not, you'll be hearing the sounds of disgruntled patrons which, while I enjoyed them on the PC, just sound annoying here.

Well, Diner Dash on the PS3/PlayStation Network is 3D, as I mentioned earlier, so it plays slightly differently than standard Diner Dash. Since its a download game, you don't have a handy manual to read and your controls are left to be discovered either via a competent and helpful tutorial or by pausing the game and checking them out in the Options Menu. Sadly, the tutorial area is severely lacking and while it runs you through the barest of basics, it doesn't tell you about any of the shortcuts the game offers, which I will discuss in greater detail in the Game Mechanics section. The reason this becomes a problem is that without knowing these hotkeys exist, you will progress through the game, learning to play it a certain way. At some point, you will find that you are unable to progress and you'll start rooting around in the Options Menu, discover all of these tricks and find it difficult to completely rethink the way you have been playing all through the game. Are you going to start from the beginning and relearn? I think not.

But, for you, I will start from the beginning, explaining the game anyway. You are Flo and your goal is to serve your customers, make some cash and expand and improve your restaurant, moving on to bigger and better locations. In past iterations of Diner Dash, you earned money to purchase upgrades like additional tables, speed upgrades and decor changes, but here you are relegated to what the game bestows on you. Poor form! Now, late in the game (when I went rooting around in the Options Menu), I did discover an Upgrades button, but that only works in the Endless Shift Mode and Multiplayer (Local) Mode. I was never able to test out the Online Mode because I could never find anyone to play with.

When playing the single player Career Mode, customers will enter the restaurant and you must seat them, take their orders, bus their tables and keep them happy all the while. If you take too long in any of these tasks, they will lose patience in the form of hearts which will lower the amount they tip you. Your monetary Goal is listed at the outset and you will be "open" for a set period of time. If you don't meet your Goal, then you must redo the level. Since your ultimate goal is to make money, you want to keep from losing hearts and lowering your bottom line. As people have to wait in line for a table, they will lose patience. Eventually, you will get a podium that Flo can stand next to and doing so for a set amount of time will increase the hearts/patience of everyone in line. However, doing so shoots you in the foot because while you are standing there, all of your seated guests are requiring things and getting angrier all the time. So it really doesn't help you at all.

You'll also get a drink station (and other upgrades that will make themselves available to you) which you can use to give drinks to your guests and help fill their waning hearts. Again, just keeping up the few tables of impatient patrons is hard enough and I barely had time to snag drinks for people. Since there are no upgrades that you can select and acquire, you'll be given new tables when the game deems it necessary, but it's never enough to be very helpful.

There is also the Endless Shift Mode where you simply serve as many people as you can and last as long as you can, but I didn't find this mode nearly as much fun on the PS3 as I do on the PC. It seemed over all too quickly and I just think a big part of that is the translation to 3D. Further, you can only play in the locations you have already unlocked, so if you are looking for a glimpse at the future, forget it.

Finally, there is a Multiplayer Mode where you can play against a friend on the same PS3 or you can try matches online. However, no one was ever playing the times I tried to get a match going, so I could not test how the online aspect works. Playing locally is an okay experience and you get to choose where you want to play from the five locations available in the game. You can choose to play as co-op or against your local player. While it was a little more fun to play with someone else, it still did little to add to my good impression of the game.

Making the jump to 3D when I have played Diner Dash in 2D for so many years was really difficult. I had to wrap my brain around a new way of playing and once again, had I realized that there were hotkeys for several of the main actions, that would have made things easier. As it was, I learned to play the game incorrectly and once I realized my mistake, no matter how many times I tried, I just couldn't remember to use the hotkeys every time I needed to and ended up getting stuck on a level and unable to progress.

I must say that this has never happened to me before - being stuck and completely unable to progress in one of the Dash games. It's really disappointing and while people unfamiliar with the typical Diner Dash style may have no problem, as a veteran, I certainly did. Controlling Flo in 3D is more difficult because she seems to get hung up on tables and things a lot more often than she did while in 2D. When this happens, it slows you down and throws you off your game. More than anything, the new control system was the primary stumbling block of difficulty in Diner Dash.

That being said, you can choose between Easy, Medium and Hard when playing in the Multiplayer Modes.

Game Mechanics:
The tutorial in Diner Dash is pretty pathetic. You will almost immediately figure out that you have to use your Left Analog Stick to move Flo, but as you start playing (and if, like me, before you discover the hotkeys in the Options Menu), you'll have to physically run her to the folks in line, get in exactly the right spot to highlight them, select them using the (X) button and then place them in their seats. You can change where they are sitting at a table to attempt to color match for an additional score bonus (which I never had time to fool with because the guests were always coming/demanding at a constant rate) by using the Right Analog Stick or (L1/R1). If you use the hotkeys, you can jump to the first person in line by holding down (L2) and then hit (X) to seat them. If a table isn't available for that number of people in the party, you can jump to the folks behind them to seat people in optimal table sizes. Tapping (Square) will take Flo immediately to the Ticket Station, but you'll then have to press (X) to have her drop off the tickets; however when I played in Multiplayer Local, she dropped them off automatically. Hitting (Triangle) takes Flo to the counter for food pickup, but again, you must press (X) for her to actually grab up the orders. When the patrons have departed, Flo must go to their tables and hit (X) twice, once to pick up their money and once to bus the table. Then tapping (Circle) will take her directly to the Bus Station and she will automatically drop off the dirty plates. Of course, you can also accomplish each of these tasks by physically moving Flo there with the Left Analog Stick.

Maneuvering Flo around in 3D doesn't seem like it would be a huge change and the developers have tried to overcome any obstacles by putting hotkeys into the mix, but to me, they really didn't help, especially since I discovered them late in the game. While I blame myself for not fully exploring the Options Menu until I got frustrated, I also blame the developers for not creating a fully fleshed-out tutorial. It's a download game with no manual, so build it into the game!

If you think you might like Diner Dash, feel free to download the demo and give it a whirl. It definitely wasn't for me - I'll stick to the PC and DS versions myself.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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