The original Diner Dash series taught me to persevere, despite what life throws in your way. The mobile version, on the other hand, insists that you give into the corporate overlord.
I played a lot of Diner Dash when I was younger. Originally released in 2004 on PC, Diner Dash is a time-management strategy game in which you help the main character Flo run a restaurant. Working against the clock, you help Flo seat customers at tables, collect their orders, deliver their meals and clean the tables to make room for more customers. Diner Dash has a color-matching mechanic, in which you match customers to seats with the same colors in order to get bonuses, as well as a comboing mechanic, in which you’re rewarded for doing the same task many times in a row, such as taking orders. These mechanics added a layer of complexity, making the game far more fast-paced and stressful than it initially appeared. As you got farther into the game, new characters were introduced, new upgrades were made available, and new restaurants were unlocked, with each level becoming progressively more difficult.
Kotaku Game Diary
Daily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
2014’s Diner Dash is a free-to-play version of the game available on iOS. It looks and acts like the original Diner Dash game. The story is still the same. Flo, the main character, is a former office worker who walks away from her job in order to pursue owning and managing her own restaurant. As she becomes more successful, corporate overlords swoop in to thwart her success and happiness by threatening her and providing obstacles, such as challenging customers, which she overcomes with grace.
While the game may look and seem the same, don’t be fooled. Despite having the story, color-matching and comboing mechanics that made the original so great, it is nowhere near as close to being as entertaining as the original games were.
In the original Diner Dash, in order to complete a level, you needed to earn a certain amount of points from serving happy customers and taking advantage of the color-matching and comboing. While you can still earn points from pleasing customers and using the mechanics in the mobile game, you only need to be concerned with the level’s objective and losing less than a certain number of customers. These objectives can range from serving a particular type of customer a drink for whatever amount of times the game assigns to cleaning up a certain amount of puddles before the end of the level. By valuing objectives more than customer happiness, Diner Dash’s game mechanics find themselves in conflict with the original message of Flo’s journey.
Diner Dash on mobile also introduces numerous obstacles that make the game challenging in the worst way possible. Puddles of water will randomly appear on the ground throughout the level that Flo will clean up automatically, causing her to respond to customers later than planned. A delivery man will randomly come by to drop off packages that scatter across the level, blocking Flo’s path to customers. She has to take the time to pick up these boxes and carry them to the other side of the map, hindering her speed. When V.I.Ps visit the restaurant, they can send bad vibes to other customers, making them lose their patience and potentially causing them to leave. To get rid of the bad vibes you need to click on the black hearts; however, this can cause you to accidentally change Flo’s path, potentially causing you to lose your chain and waste time.
Players can make the levels easier by investing real dough to buy in-game currency which will give them upgrades and power ups. My mom didn’t raise a quitter, so despite the frustration that I often found myself feeling after failing over and over again, I never gave into the temptation of purchasing upgrades or walking away from the game. However, I think that’s because I’m still so attached to the series that I remember, which instilled a love for time-management and strategy games.
Diner Dash on mobile is a disappointing shell of what the original Diner Dash meant to me. Rather than feeling like I’m rising up against The Man, I feel like I’m succumbing to the power of the corporate overlords seek to profit on the unhappiness of others.