CTIA 2005 Diner Dash Hands-On

PlayFirst's killer casual game is dashing over to mobile...and we have the first hands-on from CTIA.

SAN FRANCISCO--Glu Mobile's penchant for seeking out the best casual games on the PC to bring them to mobile has now transcended a mere trend: It's starting to look like a serious strategy. And it's a good strategy at that--especially when the mobile publisher pulls deals like the one it inked with PlayFirst to make a mobile version of its hit game Diner Dash. Frankly, we're a little surprised by how good this frantic restaurant-management sim looks on the LG VX7000.

Flo is a model of efficiency, if you're any good.

The plucky heroine of Diner Dash, an ex-desk-jobber named Flo, has decided to leave the confines of her office to open up her own restaurant. To keep overhead low, she's the only waitress in the place, which means she has to scramble all over to keep customers happy, as well as keep the tips rattling into the jar.

As in the PC version of the game, there's a particular order that Flo must perform her duties in, which manifests itself in a sort of ceremonial dance of hospitality, if you will. First, you have to seat the customers at a table in a timely manner. Then you have to take their collective order and deliver it to the chef. After that you must serve their food. And finally, you give them the bill and bus their table. The process occurs over and over again until closing time with various groups and types of customers. To gain a bonus, seating red-clothed diners in red seats is opportune. And so is chaining together various types of actions.

Obviously, Glu Mobile has taken a few liberties with the game to squeeze it onto phones--primarily with the graphics and the controls--but it's remarkable how well the gameplay translates overall. In lieu of a mouse, this game uses the phone's number pad to maneuver Flo to various locations. The most common locations, like the order drop-off, the food counter, and the dirty dish bin, have been assigned to the top row of keys, while the other keys handle the various tables. After a few levels, Diner Dash starts to feel almost like a rhythm game, albeit one you need to pay very close attention to. The game helpfully highlights whatever you need to do next to keep yourself moving. The graphics aren't as detailed as they are in the PC game, but they do the job just fine, and Flo looks about the same as she always has. A lot of the sound effects are in there, too.

We had a blast during our brief time with Diner Dash, and we're looking forward to getting our hands on the full version soon. According to Glu Mobile, Diner Dash has a target date of January 15, 2006, so we'll have to wait a while. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for new previews.

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