Currently scheduled for release in May, Diner Dash is a puzzle game in which you'll assume the role of a restaurant entrepreneur named Flo. You'll start out in a small diner that you have to run almost single-handedly. If you're successful, you'll end up managing a high-class restaurant and employing staff to do some of the work for you. Finances aside, the measure of your success in Diner Dash is customer satisfaction, which, as we discovered during our time with the game at a recent meeting with Eidos, can only be earned with hard work and, in some cases, lots and lots of coffee.
The first eating establishment that you'll take charge of is a burger joint, which has only four tables and attracts a relatively undemanding clientele. Your multitasking responsibilities here will include seating customers when they arrive, taking their order when they put their menus down on the table, delivering those orders to the kitchen, delivering the food to the table, and then clearing dirty plates and taking payment when they're done eating. That sounds pretty straightforward, and it is, until you have multiple groups of people arriving at different times and all expecting to be served in a timely fashion. Furthermore, there are significant bonuses up for grabs if you can perform additional tasks and combos while keeping everyone smiling. Seating customers in chairs that are the same color as them, for example, is an easy way to earn bonus points early on, although it gets more challenging as the red and green crowd starts to become more diverse.
Other challenges waiting for you as you progress through the game include additional and larger tables, families with babies who need high chairs at their tables, customers with reservations who must be seated at a certain time, appetizers and desserts, and food critics who review your restaurant based on the service that they get. Getting a coffee machine and plying all of your customers with caffeine is an easy way to keep them happy for a short time, but the machine can only be used at certain intervals, and the coffee doesn't help you get the customers fed and out of the door any faster. Any customers who wait in line for too long will leave, making it difficult for you to earn enough money to complete the career mode level that you're playing successfully. If you make it through all of the burger joint/diner levels successfully, you'll start to expand your empire with other themed restaurants, including Mexican, sushi, and retro.
In addition to the career mode, Diner Dash will feature a painful-sounding "endless shift" mode and three different multiplayer modes: highest score, first to serve, and survival. The only differences between the PSP and Nintendo DS versions as far as we can tell are that the latter is played using the stylus and, because it still uses a widescreen playing area, requires you to scroll the screen left and right occasionally. We'll bring you more information on Diner Dash as soon as it becomes available.