Dead Hungry Diner
If the smash hit – nay, phenomenon – that is Rovio’s Angry Birds has taught us anything it is that presentation can be every bit as important as originality. Though ‘borrowing’ a core concept laid down by Crush The Castle (released a full eight months earlier), it jettisoned that game’s medieval setting and replaced it with the now omnipresent scathing-eyes of the titular avians and…well…the rest is history. Though it’s easy to be a bit cynical about Rovio’s success, one has to pay kudos to how the developer keenly spotted a strong set of mechanics and repackaged them in such a way that enabled them to break out of niche status. This isn’t the whole story of course, as Rovio did more than just cut and paste; it also added elements to make Crush The Castle’s concepts its own, mainly through a variety a bird-types with their own unique set of abilities and a simplification of the catapult physics.
You might be wondering at this point why we’re presenting a history of Angry Birds when the title at the top of the page clearly says ‘Dead Hungry Diner Review’; the simple answer is that Black Market Games’ Dead Hungry Diner existence is analogous of the story behind Rovio’s me-too-catapult-em up. Dead Hungry Diner, you see, would never had existed were it not for a title called Diner Dash (from Gamelab). In fact, should you merely sample Black Market Games’ title, you would be forgiven for calling it a cynical clone were it not for the gradual realisation that, just like Angry Birds, Dead Hungry Diner finds its own voice through strong, characterful presentation and the introduction of fresh elements that build upon and develop those laid down by Diner Dash. In short, it strives for evolution over revolution, and there is no shame in that.
Just like Diner Dash, Dead Hungry Diner is a time-management game, a genre-definition that can’t help but turn off all but the most administrative-hungry of gamers. Life is full of enough clock-watching as it is; why would anyone choose to spend time doing so for pleasure? The answer is that Dead Hungry Diner is not about careful, meticulous planning, but fast paced, twitchy mouse-clicking, frantic observation and quick reactions.
Just as with Diner Dash, Dead Hungry Diner sees you placed in the shoes of an overworked waitress (or, in this case, waiter should you choose) tasked with serving a restaurant full of hungry customers. This duty is played out through a cyclical chain of events that must be carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible, commencing with assigning a table to your customers who wait impatiently to be seated. After this has been completed, you must wait for them to select their dish, at which point you must dash to their table, take their order and rush across to the restaurant to commence the preparation of their food. Once the meal is ready, it must then be served up before you take your payment, clean the table and usher the next customer into position. Rinse. Repeat. Click. Click. Click.
So far, so Diner Dash. Where Dead Hungry Diner differentiates itself is in its setting and through a layering of fresh ideas. It is the former that is most obvious; gone is the clean cut, saccharine aesthetics of Gamelab’s game, with Dead Hungry Diner sporting a rather striking cartoon-horror theme that both owes a debt to and get’s close to matching the degree of character achieved in PopCap’s wonderful Plants Vs Zombies. There is also a rather lovely narrative, which opens with our gothic-heroes – Gabe and Gabriel – realising that the best way to fend off a horde of zombies is to feed them Brain Berries; an exotic fruit that look and taste like the contents of a cranium. It’s a nice little spin on the concept of zombie-as-consumer as laid down by George A. Romero, and Dead Hungry Diner is full of such knowing winks to the horror genre.
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