To quote a very good movie about a group of very bad men named after colors, waitressing "is the number one occupation for female non-college graduates in this country." So, back in 2004, a casual games developer created a clicky, dot-to-dot waitressing game called Diner Dash. Finally, an entire legion of double-X-chromosomed potential customers could feel like they were slogging though a double shift at work even when they were actually at home “relaxing” at their computer.
Diner Dash: Sizzle & Serve brings the long hours and greasy aprons to PSP and DS. You’re Flo, a burned out white-collar business woman who clearly has no idea how hard waitresses actually work. So she chucks her cushy office job, buys a run-down, fixer-upper restaurant and embarks upon a career as a food server.
Gameplay itself sees you mostly scurrying around like a chicken with its head cut off. You seat customers (bonus points if the chair matches their outfit), take their order, drop it off at the cook’s counter, bring the food when it’s done – maybe tossing in snacks, coffee or dessert, if you've unlocked the proper equipment – and when they’re done grubbing, bring the check and bus the table. It’s a simple process to grasp; the challenge comes from doing it for six tables of patrons at once, quickly enough to get decent tips.
Over time, you’ll remodel, buy more restaurants and outfits, and get new gear like a bench or jukebox to make patrons more patient and dessert stations to get them to tip more. You’ll start seeing different customer types (there are eight in all), each with different levels of patience for waiting, tolerance of noise, and tipping tendency. You can also hire help, like pianists or dancers, bus boy, waiter, and so on.
Both versions feature 70 levels and 3 multiplayer modes (survival, high score, and the race-like First to Serve), but the DS version leaves the PSP version in the dust thanks to vastly superior controls. The DS uses the touch screen, so Flo can go from the counter to table three to the dessert station to table four to the bus station in five quick stylus taps (though dragging and dropping customers to their seats takes extra care). On the PSP, cycling through those same attractions would take around eleven presses of the d-pad and five button taps. It makes a big difference, and as a result, the PSP version gets abnormally hard awfully early on. Many gamers, especially the casual players Diner Dash is targeted to, will have trouble getting past just the first restaurant.
Most levels in Diner Dash: Sizzle and Serve last five minutes tops, which makes it a flexible on-the-go offering. We’re increasingly annoyed by publishers’ tendencies to toss a casual PC game onto portable consoles for a notably higher price than its PC version, but on the bright side, you can try out a less-polished flash version for free here to decide if today’s special sounds right for you.