Hands-on with handhelds - Touch the Dead, Diner Dash, Zendoku

Diner Dash (DS, PSP)
Release Date: May 22, 2007

From flesh eaters to burrito, sushi and burger eaters. As a harried waitress tasked with single-handedly running a restaurant and satisfying every last customer, you'll deal with them all. Um, except the flesh eaters, of course.

Diner Dash is another DS game that has you tapping and clicking all over your screen in an unending frenzy. Instead of shooting decayed body parts, however, you're using the stylus to direct food, dishes, patrons and bills across the restaurant's floor like a culinary traffic cop. As people enter, you must drag them to an open table. Then point to take their orders, point to give their orders to the kitchen, point to pick up their plates, point to serve their food, point to receive their checks, point to grab their plates and point to deposit the dishes with the washer. Lots and lots of pointing.

Luckily, it's not all mindless, as the game tosses quite a few strategic curves. Some make sense, like offering coffee to disgruntled patrons to keep their spirits high. If anyone leaves, you'll lose major points... and you need points to pass the level. Others are silly, like matching people's outfit color to their chair color to improve your score. The later stages in Diner Dash should really test your multi-tasking skills as you must also deal with mopping up children's messes, seating businesswomen away from families for higher tips and keeping tables open for reservations. Whew!

We also tested the PSP edition of Diner Dash and found it a little tougher to manage. The controls just don't have the speed and simplicity of the DS stylus. Here, you must scroll all over the restaurant, sometimes using the left and right shoulder buttons in addition to the d-pad. When things get crazy, it can be frustrating.

Diner Dash has been available on PC as a downloadable Shockwave game for a while now, undoubtedly distracting bored office workers everywhere. That pick-up-and-play addictiveness seems to have been translated into these handheld versions. Hopefully, the addition of multiplayer (Who can earn more money? Who can serve the most people?) will be enough to justify the higher price tag.

Charlie Barratt
I enjoy sunshine, the company of kittens and turning frowns upside down. I am also a fan of sarcasm. Let's be friends!