Everybody knows what happen when the dead rise. Shambling hoards take to the streets, bringing swaths of hungry denizens of the dark into our once quiet homes, all searching for innocent, succulent brains. Black Market Games first title, Dead Hungry Diner, seeks to satiate the zombie menace with something a little more palatable (and vegetarian friendly).
Zombies and casual games are an odd mix but, as PopCap have shown us, somehow it works and everyone seems to love a cute, hungry monster; even when they’re out for blood. This time around, instead of mowing through enemies you feed them. For your troubles, they’ll generally behave themselves at the table and tip you if you do a good job. Just don’t leave them waiting for too long in the queue or when being served or things may get… messy.
If you’ve ever played a Diner Dash-style game before, the basic mechanics will be instantly familiar to you. You manage your queue (impatient customers can be bumped ahead of others), seat customers, take orders, serve their food, take tips and clean up all by clicking on the relevant tables and parts of the restaurant. The faster you get people in and out of the door, the more money you make. Dead Hungry Diner adds on the pressure by enforcing a strict time limit but also rewards you for chaining actions together so it’s often worth waiting a moment for everyone to finish before getting paid for a healthy score multiplier. As the game progresses through its five worlds (making a total of fifty-five pleasantly varied levels) you also unlock spells and have the chance to buy items from the most annoying vendor in gaming history. These can be used to keep customers happy, send away groups you may not be able to fit in in time and even turn other monsters into zombies to make them easier to seat.
This last mechanic ties in with the eventual introduction of Frankie the reanimated bouncer, who is used to break up fights between patrons who may not like being sat near one-another. Vampires, for example, can’t stand werewolves (must be the smell…). Sit them too close to each other and someone’s bound to get upset. Turning one of them into a zombie, by far the most reasonable and docile of diners, or getting Frankie to step in keeps things calm until everyone can finish their meal.
All of this action makes for a rapid-fire click-fest and, in later levels, the pace is fast enough to really make you sweat over every decision and forces you to think quickly. Thankfully, the colourful cartoonish graphics make everything easy to follow and adds enough interest and humour to keep things fresh as you dash between tables. Musically, Dead Hungry Diner isn’t anything special but the soundtrack, if you choose to have it on, doesn’t offend and fits in well with the style of the game.
While it’s currently out on Steam for £5.99, I can’t help but feel that Black Market Games have missed a trick by not pushing Dead Hungry Diner out on iOS or Android. The action is perfectly suited to a touch-screen interface and the additional quick play and endless modes would make for a great time-killer that would keep players coming back for more. That’s not to say it isn’t a good PC casual game and, hopefully, we may see a port sometime in the future.
For a funny, light experience, Dead Hungry Diner is near perfect. It’s not the most original game in its theme or its basic premise but it does enough to stay ahead of the curve and clearly a lot of effort has been put into making the concept as fresh as is possible. Simple, addictive and worth a few laughs, it definitely scratches the itch for any casual gamer.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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