Dead Hungry Diner
Zombies are an almost obligatory inclusion for games released these days but Dead Hungry Diner from Black Market Games does things a little differently. Instead of slaying the unrelenting undead, you have to feed them instead. This unenviable task falls into the hands of Gabriel & Gabriella, orphaned twins from the village of Ravenwood. With your help these two have to keep the zombies (and other creatures of the night) fed to prevent them from snacking on the good people of Ravenwood.
I have tried a few time management games in the past but none of them ever sucked me in like Dead Hungry Diner. Right off the bat, it is clear to see that a lot of time and effort went into this title. The graphics are polished to 2D perfection and the various creatures that you have to deal with are as detailed as they are humorous. The game is set across five different locations with ten levels each and your mission is to earn at least one star in order to progress to the next level. Stars are tied to monetary milestones so you have to do everything you can to keep the customers happy and fed.
As the creatures queue outside your “eating establishment”, it is your job to seat them, take their order, deliver the berries, grab the cash and clear the table before repeating the process. Performing the same action multiple times will build up a combo so seating six customers in a row will net you more cash than seating one and taking their order before moving on to the next ones. This means that sometimes you really have to weigh your options for the most coins. Do you serve a customer right away and make sure they are happy or risk losing them by waiting a bit and doing it as part of a combo. It sounds very simple but when you deal with creatures that do not like each other, seating arrangements play a very big role as well. Your diner can only accommodate so many creatures at a time so ideally you want to send everyone on their way as quickly as possible in order to make room for the next batch impatiently shuffling around on the doorstep.
Take too long and they will leave costing you valuable money in the process. Rush things however and you might just seat a werewolf and a vampire next to each other which is a recipe for disaster. If a fight breaks out you can call upon the trusty bouncer, Frankie, to give the offenders the boot but if you want to earn the big bucks, you must prevent these kinds of altercations in the first place by perfecting your seating arrangements. Watching the creatures fly right at your screen after Frankie tosses them out is brilliant to see however.
Running around and catering to everyone will get you far but fortunately there are some skills and spells to help you out in a pinch as well. These can be purchased from a shady character called… Shady, at the start of each level, provided you have enough cash of course. Skills that range from increasing your walking speed to the reaction time of Frankie can be bought but the spells are even better. Teleportation, table swapping and zombification are all spells that you will become very familiar with over the course of the game. If the customers are getting too impatient, you can cast a happiness spell to placate them for a while longer or even a rain check to get them out of your hair while you deal with more pressing matters. The spells all have a cool down period however so do not expect to rely on them too much.
If you did not already have enough on your plate (so to speak) the former town protector, Vanda Hellsing will also occasionally make an appearance in order to interfere with your business. Unless you shield your customers from her attacks, you will lose them so keep a wary eye on your doorstep to prevent that from happening. Red zombies are another nuisance as they have much less patience than their green brethren do. When these guys show up you had better give them priority treatment which often involves shuffling around the queue in order to get them seated first before they ran raise a stink. Each world introduces new creatures to deal with and while it becomes frantic, it never becomes so overwhelming that it is no longer fun. BMG definitely did a good job in keeping everything very balanced.
The soundtrack will keep you on your toes with some catchy tunes that really gets the adrenaline flowing. Each creature also has their own noises that they make so when you have a diner full of them it can sound a bit chaotic. Controlling the action is a breeze and everything is handled with the mouse. The frantic clicking that this game requires is actually good practice for the upcoming Diablo 3! I would have liked to be able to cancel an action by pressing the right mouse button but the absence of this feature is not too big an inconvenience. The controls definitely feel a lot tighter than they did in the first demo. Apart from the Story mode there is also an “All-you-can-eat” mode which allows you to pick any of the worlds that you have previously unlocked and play without any time restrictions. Monsters will continue to show up until you cannot keep up any more so it is basically like an endless survival mode to keep you going after you have completed the story.
Dead Hungry Diner is a fantastic game and definitely one of the best I have played in the casual genre. Having three stars to aim for per level provides a challenge for both newcomers and veterans. Attaining one star should be within reach of anyone but for that lucrative third star, you had better be busting out some mean combos and seating your customers like a pro. It might not last for much longer than five hours (if you are good) but that is five hours of solid gameplay with no filler.
*Review originally published May 2012.
- OS:Windows XP
- Memory:512 MB RAM
- Graphics:128MB of video memory, 16-bit or 32-bit color quality
- Hard Drive:80 MB HD space
- Sound:DirectX-compatible sound