Diner Dash on Facebook: Flo and friends take on FarmVille

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If you've been keeping an eye on Facebook games for the past few years, it's likely you've noticed one major thing missing in the lineup -- time management games. In particular, Diner Dash, the classic casual game where you play the multi-tasking waitress/entrepreneur Flo and singlehandedly serve dozens of customers and do it fast enough to keep everyone happy (while scoring big points).

Starting today, Diner Dash is officially up for order on Facebook, in a new freemium version of the game that combines that oh-so familiar game experience with a social gaming elements borrowed from its peers.

"We've focused on staying true to Diner Dash gameplay. There are other restaurant games on Facebook, and people compare Cafe World and Restaurant City to Diner Dash," says Playfirst CEO Mari Baker. "Those aren't time management games, they're -- more of the classic Facebook appointment gaming. It took a lot of work, what we've done here is bring true time management gameplay to Facebook and built a social wrapper around that."


Some of those social elements include having Diner Dash 'friends' who can send you gifts. Instead of playing Flo, you create a custom avatar. Every 'shift' you play in the restaurant costs energy. When it runs out, you can get more by purchasing it using Facebook Credits, waiting for it to regenerate and visiting your customizable park and clean up litter in exchange for more power. Speaking of the park, that's where you can go to spend those tips earned during your shifts, and a series of quests (along the lines of 'Buy 5 Decorations' and 'Buy 10 grass' will help guide your path. Unlike other energy-driven social games, Diner Dash on Facebook was pretty generous and I was able to play for a good chunk of time before my stamina was depleted. And, I'm happy to report the game does a stellar job at staying true to its roots, and during my early trial of the game, everything was zippy and responsive. Hopefully that will stay the same once millions of people start playing at the same time.

Like the PC version of the game, the Facebook game includes a storyline, which will also be familiar to fans of the series. Flo and the rest of the "Diner Toons," aka the other known characters in the games, continue their battle with the greedy Mr. Big, who is dumping toxic waste and other litter in the park and forcing neighborhood restaurants to close down. Your goal is to get rid of Mr. Big's garbage and keep the restaurants open. When you start the game, there are a total of five restaurants and the park -- and you'll initially have access to one for free and will have to unlock the other restaurants using Facebook Credits.The fact that you have to pay real-life cash to unlock new venues is the most disappointing part of this game -- one that I hope will change soon.

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Soon after launch, the game will continue to evolve. Lead Designer Eric Holmes says they have plans to give players ways to upgrade restaurants (which will employ a star-rating sytem), add new items in the store that can be used in the park and create a more complex questing system than what's currently in place. Holmes says they plan to add collections, and -- later on -- in-game achievements/badges.

Will Diner Dash beat FarmVille and CityVille? While I'd love to see a classic game like this rise to the top of the charts, PlayFirst has a big battle ahead. Right now, the game will be promoted in PlayFirst's other Facebook game Chocolatier: Sweet Society (which a meager 381K monthly players according to AppData), but maybe Flo and friends will serve up a new game experience that Facebook gamers can't resist.

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