Although most of the characters in PlayFirst’s Avenue Flo are from the company’s long-running series of "Dash" games (which include Diner Dash, Wedding Dash and Dairy Dash), Avenue Flo itself is no time management game. In fact, it’s the first adventure game set in Diner Town, and the first time we get to hear characters like Flo and Quinn actually talk.
Quinn, who fans will recognize as the wedding planner extraordinaire from the Wedding Dash series, is in a panic after everything that can go wrong does go wrong right before the wedding of one of her clients. It’s up to you, playing as Quinn’s pal Flo (star of the Diner Dash games), to put things right and fix the disasters one by one, such as baking a replacement wedding cake, finding a new bouquet, recovering the lost wedding rings, and locating the bride-to-be’s missing pooch. But can so many "accidents" really happen to one wedding, or is someone deliberately trying to sabotage the big day?
The people and places of Diner Town have slowly been introduced and fleshed out in more than a dozen previous games, from Diner Dash to the hidden object game DinerTown Detective Agency, and the sim DinerTown Tycoon. Even past diner customers like Hal the Hungryman – until now only known for having a voracious appetite – have a role to play in the adventure. It’s nice to see the game able to draw upon such a rich and diverse cast of characters and settings (from the farm to the dress-making shop to the pet salon) and weave them all into the story without it feeling contrived.
As for the gameplay, you’ll explore three neighbourhoods of Diner Town (Avenue Flo, Yum Yum Square and Bistro Bay), talk to people for clues about what to do next, and pick up items to add to your inventory that can be used to solve puzzles. Although Avenue Flo is a full-fledged adventure, there are some nods to hidden object game fans as well in the form of having to find butterflies and bottles hidden in the outdoor scenes.
Avenue Flo is a well-polished package, brought to life by attractive cartoon-style graphics, a diverse collection of characters, and convincing voice-acting. The adventure gameplay is augmented by a set of clever and varied mini-games that fit seamlessly into the story rather than jarring the player out of it.
Flo keeps a detailed task list (charmingly scrawled on the back of a napkin), so you’ll never be at a loss about what to do next. There are also maps that keep track of who you’ve talked to and where everything is.
In fact, if there’s a downside to Avenue Flo it’s that the game can seem to hold the player’s hand too much. For example, when one of the character needs a "pick me up," the game doesn’t leave you to figure out on your own that there’s coffee back at Flo’s diner; rather, Flo says something like "Hey, I should go get some coffee from the diner!"
For people who don’t play many adventure games and might find themselves easily frustrated, Avenue Flo is a soft and painless (and polished, and fun) introduction to the genre. But if you already have a few adventure games under your belt then you might find this game a bit too easy, in spite of its considerable charm.