Diner Life tastes very familiar

The once booming restaurant management genre has returned to Facebook with Diner Life. A game that tasks you with running a personalized diner out in the middle of the American desert, it’s a simplistic title that is standard at best. Offering little that truly stands out, it marks yet another rehashing of the a well-worn formual, but done in a style that feels stiff and ridged with little semblance of a hook for new players.

Set in what is likely the Nevada desert, you are owner of your very own roadside dinner. Surprisingly enough, you find yourself with quite the customer base, despite the apparently desolate location. As such, the whole point is to keep customers happy with various popular diner dishes (and a few oddball ones like Chinese noodles) and continually make the space bigger and better.

Diner Life

With few initial instructions, players that have never used a business sim like Diner Life might find themselves lost as patrons begin pouring in at a rapid clip. For those that have played such a game, they’ll feel right at home, as little has changed in this rendition of the genre. Simply put, you build stoves to make food; clicking on them several times to prepare them and waiting several minutes for them to cook. Then, ala CafĂ© World, the food is placed on an empty serving counter for hungry customers. Given a limited quantity, the food must constantly be replenished and so long as there are seats, food, and the wait isn’t too long, the diner’s reputation will increase and more customers arrive.

On the social side of things, you can hire friends as employees that will help with keeping customers happy. Along with this, the game offers special decorative pieces that can be constructed by asking friends for specific supplies or buying them with purchased virtual currency. You can also visit the spaces of your friends and help out their restaurant as a waiter or waitress, serving guests food. It’s a marginally unique feature, but can only be done three times and you must physically wait for your avatar to walk over and perform the task.

The other slightly new element that comes with Diner Life is that there is a bonus meter associated with servers that are taking orders. Given a gauge, you can click on it when the arrow lands in the red zone for a boost to coins, reputation, or experience.

Diner Life

Obviously, the biggest qualm with Diner Life is the lack of originality. But second to this is the generally bland style and lack of polish. Decoratively, static items look decent and tables and chairs can even be altered into booths or high tops. The problem is that you have so little starting currency that you can buy all of one, maybe two items, leaving virtually nothing to hook you into playing more. There is zero sense of accomplishment or reward early on.

Regarding polish, the game just feels dull. Animations are stiff and the areas outside your diner are bland even for a desert. In fact, it’s possible to see white voids and the edges of the environment through the tiled ground while customers disappear into thin air. To make matters worse, the game is riddled with graphical glitches; you’ll come across avatars that have no legs or user interface elements left floating in the middle of empty space.

Diner Life is a startling disappointment that just feels like it was rushed out the door. Offering nothing terribly unique, save for the most minor mechanics, it’s a game that has been done before and done better at that. And when you factor in the graphical bugs and a general lack of aesthetic polish, this Facebook application still needs a fair bit of work before it can really be enjoyable.