Dead Hungry Diner proves that time management games are alive and well
Zombies, vampires and all kinds of monsters seem to be the latest thing not only in casual gaming, but in pop culture as a whole. In Dead Hungry Diner the player accompanies Gabe and Gabby, twins who have been raised in an orphanage, who feed a vast number of monsters to save their hometown Ravenwood. How this game easily surpasses similarly themed games in the genre, you can read in this review.
Dead Hungry Diner features 50 levels and two different game modes. The story mode is set at five different locations and each level can be finished with a variety of ratings depending on how much money you earn. The lowest rating is set really low, so even beginners should have no real problems to get through the game. The All-You-Can-Eat mode is unlocked separately for each location by finishing it in story mode. Altogether you will spend probably around four to five hours playing through story mode once, getting a master rating on each level.
In contrast to comparable restaurant-themed time management games, Dead Hungry Diner only offers one meal – brain berries. On the surface, gameplay seems spookily familiar. Groups of customers have to be seated and served while keeping them patient, same actions can be chained to earn bonus money, customer types differ in patience and next to whom they dislike seating and in between levels certain perks can be purchased.
But the simplification of meals and serving definitely changes the dynamic of the game, particularly due to the ability to cast spells, which allows for different strategies. While the pace of Dead Hungry Diner is incredibly fast, it rarely gets frustrating because you can really concentrate on the patience of customers. Players are able to both swap tables and to change any type of monster into zombies. For example, werewolves dislike sitting next to vampires, so you can either swap tables to avoid this or turn one group into zombies to prevent any conflict.
Dead Hungry Diner also features spells that increase patience (either for table or queue customers), speeds up waiters or waitresses, and sends rain to chase the impatient monsters away for a moment. After casting spells they need some time to be activated again, but players are able to reduce this cooling down time by upgrading each spell in Shady’s Shop with their hard earned money.
Production values in Dead Hungry Diner are definitely top-notch – graphics are crisp, the animations of monsters fit the theme and are a blast to watch, and the music is motivating. It also does not hurt that the story is of good quality, too, an aspect mostly neglected in this genre. Of course it is somewhat predictable, but the humor of it fits the theme of the game perfectly and the characters are actually likeable. Even the antagonist is perfectly hilarious – Vanda Helsing once saved Ravenwood from monsters, but has become so jaded by her own standards and prejudices that she cannot see the good Gabe and Gabby are doing.
It’s not that the game reinvents the genre, but it actually attempts to spin well-known mechanics into something new with a tongue-in-cheek story. Apart from new spells and a new customer types there are no new features added at each location, but it is definitely a welcome surprise that those spells truly affect the way you are playing and are in constant use.
The game doesn’t quite reach its full potential, though. Dead Hungry Diner features a story and characters as interesting as those of the Delicious-series, but story elements as well as varying bonus challenges could have spiced up each level even more.
Minor issues with Dead Hungry Diner mostly concern controls. It’s not possible to cancel actions by right-clicking, nor are there any markers to indicate actions planned and chained in advance. Furthermore some decorative upgrades would have been a nice diversion for each location. While each of the five settings look very different, some personally earned signs of reward are always a nice motivation. But those are only minor quibbles, and don’t diminish the fun you will have in any significant way.
In the end, Dead Hungry Diner proves that there still is a lot of room for improvement and innovation in the time management genre. While layout and basic mechanisms are easily recognizable for genre fans, the game still offers enough twists to feel fresh. Considering the long playing time, two different modes, loads of humor and stellar production values, it’s without a doubt a shoo-in for players who enjoy time management games with a dash of black humor.