If you thought waitressing at a greasy spoon restaurant was challenging, wait until you have to serve potions to demanding witches and mages.

Such is the fantastic premise behind Mystic Inn, a new casual game download from the savvy game makers at Big Fish Games.

While it doesn’t score many points for originality, Mystic Inn is an easy-to-play game that’s hard to put down.

You play as Daphne, a young redhead who, while one day wandering in a forest, happens upon an enchanted Inn. Drawn in by its magic, Daphne decides to play hostess as patrons begin to pour in looking for potions.

The game mechanics should be familiar to those who’ve clicked through PlayFirst’s popular Diner Dash series or Sandlot’s Cake Mania: Daphne must seat the customers, such as four witches at a table, take their order, pick up the potions near the bubbling cauldron and bring it to their table in a timely manner. When they leave, the witches leave behind magical orbs that can be collected for extra points. If you take too long, they become irritated and eventually leave.

Multicolored vials line the bottom of the screen, so if six witches each request a blue potion, you must click on the appropriate color six times to order the drinks. Later on the game, customers at the same table will begin ordering different potions, such as two black, two green and two red.

By successfully serving the busy inn, Daphne can unlock bonuses such as more tables, bigger tables and other goodies. The more customers you serve, the more money you make, which in turn adds more upgrades. Only by completing each of the five chapters – with ten levels per chapter – will Daphne fully upgrade the inn and unlock the spell that keeps her hostessing there.

Mystic Inn does offer a few differences over other Diner Dash-inspired games, though it may not be apparent to players at first. For one, Mystic Inn offers a mini-game every few levels or so, which involves matching symbols on the screen to concoct a power-up that can be used during the main game. For example, you must quickly click symbols with silhouettes — such as a frog, flower, eyeball, lightning bolt or stars – to match with the same symbol that floats towards the top of the screen. If you do this correctly, you may get, for example, a freezing spell that stops time temporarily as things get hectic at the inn. You can also unlock juggling frogs or perform magic tricks to entertain guests in line, play a charming harp, chase away dragons, and so on.

Another nice touch is a take-out menu; an owl will fly over to the cauldron and place an order (you’ll see which color vial he wants and how many). You must fulfill the order so the owl can fly away and deliver the potions to customers at home.

Another unique feature with Mystic Inn is the ability to queue tables for Daphne in advance, so she knows where to go and in what order you choose. This actually makes the game easier to play as you can think through – and execute — your moves ahead of time.

Even with these differences, Mystic Inn is a Diner Dash knockoff, but with a magical spin. It’s fun, sure, but it’s anything but a fresh concept. Another beef is the game really doesn’t pick up until half-way through the second chapter (about 15 levels in); I’m by no means an expert player but it’s simply too easy for too long, which may turn off seasoned gamers. Strangely, though, the game is hard to put down (perhaps it casts a spell on its players?).

Overall, Mystic Inn is a very good game that should magically make a few hours disappear from your life.