The drive-in diner is one of the iconic images of 1950s America: the flashy neon sign, big shiny cars pulled into the parking lot, the latest doo-wop band crooning on the jukebox and waitresses on roller skates scooting around with trays of root beer, milkshakes, burgers and fries.
That setting comes to life in Roller Rush, where you play a stressed-out serving girl on wheels trying to keep a parking lot full of impatient and hungry customers happy.
Roller Rush takes the restaurant management game-play of Diner Dash and puts a “spin” on it by moving it out of the diner and into the parking lot. As with the mega-popular Diner Dash series, the key to Roller Rush lies in juggling many different tasks successfully at the Drive n’ Dine restaurant. When a new car pulls up to the diner, the waitress must assign it to a free parking spot, take the customer’s order and deliver it to the counter, pick up and deliver the food, collect the bill once the customers have finished eating (hopefully getting a fat tip in the process), and then pick up the garbage left behind and dispose of it in the dumpster.
Although you’ll start out with only two parking spaces in the mandatory tutorial, the difficulty quickly starts to ramp up as more spaces are added and the diner begins to attract different types of customers, such as impatient school teachers in pink cars and old men in green cars who are happy to take their sweet time. Serve customers promptly and keep them happy by giving them root beer and other treats, and they’ll leave you a nice tip. But take too long and they might just storm right out of the parking lot.
Bonus points are awarded for performing two tasks at once, such as carrying multiple trays of food or tossing garbage from two cars into the dumpster at the same time.
The primary goal in the “story” mode – I use the term loosely because there really is no story to speak of – is to make enough money to keep your job for another day. Fail to earn the minimum amount of cash, and you’ll lose a life. A calendar keeps track of day-by-day progress, and a nice feature of the game is that if you run out of lives you’ll only have to start back at the beginning of whatever week you’re on instead of being dumped right back at square one.
Once you’ve earned enough cash to satisfy the minimum goal, you can shoot for bonus Master or Perfect rankings to earn more stars, which can be used to purchase one of seven kinds of improvements, such as faster roller skates, more expensive food or various enhancements to the diner that will attract more customers and entertain them as they wait. There’s also a Survival mode, where the goal is to see how long you can last in the face of a never-ending stream of hungry customers.
Roller Rush deftly nails the multi-tasking restaurant management style of play, but the game lacks a certain charm – which is especially disappointing since the vintage 1950s setting had so much potential. The jukebox of rock n’ roll hits playing in the background is a nice touch (plus, you can import your own music, if desired), but you’d expect to see cars full of quintessential 50s wholesome Leave it to Beaver families, crews of rowdy Teddy Boys in jeans and black leather jackets, and lovebirds snuggling and smooching over ice cream floats to complete the fantasy. Instead, the diner’s customers are represented by small un-detailed heads that are seen from a birds-eye view, with the primary means of telling customers apart being by the color of the car that they drive.
A better-developed story and stronger graphics would have done a lot to enhance Roller Rush’s long-term appeal. But if it’s pure fun and challenge that you’re seeking, after having already exhausted Diner Dash 1 and 2 (and Cake Mania, and Mystic Inn, for that matter), then it’s worth skating around with Roller Rush and its 40+ levels.