OK, so we won’t take any credit for it, but after the last couple of uninspiring “Dash” offshoots – such as Fashion Dash, Doggie Dash and Dairy Dash – we at Gamezebo begged PlayFirst to come up with something fresh, fun and worthy of the Diner Dash legacy. And they did.
Parking Dash is a time management game that’s very easy to get into but extremely hard to put down. Sure, we’re still hanging out in DinerTown and seeing familiar faces such as Flo (from Diner Dash) and Quinn (from Wedding Dash), but this new spin on the franchise will please seasoned casual players who might be frustrated with this summer’s lukewarm “Dash” offerings.
The game introduces a fresh face, Karma, a young friend of Flo’s who wears big headphones and a trucker cap. As told through the comic book-like intro, she inherits a parking garage behind Flo’s Diner, and while unenthused by the concept at first, she decides to give it a shot by managing it as the sole valet attendant.
In the Story mode, customers drive in and Karma must hop into their vehicle and move it to an available spot, in a timely manner. Bonus points are awarded for matching the car color with the same-colored parking spot.
The first challenge is maneovering all the vehicles so you can return the cars to the customer when they return; this might involve moving the vehicle so you can access one trapped behind it. On a related note, customers have a little clock over their heads which tell you how long they’re going to be (so it’s ideal to put the cars that will be there for a while near the back of the garage so they won’t block any in).
The second challenge is when different types of vehicles pull in that might require two spots, such as a limo (lengthwise) or a hummer (widthwise). Think of it as a sliding tile-like puzzle game. Thirdly, each of the customers have different personalities so one might tip well but don’t like to wait around too long for their vehicle.
Over time, Karma will find helpful additions to her lot — such as more spaces, car elevators that turns one spot into two, and a coffee or donut machine to keep customers happy – while obstacles include snow you need to shovel away, dirty cars (that require washing to ensure a better tip) and car alarms that need to be turned off before annoying customers. Players can also choose an upgrade after each of the 50 levels, some of which are cosmetic (but please customers) while others make Karma faster, and other bonuses.
The goal, as always, is to earn enough money to advance to the next level.
The graphics are cute and on par with other “Dash” games, but the music is better as you can select what kind of tunes you want to hear from the various radio stations.
The five locations are not too different from one another, however, despite the odd new customer (such as a girl who drives a float for a Chinese New Year parade, that takes up three spots!) and other new twist (cars with dogs inside and the ability to reserve a spot). Another minor is the ability to cancel a command (say, by right-mouse clicking) in case you want to reprioritize the order of your multitasking mayhem.
The third issue is the on-screen radio (in the top right-hand corner of the screen) can block parts of the parking lot, such as cars on an elevator near there, so you can’t tell whose car it is when the customer comes to pick it up. Overall, those, none of these shortcomings hurt the experience too much.
Along with the Story mode is the typical Endless Shift mode, where a never-ending stream of customers arrive at the garage. Upgrade buttons are available every time a specific point level is reached.
Parking Dash is a challenging and gratifying time management sim that will satisfy both newbie players and long-time “Dash” fanatics. It might not be perfect but it’s the best spinoff we’ve seen so far this year.