Local restaurant owners in DinerTown are alarmed when Grub Burger moves into DinerTown and starts stealing customers with its suspiciously addictive “Ingredient X” sauce. It’s up to you to help local businesses win back business and drive Grub Burger out of town for good, but instead of a straight-up time management game like Diner Dash, DinerTown Tycoon is a strategy game that shares more in common with the likes of Pogo’s Fairy Godmother Tycoon.
Where PlayFirst’s “Dash” games (like Diner Dash, Wedding Dash and Dairy Dash) are about furiously clicking to make sure tasks get done on time, DinerTown Tycoon is about planning. The action takes place on an overhead map of DinerTown that’s broken into neighborhoods like Bistro Bay, Squid Row, and Thyme Square, and the goal is to feed a certain number of each type of customer before the bubbling green meter representing Grub Burger’s presence in the area bubbles over completely.
At the start of each turn you’ll be responsible for setting the menu for the restaurant and making sure you have enough ingredients to meet customer demand for each dish. You can also spend money on advertising (like purchasing a billboard or a guy in a gorilla suit), and upgrades to your restaurant. You’ll start with one restaurant and one dish on the menu, but can purchase additional restaurants and new menu dishes as you earn cash.
Once everything is set, you’ll start the day and watch as crowds of people scurry about town, choosing to stop at either your restaurants or Grub Burger. There’s not much to do at this point but sit back and watch, and hope your preparations were enough. Occasionally customers will leave you tips that you can grab by clicking on the coins floating above their heads.
Like Diner Dash, there are several different customer types, such as Hal the Hungry Man, Rosie the Regular, and the Fitness Fanatic, and they each have favorite ingredients that will make it more likely for them to buy dishes made with those ingredients if you put them on the menu.
If you’ve played Pogo’s excellent Fairy Godmother Tycoon, you’ll find DinerTown Tycoon to be very similar, although not as well balanced or engaging. There are way too many dishes to keep track of (once you buy a second and third restaurant, you’ll find yourself juggling dozens of menu options), which makes it hard to calculate how many ingredients you need and to afford everything – unless you limit yourself to one or two menu items per restaurant, in which case you’ll have a hard time attracting enough customers within the time limit.
Yes, there’s a time limit too, which puts a serious damper on the strategy aspects of the game. Having the Grub Meter rise higher after every turn adds unwelcome time pressure. You can fulfill challenges announced at the beginning of the turn (such as sell a certain amount of food, buy a certain amount of a particular ingredient) to slow the Grub Meter’s progress slightly, but its very presence is stressful.
Daily challenges are random too, which makes it hard to come up with an overall, long-term strategy for winning. Some of them are simply impossible to complete, too. For example, on the first day of the Thyme Square level, my challenge was to sell 10 meals to Rosie the Regular, a character whose favorite ingredients were Serrano chili, masoor lentils and free range pork – none of which belonged to recipes I could afford to purchase.
Players might get a kick out of DinerTown Tycoon because it’s something a little different from the “Dash” games, but its tycoon gameplay is a little shaky.
For similar games, try Fairy Godmother Tycoon, Ice Cream Craze: Tycoon Takeover, and Flower Stand Tycoon.