Diner Dash, the oft-ported casual game that originally appeared on PC way back in 2003, is now available on Xbox 360's Live Arcade.
Set (at least initially) in a run-down diner, players must take control of a waitress as they attempt to seat, feed and clean up after the near endless stream of customers that enter their restaurant. Ultimately the goal is to keep people happy enough that the restaurant makes money, enabling Flo (the waitress) to upgrade the facilities, increasing capacity at the restaurant and adding more gameplay devices to the core mechanic.
In a nutshell, Flo's task is to seat the queue of diners as quickly as possible, take their orders over to the chef, the food back from the chef to the patrons and then collect the check, clear the table and then seat more patrons. As you progress, additional things get added to the mix, like a coffee machine that boosts patron happiness or elderly patrons whose behaviour varies from your initial customer type.
Customers come in different sized groups at different times, from different sides of your restaurant - managing who you sit, in what order, and where is much of the strategy of the game. Tables, you see, come in different sizes too - seating a single patron at a 4-seat table might seem like a great idea at the time but when the foursome comes in a nano second later and you have no place to seat them, well, you'll reassess your decision.
Flo is controlled directly by the analogue stick, with context-sensitive actions triggered by pressing the A button: if you're in front of a group of patrons in the queue, you'll get the option to choose them a table, you'll take orders from patrons that are done perusing the menu - and so on. This context sensitivity range is too precise, however, leading to numerous situations where you run away from somewhere thinking you've triggered the desired action or time running into a table like an idiot waiting for the game to let you do what you're trying to do. This kind of interface challenge is symptomatic of games intended for a direct pointer device (i.e. mouse or stylus) and that they haven't overcome it is both deeply disappointing and the game's main downfall.
Aside from the challenges controlling the game, at its core it's a clever and well-refined mechanic which is simultaneously instantly understood and yet challenging to master; the very description of a classic. Graphically it is further inhibited by claiming that moniker with the current status of the various elements you need to react to not quite picked out enough to be obvious without leaning forward (even with a massive TV screen).
The combination of an (extremely) casual audience-friendly gameplay mechanic (let's face it, this is virtual housework of the hardcore-unfriendly kind) with a fairly steep difficulty curve and distinctly casual-unfriendly control quirks leaves us wondering why this is on Xbox. It makes good sense as a PC downloadable, where the interface and audience align, but here? Not so much.