The Dash series has been a staple time-management game since 2004. The first game, Diner Dash, introduced the world to the incredibly smart and incredibly speedy main character, Flo. As the story states, Flo is unhappy in her job as a stockbroker at Big Corporation. After literally running away from her problems, she comes across an old, boarded building for sale. With newly found excitement, she decides to start her very own restaurant.
In the newest iteration of the series, called Diner Dash Adventures, Flo’s hometown, DinerTown, is being sabotaged by corporate asshole Mr. Big of Big Corp. His two henchmen are going around the city, breaking street lamps and destroying buildings in hopes of getting the land for themselves. Flo, back from her adventures as a waitress, restaurant(s) owner, celebrity chef, wedding consultant, time traveler, and goddess has returned to stop Mr. Big from taking control of every business in DinerTown.
Waiting on tables is only half of what goes on here. Each stage has different amount of stars to collect. Stars are obtained by completing level objectives. These stars are then used to help redecorate the landscape of DinerTown, such as fixing broken fences, or replacing a Big Corp sign with something far less capitalistic.
The game plays well, and is very enjoyable. As a free-to-play game, Diner Dash Adventures uses a few tactics that seem to heavily push players toward spending money. Playing a level requires supplies, upgrades requires gems, and saving the town requires stars. The game does provide players with free supplies and gems periodically, but any player wanting to blast through the game will probably need to pay for a few things. I will say I spent $1.99 on 20 gems and I do not regret that decision.
But what is most impressive about the game is the ferocity of Flo. And while her career path is on par with Barbie’s (who has been everything from a business executive to a McDonalds cashier), this newest iteration of Flo in Diner Dash Adventures puts her at her most superhero form. The residents of DinerTown are grateful for her help. Even her idle animation feels heroic. With her hands on her hips, and a wink to the camera, she alone will save the town from Mr. Big.
Unfortunately, her reputation as the world’s savior gets downplayed because she’s the star of casual circuit. Despite Diner Dash’s ridiculous success and endless spin-off’s, casual games are often viewed as little time wasters you play while waiting for the bus or while sitting on the toilet. Glu Mobile is the same company that published Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, but even that game does not stand up to the empire that is the Dash series. But Flo does not get the respect she deserves. She isn’t held in the spotlight as other prominent female characters. Nicki Minaj didn’t make a song about Flo’s desire to fight injustice.
Diner Dash has always been about something bigger than waiting on grumpy customers. Ever since—and I cannot stress this enough—Flo turned into a Goddess in the very first game, the series has been a story about perseverance, and the lofty dream that hard work pays off. When I watch Flo work, I feel exhausted, but I also feel a bit invigorated that her day isn’t burdened by a few failed levels. As Laura Hudson wrote in her piece about time management games, these games make stress seem manageable. It’s a superhuman feat for Flo to not only wait tables, but to return DinerTown to its former illustrious glory.
Flo isn’t the lead protagonist in a game where the world is on the brink of destruction. She doesn’t need to scale giant mountains, or kill thousands of baddies. She simply has to give the people what they want—food. The simplicity of her game should not diminish Flo’s power as restaurateur, as goddess, as superhero, as casual queen.
I hope that, as mobile games continue to dominate, we see that Flo has been killing the game for years. But, more importantly, I hope that by the end of Diner Dash Adventures, when Mr. Big of Big Corp is thwarted, Flo can take a very long nap.