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Publisher: PlayFirst    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G4 @ 800 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 44 MB    Graphics: 800x600

Diner Dash: Flo Through Time
February 2, 2009 | Richard Hallas

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The point at which I had to admit defeat, a mere 600 points short
As with other games in the series, the game offers you a choice of upgrades between levels: either décor improvements or assistive boosts, such as a faster running-speed for Flo or a more effective podium for keeping waiting customers happy. Especially when the levels started getting particularly difficult, I did wish that some of the assistive upgrades were offered sooner: I'd much rather have been offered a better pair of running shoes for Flo than a new type of table cover! In this sense, the shop in the spin-off title Cooking Dash is actually better, because it allows you to build up credit and buy upgrades in the order you want them, so you can get the useful stuff as soon as possible and leave the cosmetic things for later. In this game, though, you just have to choose between whatever three items are offered.

Graphics: Timeless classics
The graphics in Flo Through Time are very much in the same style as all the other Diner Dash games: attractive, cartoony and well drawn with a decent amount of animation. One of the nicer aspects of this particular title is the variety of characters in it: although you'll see all the usual suspects from previous Diner Dash games, you'll also see some period-specific characters such as cavemen in the Stone Age and knights in the mediæval setting. You may find knights sitting adjacent to young executives with mobile phones to be a bit incongruous (and the knights don't like it either), but there you have it; it's about as believable as a microwave oven enjoying a rebirth as a time machine.

There are some nice touches in the background graphics, too, such as seeing Grandma use a dragon's fiery breath to cook food in the All Knight Diner. The only problem with the comical background animations is that you rarely have a chance to see them because the foreground action is so frenetic!

Not for the first time, it's actually possible to change how Flo looks, too: as with some of the previous games, there's a Flo's Closet option that allows you to interfere with Flo's garments and dictate what she should wear. It's alright for those people with a strong sense of female fashion; I just stuck with the defaults!

As usual, the game plays at a resolution of 800×600, either full-screen or in a window. I'll spare you my usual whingeing about how game designers ought to support higher resolutions these days.

Sound: Play it again, Flo
All the previous Diner Dash games I've played have sounded very similar, and have used variants of the same game sounds and musical themes. Although Flo Through Time continues to use the same game noises, and is still in the same basic musical style, I have to say that I was very favourably impressed by its music compared with previous games. The title music in particular sounds much more robustly orchestral than previous offerings, and the in-game music seems to have a lot more variety because it's appropriate to the era of each set of levels. I particularly liked the mock-mediæval All Knight Diner theme: it's not as catchy as the delightfully rambunctious and similarly pseudo-mediæval theme in Cro-Mag Rally, but it's still quite memorable.

Conclusion: That déjà vu feeling all over again
Flo Through Time is really frenetic, and is unquestionably by far the hardest Diner Dash game I've seen to date. It has the feeling of a set of expert levels that take all the upgrades that you'd earn gradually over the course of previous games and throw them all at you at once. That certainly makes for a demanding challenge, and you'll have plenty to think about while playing, but it also makes for an occasionally pretty frustrating experience, when it can seem impossible to reach the required target, even when you think you've played a near-perfect level. (I'm alluding in particular to level 29, which has got me quite stuck at the time of writing.)

So this is not a game for the faint of heart. If you like the Diner Dash series and think you've mastered it, give this one a try and prepare to have your ego crushed.

I have to say that I did enjoy Flo Through Time. It's very much up to the usual standard, except for the music which is notably better than normal. The use of different time periods also gives a significantly greater feeling of variety in this offering, which I also enjoyed. In terms of its components, then, this is probably the best Diner Dash game so far. The only real point against it is that it can be so darned frustrating. I can cope with a challenge if it's fair, and I don't object to the fact that Flo Through Time is much more difficult than previous Diner Dash games, right from the start, because the series is several instalments old now. But I don't like it when a game becomes so unreasonably difficult that it feels unfair, and I'm simply unable to progress. For me, Flo Through Time got dangerously close to that line with a few of its earlier levels, and then resoundingly crossed it with level 9 of All Knight Diner, thus preventing me from telling you anything about the final two sections, Buccaneer Bistro and Snack to the Future.

Of course, that level must be possible, so don't use my own personal ineptitude as an excuse not to buy the game. Just be warned that it's no picnic.

• Graphics and production values up to the usual high standards
• A more entertainingly whimsical story than usual
• Greater than normal variety in terms of settings and characters
• A tough challenge for experienced Diner Dash players
• Particularly good music

• There's nothing new here
• Really unreasonably difficult at times, to the point of being unfair

Diner Dash: Flo Through Time
Developer: PlayFirst
Publisher: PlayFirst
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