Who would have thought parking cars could be turned into a casual game? Parking Dash, following in the long footsteps of other time management games such as Diner Dash, Wedding Dash, Cooking Dash, etc., twists the genre's formula around a bit to park the game at a safe distance from Cloneville. The end result reminds me somewhat of Airport Mania — a breath of fresh air that breaks the mold in all the right places.
You play the role of Karma, a young woman who inherits a parking garage situated behind Flo's Diner. Needing a bit of cash, Karma decides to become the sole valet attendant of the space, parking cars and entertaining customers to earn bigger and better tips.
The core of the game is simple: park cars when a client brings one in, give it back when he or she returns. Simply click on people when they appear, then click on their car when it drives up at the bottom of the screen. Next, choose a spot to park the car, keeping in mind that cars situated against the wall will be blocked in if you park something behind it. Above each person's head is a clock that lets you know when he or she will come back, so be sure to put cars with a quick turnaround in an easy-to-reach place.
Story mode progresses as most games of this ilk do, with increasingly challenging levels that feature more impatient clients entering at a faster pace, more cars to park, and less time to deal with it all. The number of parking spaces available increases as each stage progresses, even to the point of adding lifts that can hold a car in mid-air! Basic upgrades are available between levels that help keep customers patient or makes the cars move faster.
In later levels you'll come across interesting and almost whimsical clients who have special needs or bring in cars that take up more than one space. Limousine and hummer drivers deposit vehicles that cover two spots, for example, and some customers will need preferential treatment in order to stay happy (and tip well).
Analysis: Normally, games with "Dash" in their title (or "Mania", for that matter) turn me away with their decidedly unoriginal names. If a game can't bother to have an exciting title, why would I expect its content to be exciting? Parking Dash broke that stereotype, however, and managed to slide itself under my radar with its slightly different approach to the genre. The game blends the conventions of time management sims at almost every turn, creating a captivating experience I found I kept wanting to come back to.
There are around 50 levels in all, plenty to keep you occupied with the ins and outs of running a small valet service. With the variety of upgrades, car types and other small chores, there's enough content here for several multi-hour sessions. And the way Parking Dash is built, you won't have any frustrated gaming sessions, just smooth and delicious parking bliss.