Variations on Diner Dash have proliferated on other platforms. So why not the iPhone as well?
That’s the idea behind Sally’s Salon, which has enjoyed a nice run of its own on the Mac, PC, and Nintendo DS. It follows in Diner Dash’s footsteps of helping a busy proprietor deal with a crush of business; in this case, you’re in charge of a hair salon where you handle customers, fashion outrageous hairdos, and build up a business bite-sized level by level. RealArcade’s $2 iPhone game may be a clone of similar offerings, but at least it’s a clone with style.
The goal in Sally’s Salon: Make your clients look fabulous quickly, so they don’t get angry and storm out. By tapping on the touch screen, you move customers, who walk in one by one, from station to station. Leave them sitting anywhere too long—in the waiting area, in the barber’s chair, at the cash register—and they’ll head straight for the door, taking their money with them. Earn enough cash though, and you’ll not only pass the level, but get a chance to buy items to upgrade your salon.
Though Sally’s Salon doesn’t have difficulty modes, it does have five different locations, including a mall, a ski resort, and the Ritz, each with 10 sub-levels to complete. While you’ll often find yourself juggling multiple customers, the game remains pretty unchallenging until well past the first set of levels.
The developer makes up for this slow pace in survival mode, where players are challenged to satisfy an increasing number of customers, running back and forth between them until one walks out to end the round. This mode provides much more of an immediate challenge. And since Sally’s Salon has a statistics screen, there’s plenty of incentive to play again and again, beating old scores.
However, the game does have some basic flaws. The upgrades bought between rounds—like a coffee pot, for example—are difficult to put to use. In certain locations, some of the salon doesn’t fit on the iPhone’s screen, leaving a line of forgotten customers. And in certain instances when I was testing the game, Sally’s Salon mysteriously erased all saved data, sending me back to the beginning.
Still, the game’s graphics, which are colorful and cute, and the hairdo choices lend Sally’s Salon a sense of humor. When a customer sits down, you select the color and style that makes your client smile. Often that means giving an attractive young man a stringy, green comb-over, or arranging purple Princess Leia buns on the head of an old woman.
Sally’s Salon isn’t a bad game, just a mediocre one. With little by way of new gameplay mechanics to make it stand out from other Diner Dash clones, it remains fun, if sluggish. Slightly redeemed by its survival mode and its silly sense of style, the game will probably never satisfy your inner stylist, but it may give you a greater appreciation for the woman working the front desk at your hair salon.
Sally’s Salon is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.1 software update.
[Bonnie Ruberg is a San Francisco freelance writer whose work has appeared at Forbes.com, The Village Voice, and other publications.]