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You don't realize how important an increasing challenge level can be in a game like Hot Plates until you don't have one – games like this just feel like they need to get harder over time. Without providing an experience where the player feels like she needs to improve to compete, Hot Plates never goes past the point of being an interesting, but momentary, diversion.
For only 99 cents, however, Hot Plates is not a bad offering or a bad way to spend five minutes on your iPhone. The game consists of three slightly different play modes. Each consists of asking the player to tap plates with different foods to spray them with corresponding sauces. There are four of each – green sauce goes on salads, brown on meat, red on hotdogs and blue on pancakes. In the main game type, three conveyor belts move plates of food in front of the player in different directions, which is meant to make figuring out which plates to tap with each sauce more confusing.
It's not a bad setup. The conveyor belts do make things tough, and the fast-tapping action has the ability to get frantic and challenging, especially when plates requiring two sauces start showing up. Hit plates with the wrong sauce too many times and you'll hit a Game Over. The same thing happens if you accidentally sauce a dynamite stick in a bun, which is meant to trick you by looking like a hotdog.
The other game modes – one that's all hotdogs and dynamite, and another that has you saucing as many plates as possible in 60 seconds – are just as diverting, but the entire game suffers from an apparent randomness that hurts play. Sometimes, you'll fire up Hot Plates and get a rush of double-plates and frenzied madness right at the start. Other times, you'll play for 10 or 15 minutes at the same slow, boring pace. You can adjust the speed on the main game mode to basically set it to "normal" or "hard," but the game's actual difficulty seems to be generated at random.
It's a problem that diminishes Hot Plates, and keeps it from being very addictive or competitive. Instead of needing to improve your reaction time to improve your score, you just need to reload the game and try again. Hot Plates is fun, well-made and cheap, so it's worth checking out if you like fast-twitch games that demand good reflexes and quick thinking. But don't expect to be wowed.