KatchUp is a time management game from LeftRight Studios (smackBots) that puts you in charge of a ketchup bottling plant. You must handle multiple aspects of production, first sorting the tomatoes into the vat and then bottling the ketchup. The game plays across multiple tiers. The upper tier is a conveyor belt on which tomatoes are quickly heading toward a big vat to fulfill their ketchup creation destiny. Also on the belt are a variety of items like tires, smackBOT heads and broken TVs which threaten to taint the ketchup should they fall into the vat. It is your job to grab the items and toss them off the conveyor belt before they fall into the vat. While the vat is loading up with tomatoes, you will see a vat meter on the bottom of the screen filling up telling you when the ketchup extruder is full.
Once the ketchup supply is full, flip a switch and then you are ready to fill some bottles. When the switch is flipped, the top belt will stop and the lower belt will start up, carrying empty bottle after empty bottle. Using your finger on a sliding handle, you must position the head of the extruder over an empty bottle and keep pressing the “dispense” button to load the ketchup into the (moving) bottle. Once a bottle is full, a label will appear on it and you can move onto the next bottle. If a bottle, which has no label on it, exits the right-hand side of the screen, then you will lose one of your three lives. Lose all three lives and the game is over.
The graphics are clean and very well done, and the tomatoes look almost like they were drawn/shaded with colored pencils. We thought presenting the pause button as a restroom sign was a cute touch. The game’s animations were smooth and worked quite well, we particularly liked how the top belt would still roll a little bit after switching to the bottom belt, making a more true-to-life slow down action. The game doesn’t have a musical soundtrack, but does give OS 3.x users the ability to choose and play songs from their devices’ music library. There are unique sound effects for each of the items you throw ie. monkeys for the banana peels, engine sound for a tire, etc. , but these tend to kind of annoying fairly quickly. KatchUp has hooks into Twitter and Facebook for sharing your score but lacks real online leaderboards, we’d love to see some sort of OpenFeint integration.
KatchUp’s control scheme is fairly unique compared to other foodie-themed time managment games that we’ve played on the platform and we felt that it actually helped to immerse us in the game a bit more than simple “touch here, touch there” controls would have. Although, this does bring us to one of our main complaints regarding the game. When you toss the items off the upper conveyor belt, you can throw them either upward or downward. There is no penalty for throwing tomatoes off the belt. If you throw objects down, for some reason you then see them falling in the background at the top of the screen, which just makes no sense. There must be some really odd laws of gravity in that bottling plant, that caused this object to float back up! We do see why the developer wanted to do this (so thrown objects could occasionally come back into play on the top belt), but we just found it a bit disconcerting and it completely pulled us out of any immersion that we had.
A better idea might be, to have it when a player throws an object downward, it could occasionally knock over a bottle on the lower belt, either spilling the contents (thus needing a refill) or just tipping it over, requiring the player to touch the bottle to get it upright again. It would be good if thrown tomatoes could also potentially cause this to happen, thereby having some penalty for throwing away good tomatoes…waste not!
Overall we found the game to be a bit too easy. It seemed to speed up slightly as you went along, but never really got fast enough that we felt like we really couldn’t keep up. We’d suggest a more rapid speed increase, and to allow for less experienced players, you could always offer an “emergency stop” button that could be pressed to immediately stop the belt(s) for x number of seconds. This could be a one-time use or recharge over time. We’d also like to see a bit more variety of gameplay. Perhaps multiple different types of things on the belt going to the vats. If there were pickles and eggs, the player would have another toggle switch to go between relish, mayo and ketchup to fill particular bottles with particular condiments. Although perhaps this might add too much complexity for just a quick pick up and play but would definitely make the game a more challenging and exciting.
KatchUp’s immersing control scheme and crisp, cute graphics make it a good choice for kids or the casual player, but if you are looking for something a bit more challenging, you may want to try another aisle (or see what future updates bring).