Google Play App Roundup: Notification History, Ahead, and Turn Undead

By Ryan Whitwam

Undead notifications ahead.

A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

Notification History

Android's notification system is usually a joy to use, but there's no way to recall notifications after they've been dismissed. Sometimes you regret swiping something away, but the system logs only basic information about the notification, and you can't even access that very easily. Notification History makes your past notifications more accessible and actionable, and you can give it a shot for free.

This app requires just a little setup, but it's easier to get running than I expected. After opening, you have buttons at the bottom for the "advanced history" and "notification history." The notification history option isn't technically part of the app—it's just a link to the hidden settings menu in Android that logs the basic data from all your notifications. It's not very useful for actually doing anything with your old notifications, but you can see what apps have produced notifications and when.

For the Advanced option, you'll have to grant the app access to your notifications. After that's done, the app will continuously log all the notifications that pop up on your phone. Since it's connected to the system-level feature, Notification History doesn't need to run a service of its own or a persistent notification to stay alive.

Simply open the advanced history to see your notifications organized from most recent to oldest. It logs all the notifications too. That means even something like the Google Camera app that pops up a temporary notification when it's processing a photo will be included in the list. You can tap on any notification to open the app, pull up the app info, or open the Play Store page.

If you want to clear the clutter a bit, the pro upgrade is going to appeal to you. For $1.49, the advanced history menu lets you swipe to remove notifications, blacklist apps from appearing, and removes all the ads in the app. It seems like a good deal.

Ahead!

Not all games need to be complex with fancy graphics. Sometimes you can be just as challenged by a simple game with good mechanics. That's Ahead, which is not only an enjoyable little game, it's also free.

Your goal in Ahead is simply to acquire as many points as possible without running into any hazards. It's easier said than done, though. Your pivoting avatar is tricky to control, and the arena is difficult to navigate unless you're paying close attention. It's not tough because of complicated controls, though. All you have to do is tap on the screen to change the pivot point and direction of rotation. Do that at the right time, and you can swing the shape across the screen to collect points.

There are several ways to end your run. The most likely is that you'll run into one of the spiky squares. However, it's also game over if you try to activate one of the two pivot points while it's outside of the circular arena or inside one of the smaller interior circles. As an added twist, each point you pick up speeds the rotation up, making it harder to time your taps. There are bonus points on occasion that will slow you back down, but they're few and far between.

This game has simple vector-style graphics with a black background. It looks great on OLED screens, and I like that it's played in portrait mode with single-tap controls. It's great for a quick casual game while you're waiting in line at the bank or whatever. The location of the points is different every time, so it's not too repetitive. I'd like to see more arenas, though.

The only monetization in this game is the option to get an extra life after you die by watching a video ad. This is an excellent game, especially considering it costs you nothing to play.

Turn Undead

The latest release from Nitrome would have probably been a little more appropriate last week, but Turn Undead is good for some spooky all year round. It's a platformer, but in a more mobile-friendly twist, it uses an accelerated turn-based approach. The goal is simple, though. Kill the monsters and get to the end of the level.

Turn Undead is a 2D side-scroller. To move, just swipe left or right. That's a turn. So is swiping up to jump or tapping to fire a stake from your gun. After each move you make, all the enemy creatures get to take a turn. The game proceeds as quickly or slowly as you want. It's possible to get into a bad situation from which there is no escape, but there's a rewind button at the top of the screen if you want to take your last move back.

Your stake-firing weapon is great for taking out vampires, but it turns out a stake to the heart will kill a lot of things including werewolves and zombies (for a few turns). The stakes can also be fired into walls to act as platforms for reaching higher areas. Sometimes that's the only way to reach the end of a level as you can't always work your way through a gaggle of undead by shooting them. Even when you can, timing is everything. You have to watch the patterns and find the right moment to attack. So, there's a clear puzzling aspect here in addition to the platforming.

I like the turn-based nature of this game because you don't have to stare at the screen non-stop to play. If you don't move, the game doesn't progress. That makes it a solid game if your attention is divided. The challenge also seems to ramp up at just the right rate. There are some sections that I have to play a few times to figure out, but I never feel completely stuck.

Like most of Nitrome's other games, this one has a retro pixel art style, but the game doesn't feel "old." It's a modern take on classic styling, and it's done well. The game is very responsive and the animations are smooth on all the devices I've tested.

Turn Undead is free, but there are some video ads that appear in between stages. You can dismiss them most of the time, though. There's a single in-app purchase for $5.49 that removes the ads. Although, that seems a bit steep for just ad removal.