Google Play App Roundup: Underburn, Turretz: Planetz, and Reigns: Her Majesty

By Ryan Whitwam

Bright turret queens.

I don't know if you could say there are too many apps out there, but there are certainly enough that it can be hard to find the ones worth your time. This is the problem that Google Play App Roundup is seeking to solve. Every week we tell you about the best new and newly updated apps in the Play Store. Just click the app name to head right to the Play Store and check things out for yourself.

Underburn

Smartphones have allowed billions of people to access the whole of human knowledge at any moment, communicate openly in the blink of an eye, and avoid going to sleep as they stare at the warm glow of the internet in their hand. On that last count, screen brightness is a constant issue. Even when you think you've set a nice dark theme on your device, something bright can pop up and scorch your retinas. No more with Underburn. This app monitors the colors displayed on your screen and intelligently modifies the brightness to save your eyes from the light.

To make this work, Underburn does need to ask for some rather serious permissions. It needs access to your system settings and the ability to record your screen. It'll ask for the screen permission every time you start it, though. It's not just going to start watching you in the background, and the developer removed the internet access permission to further put your mind at peace.

The reason Underburn needs this sort of access is that it's actually taking a screenshot every quarter of a second. Those images are checked to see how many bright colors are displayed. When it seems the content getting brighter, Underburn lowers the brightness of your screen to compensate. I haven't noticed any performance impacts from running Underburn in the background, but you might want to watch carefully if your phone is already a bit slow. This could make it worse.

This app makes the most sense when you're using a dark system UI or app theme. Then, whenever an image or message appears that's mostly white, the screen dims to save your eyes. I also find it very useful for checking the notifications, which are much lighter than most of the apps I'm using.

Underburn takes a fraction of a second to adjust the brightness, and there's an optional floating button that can tweak the brightness setting. Before you activate Underburn, you can also change what the light and dark cutoffs are, as well as how much it will adjust the brightness in automatic mode. It does require a persistent notification, but that makes sense considering the nature of the app. I also like that you can plug Underburn into Tasker for full automation.

Underburn is $1.49 in the Play Store, but it solves a common problem. You might not even realize you had this problem until Underburn solves it for you.

Turretz: Planetz

111% is adept at coming up with simple but compelling mobile games, some of which are just mutations on games it's already launched. Such is the case with Turretz: Planetz. The original Turretz only came out a few months ago, and now the sequel brings some new twists to the gameplay. You're still facing wave after wave of enemy spaceships, but now you have to scavenge turrets instead of buying them.

Turretz: Planetz is an arcade-style game consisting of progressively harder levels, each one with a boss that appears after you've survived a certain amount of time. Your tiny planetoid does damage by way of turrets attached to its surface. You begin with only a single turret, but each boss drops a new one to add to your arsenal. These drops are random, so you might end up at a disadvantage if you get a few mediocre ones in a row. Every five levels you will encounter a more powerful boss creature, too.

There are only eight spots for turrets on your planet, but there's another element to collecting turrets. You have a book of recipes with more powerful turrets that can only be used when you've obtained the necessary "normal" turrets. These turrets can do more damage to bosses, which is essential as you advance.

All your turrets fire automatically, but your planet spins around as well. That means you'll probably want to keep moving to avoid the enemies and keep your turrets pointed in the right direction. To move, simply swipe anyplace on the screen, and your planet will move 1:1 with your finger.

The graphics are very similar to the original Turretz. It's retro-styled with 8-bit ships zipping around the screen and simple digital sound effects and music. It looks like most other games from this developer.

There are no bundles of unlockable items in Turretz: Planetz like in the original game. Instead, you have a number of improved unlockable planets and sing-use upgrades that can be purchased with gems. The gems show up during the game here and there, but you can buy bundles of them for real money. There are also occasional ads in Turretz: Planetz, but a $0.99 in-app purchase removes them. I'm a little torn on the IAP setup here. On one hand, they only cost a few bucks, but on the other it's all for consumable items rather than permanent unlocks. The gameplay does seem to offer a bit more variety than the original Turretz, though.

Reigns: Her Majesty

The smash hit mobile game Reigns came out a while back, placing you in the role of king. However, that game only explored half of the power structure. In the sequel, you play as the queen. Again, your aim is to remain in power as long as possible while holding the kingdom together. Make the wrong decisions, and you're likely to end up befalling a very gruesome fate.

To survive another year in Reigns: Her Majesty, you have to make a choice. You will be presented with a quandary of some sort—maybe a noble claims the local duke insulted her family or the church wants to crack down on unbelievers. Your responses affect the strength of the church, people, military, and treasury. If any of them get too high or too low, it's likely the queen will find herself dead shortly thereafter.

To make decisions, you are shown a card representing the person to whom you're speaking, It can be swiped left or right, and each direction offers a preview of the reply and which parts of the kingdom it affects. However, you don't know if it will affect them positively or negatively. You can only guess at that from the context.

Along the way, you're likely to earn titles for your character based on your activities. For example, exploring the mysterious hedge garden results in "the Lost" being appended to your name. There are also quests to complete, many of which add new cards and experiences to the deck. In the end, you'll make a mistake and end up dead. In rare instances, you may simply die of old age without doing anything particularly egregious. In any case, you'll be immediately replaced by a new queen to pick up where you left off.

Despite the dialog coming only a few sentences at a time, it's all written very well. There are some genuinely funny moments, and the way you apply special items to the deck to influence people is quite clever.

The visuals are clean and attractive; it looks virtually identical to the previous game in the series with simple low-poly characters and smooth card swiping animations. The way Reigns: Her Majesty plays with the interface is cool, though. You might trigger events that add and remove display elements, lock certain decisions, and even come back from the dead (sort of).

Reigns: Her Majesty is $2.99 in the Play Store, just like the last one. There are no in-app purchases, making this a safe game to pick up. It's very well-made and there's a lot of replay value.