Okay, you don't need cool apps and games on your phone, but neither do you need a smartphone in the first place. If you went out on a limb for one, why not follow things to their logical conclusion and live it up? After vaulting that congantive hurdle, the question becomes, what apps should you get? Well, just read on, gentle sir or madam. This is the Android Market Roundup where we talk about all the best new apps and games on Android. Just scan the QR code with Google Goggles or Barcode Scanner to pull up the app on your phone. Alternatively, click the app name to go to the web Market.
This week we're checking in with Duke, going for a spin, getting some deals, and more. Let's take care of some alien scum first.
Every now and then, a game comes along that defines a generation. For many of us, that game was Duke Nukem 3D, which might explain some things, come to think of it. At any rate, Duke is back and ready to kick some alien anatomy on Android. This port of Duke Nukem 3D is faithful to the original in the extreme. All the violence and lewdness is intact, and we’re pretty happy about that.
So you’ve got two control schemes to try in this game. There is the standard mode with a thumbstick on the left, and actions buttons on the right. The thumbstick controls forward/back and strafing. To turn and aim, you just drag on the screen. Your attack, open, jump, and crouch buttons are on the right. There is also a button that pauses the game and takes you to a weapon select screen. The other control scheme is based around dual thumbsticks, but it makes the screen too crowded.
While you can move the buttons around to better suit you, they are still too small. The tap to drag control to look around is fairly common, and we don’t have any real issue with it. However, if you hit the fire button, you should be able to drag and aim as you fire. This is done in the Gameloft shooters and works well. As it is in Duke, You have to line up your shot, then tap the fire button.
The game has aim assistance, which frankly saves it from unplayability. You don’t have to be dead on accurate, and a little strafing can keep your target in the crosshairs. Movement is okay in Duke Nukem 3D, but it feels too fast even with sensitivity turned down. It’s as if the game is expecting more precise input than the thumbstick. It’s easy to overshoot, and overaim.
The saving grace if this game is that it’s Duke Nukem. Really, despite the less than optimal controls, Duke’s mid-90s persona is still endearing in a repugnant kind of way. The low-quality graphics are recreated perfectly, and it runs like a dream, as you might expect. The nostalgia certainly does flow when you pick this up.
The payment structure could do with a little explanation. The game is $0.99 in the Market. That gets you the first third of the game. Each of the next two chapters will cost an additional $0.99. About $3 for the entire game isn’t bad, but why not just charge that up front? It feels mildly misleading to us.
The game plays well enough, and Duke Nukem still makes us chuckle. if you played the original on PC back in the day, pick this up. Those that didn’t grow up with the Duke, in addition to being more well-adjusted, could stand to skip it.
Fans of the Groupon-style daily deals will want to take a look at the newest Google app, Google Offers. Offers doesn’t support every area, but there area fair number of metropolitan centers there at launch. The app also uses the slick new Ice Cream Sandwich user interface. For users already in the Google ecosystem, this could be a valuable tool.
The app will have you sign in on first start up, but don’t be fooled by the location select screen that pops up first. That’s actually for email notifications of daily deals, and you probably don’t want that. Go ahead and skip ahead until you get into the actual app. The Featured tab is where the deal of the day is laid out. So far we’ve only seen a single deal, but as the service expands, more could be added.
Scrolling down will give you all the relevant details on restrictions, location, and business description. Tapping on the map will pull up the location of the deal in Google Maps. A buy button floats at the bottom of this page to start the purchase process. As you might expect, the app uses Google Checkout to process payment, and you’ll have to click through a number of agreement screens the first time to actually buy anything.
If you slide over to the right in the main UI, the app pulls up the My Offers tab. Here you can see any offers you’ve bought that are about to expire. This is a handy feature, but you can see everything your bought below with links to Purchased, Saved, and Used/Expired deals.
The app should detect your city with GPS, but you can manually change it by tapping on the city name in the upper right corner. Also in that area is the action bar with options for refreshing the deals, and scanning QR codes. We have yet to see this in action in use, but apparently businesses can put Offers in QR codes that you can then get by scanning them with Google Offers.
If you’ve got Google Offers in your area, you should take a look. This app is free in the Android Market.
After kicking around on other platforms, and enjoying some exclusive deals, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is in the Android Market. The concept is much the same as it was on the desktop version of the game. You can play as either a driver in illegal street races, or as one of the cops tasked with stopping said races. Whichever career you play first, it’s a great racing game.
The control scheme will be similar to those in most racing games, and identical to the other Need for Speed games. Your car is constantly accelerating, but you can brake by tapping in the lower left corner. Swipe up on the screen to hit the nitro, and swipe down for the e-brake. Steering is accomplished by tilting the device, and we’re very happy with the sensitivity of the steering.
Each career has different races and achievements to unlock over the course of a few dozen events. As you level up, more vehicles are unlocked as well. There is even a bit of crossover where cars from one mode are unlocked in the other. Most of the racer missions are variations on sprint races, with the occasional police raid. The police are a bit more varied with some missions where you have to reach the finish line in a certain amount of time, and others where you need to take out the illegal racers.
Both modes offer a few special abilities, for instance the police road block and spikestrip. Racers rely on tech like oil slicks, but can also jam police systems for a short time. When you’re trying to take out a car, there will be a life bar above it. The game shows off a neat slow-mo animation of the crash when a life bar is emptied.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit looks every bit as good as past incarnations of the game. There is very little aliasing on edges, textures are reasonably high resolution, and animations are smooth. The cars themselves are nicely detailed in the game, and the lighting effects are put to good use hiding some of the rough edges.
Need for Speed is selling for $6.99 in the Android Market right now, and it’s definitely worth it if you want a solid racing game. Be aware, there is a 291MB (the game incorrectly reports 550MB for some reason) additional data download after installing this game, so you won’t have a chance to run it before the return period is up.
If you’ve ever wanted to share a few photos at once, Photobooth is here to help. With this app it’s dead simple to assemble photo strips in a variety of formats. This initial release is missing some of the features we’d expect in an app like this, but the developer says a paid version will be arriving soon, and even the free version will be updated with more features.
In the app, you’ve got four options up at the top, and a preview space at the bottom. Start by tapping the Photos line to add picks. You can take images on the spot with the stick camera app, or add a picture you’ve already taken. Add as many as you like, but there does not appear to be any multi-photo upload. You have to pick them one at a time. Hopefully this is fixed in a future update.
The next option is Format, which currently offers either horizontal or vertical. The developer claims more options are coming. Next, you can adjust the size of the total photo strip. An estimate of final size is available in the corner of the preview space. Lastly, you can pick the order of your photos.
There’s not much more than that to this app. Your photo strip will be available for preview right there, and you can share it to any app that ties in with the Android sharing menu. We found that Photobooth did what it said it would do, and lets us share multiple images at once in a nice-looking layout. In the future we'd like to see a built in camera interface that can perhaps do burst mode.
The only sore spot here is a strange bug that causes the app to close occasionally after adding a picture. Photobooth is free in the Android Market.
This is a game without a simple descriptor. It is at time like a strategy game, and at others a casual physics puzzler like Angry Birds. One thing we can say about Cosmonauts, is that it’s fun. Also, addictive. So two things, apparently. This game is yet another free to download, pay to play app, but the developer here isn’t really gouging the buyer.
In each level of Cosmonauts, you have your craft on the left side of the map, and there will be an enemy ship over on the right. between the two will be various obstacles, bonuses, and assorted refuse. if you make smart use of the game mechanics and the level layout, you can end the enemy ship in a single shot to collect the reward. To take aim, just tap and drag. A dotted line will show you the path of your projectile. This may seem too easy, but it’s not just connecting that does the job. You have to attack strategically.
The goal is to have your projectile in motion for as long as possible. There is a damage multiplier that goes up the longer your shot floats through space. If you can get it in orbit around a planetoid, it will keep racking up speed until you sent it on its way, but do so before it floes off on its own. There are also items floating that will add to your multiplier if you hit them on the way. Combat is turn-based, so if you don’t win on the first shot, the other craft gets to go.
There are an assortment of weapons, and your loadout varies from level to level. Each weapon has a special ability, like splitting into multiple projectiles, leaving clouds of frozen gas as a barrier, or dropping bombs. You just have to use the right tool for the right job. The bonuses you get from perfect performance will slowly improve your weapons over time as well.
The graphics in Cosmonauts have a strong cartoon feel to them. That can go wrong very easily, but this game usually feels very polished. The cartoon panel style cut-scenes probably help with that. We like the off-the-wall design and good sense of humor as well. The game just doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Now, as for the payment system; the game it free for the first 30 levels. Then you have to pony up $0.99 for the full single-player game. Then you can, if you like, buy content packs with new ships, weapons, and power ups. These cost between $0.99 and $19.99. None of this is mandatory, or even really recommended. The single fee unlocks plenty of content in this great game.
That's all for this edition of the Roundup. Let us know if you like these apps, or if they made you toss your phone across the room in frustration.