Android Market Roundup: Flying, Fighting, and Flinging

Apps to inform, and apps to play. This week there's even a new Kairosoft game.

Welcome, good sir or madam, to the Android Market Roundup. This is a one-of-a-kind cavalcade of magnificent mobile wonders from the far reaches of the mysterious Android Market. The applications herein were lovingly weaved from the finest lines of code, and designed with an eye toward your modern lifestyle. So step right up, and see for yourself what today's developers have in store. These apps are absolutely, positively guaranteed to treat you right (note: this is not a guarantee). Just scan the QR code with Google Goggles or Barcode Scanner to go straight to the Market. Alternatively, click the app name for a link to the web Market.

This week we take to the skies, track apps, visit the pixelated past, and more. Our first stop is already gaining altitude.

C.H.A.O.S

Most of the air combat games out there are based on fixed-wing craft of some sort. Helicopters don’t usually get a fair shake, unless the game is a 2D affair. Well, C.H.A.O.S for Android manages to implement 3D helicopter controls fairly well, and has solid graphics to boot. This is a compelling title for the controls alone, but there’s a lot more going on here.

Like most games of the genre, C.H.A.O.S is set up with a mission structure. At the beginning of each mission, you get your objectives. Some levels have you protecting an asset from an onslaught of enemy choppers, some have you as the attacker of an enemy facility. Still others simply require you to eliminate the enemy presence, large or small.

The controls take a little getting used to, but become like a reflex after a few minutes of combat. Tilt your device forward to move the chopper forward and back to go back; the more you tilt, the faster you go. Tip to the left or right to rotate in that direction. In addition to the accelerometer controls, there is a virtual thumbstick. Moving that up and down will control your altitude, and moving it side to side banks the chopper without rotating. Put all this together, and you have really precise control of your craft.

Off to the right are the weapon controls. There are homing missiles, rockets, and a minigun. The ammo capacity varies for each weapon, but there are floating ammo drops throughout each level. Likewise, there are health pickups for when you take damage. Make sure you’re aware of the location of health power ups. If you go down three times, you have to start the mission over.

Now, here’s the sticking point for some potential gamers: C.H.A.O.S costs $0.99, but also uses in-app purchases. At the end of each level, you get some cash to buy upgrades for your helicopter, and even to buy new ones. The game will happily sell you bundles of in-game currency to help you along. It’s not necessary to pay up, but it can feel a little grind-y at times if you don’t.

Graphically, C.H.A.O.S is top notch. This game has very detailed models for the helicopters you fly. Not only are the textures nice and clear, but the animations as you bank and weave are great. For the most part, the environments are good. Buildings are well-done, but some of the terrain looks a little too simple.

C.H.A.O.S is one of the best air combat sims on Android because it does helicopter controls well. The graphics are good, and the missions are varied. We’re not crazy about the in-app purchases in a paid app, but the cost isn’t too high.

My Top Apps Pro

As apps become a larger part of the mobile computing experience, it can be tough to keep track of them all. You don’t want to install something, then realize months later that you never use it. If only there was an easy way to track what apps you actually used, and present that data in a useful and easy to access way. That’s just what My Top Apps Pro does.

The app isn’t going to get a whole lot done when you first start running it. As you use other apps, My Top Apps Pro will keep track of how long each of them is in the foreground. That data is aggregated in the app itself, as well as in a number of widgets. To answer your inevitable question, My Top Apps Pro does not have a negative impact on battery life.

When you open the app, the default view will be a grid of app icons organized by how much you have used them. Tapping on any of them will open the app. To change the view, hit the drop down arrow at the top and you will get two menus with sorting options. You can adjust how many days of data will be used to build the list, as well as the sorting algorithm (i.e. most used or last used).

In the menu, you can choose a completely different layout for the app. The default is grid mode, but Details will just give you a scrollable list with the relevant data like total use time next to the icon. Timeline view is a cool idea, but feels like it could be implemented better. This shows apps along the y-axis, and time on the x. Small bars show when the apps were used, and for how long. However, it’s too small to be really useful, and there’s no zoom control.

The other way you can check out your app usage is by adding one of the many My Top Apps widgets. There are various sizes to choose from, and each one offers you the same list options as the app. We quite like having a widget that keeps track of our most used app. If you limit the time variable to a few days, this widget will conform to your usage quite well. The adaptable shortcuts are easier than going into the app drawer. The Pro version of this app runs $1.50 in the Android Market, and it’s worth checking out.

Tongue Tied!

Sometimes the concept of a game is so bizarre, you just have to take note. Tongue Tied is one such game. In this game you control two dogs, whose long, slobbery tongues are tied together. They don’t seem overly concerned about it, and you can use their odd situation to launch them around the screen to pick up tasty dog treats.

This is a 2D physics platformer, but the control scheme is totally off the wall. The dogs are in constant motion, and you need to fling them around to pick up all the treats as they come up. Since the dogs are connected at the tongue, they act as counterweights, allowing you to do some pretty insane tricks.

The first few levels helpfully show you the basics of controlling the game. You can drag one dog away, then release to slingshot it up to grab a treat, for example. You can tap one of them to make him hang off the platform, then swipe to swing him in an arc to grab stuff. Need to jump? Fling one dog over the other and they will spin through the air.

It will take a few tries to work out how to time things and what maneuvers you can do. Once you get it, though, it’s a really satisfying game to play. More complicated actions will also get you bonus points if done well. The obstacles and treat pickups come along fast, and it totally pulls you in. Each level is about a minute long, and you get a gold, silver, or bronze metal at the end based on how many treats you picked up.

There are currently 60 levels, and the developer has committed to updating it with more content over the next year. There is also a separate section for challenges where you can unlock some fun extras.

The graphics in Tongue Tied are very attractive and clean. It’s done in a cartoon style, and it works well for the game. The backgrounds are beautiful, and we like that some objects will pass across the foreground, giving this 2D game a feeling of depth. The dogs, Mick and Ralph, are also absolutely adorable characters.

This is a polished game with unique gameplay, and wonderful graphics. Tongue Tied is only $0.99 in the Android Market, and you should get it.

Camera ICS+

Google went to great lengths to make the software experience for the Android 4.0 camera better than it once was. While the sensor on the Galaxy Nexus is not so great, we think they nailed it with that software. If you aren’t running Android 4.0, you can now get an ICS-like experience with the an app called Camera ICS+ on most Android phones.

On the surface, this looks like the stock ICS camera, which is what the app is based on. Open the settings menu, and you will find a ton of additional options that aren’t in the stock app at all. A few are specific to Android 4.0 devices, but most of the important options are universal.

Camera ICS+ offers several filters including mono, sepia, and negative. The images you take can also be set to different quality levels in addition to the stock resolution setting. In the video settings users also get the option of controlling the video bitrate and stabilization mode. One sneaky feature addition is a toggle that shuts off that image capture sound.

If you already have an Android 4.0 device, you’re not going to gain a lot from this app. The interface works the same way, and the image quality seems identical to us. What this app is really good for is getting those ICS features onto older phones. Camera ICS+ has the expected ICS features like touch to focus, panorama shots, and time lapse. Even Honeycomb tablets can benefit from those last two features.

If you need a good general purpose camera app on Android, Camera ICS+ is a great option. it’s selling for $0.99 in the Market, but this is apparently just a sale price for the time being.

Dungeon Village

Again Kairosoft is on the scene with a new game for all the boys and girls to play while ignoring their significant others. Human interaction? Not when there’s a new Kairosoft game out. This time you’re going back to a magical medieval realm and a small town plagued by monsters. Your only hope to save the town is to make it a haven for adventurers that might take on your quests. They might have dropped the "story" branding, but this is a Kairosoft game all the way through.

Dungeon Village is more in the spirit of World Cruise Story and Epic Astro than Game Dev or Pocket League. You have a small village with a few buildings like an inn, weapon shop, and cake shop (because who doesn’t like cake after slaying monsters?). You will slowly expand your town, making it more appealing to adventurers, who will pass through and earn you money by finding treasure and killing monsters.

Over time, you might even convince some adventurers to move into your vibrant little community. They will frequent your shops, buy gear, and be available to explore that new dungeon that was suddenly found right outside the gates. Apparently no one in town uses their eyes because this happens a lot. When you recruit adventurers for a quest, the game pulls up a little display strip at the bottom showing you the quest progress. If your heroes can’t quite make it to the treasure, they will get tossed out to heal before continuing.

There is a star system in place that grants your town more buildings and space when you reach certain milestones. This system will be familiar to anyone that played Mega Mall Story. You have to keep an eye on the arrangement of your town to improve appeal, and encourage more people to move in. This is how you reach the higher levels of the game. You have to work through all the quests and monster attacks, but also manage the local economy. Seeing as your town’s chief export is monster slaying, it can be tricky to keep the cash flow coming in at a reliable rate.

If you’ve seen any Kairosoft game, you know what Dungeon Village looks like. It’s retro pixel art all the way through. The animations are cute, and the sound is an 8-bit dream. The game is buttery smooth for us, and it works in both portrait and landscape.

So where does this fall in the grand scheme of Kairosoft games? It’s not as good as Game Dev or Mega Mall, but it’s better than Epic Astro and Grand Prix. It’s about on par with Pocket League in overall fun. It’s going to cost you $4.99 in the Android Market if you’re feeling adventurous.

That's the Roundup for the week. Hopefully something here works for you. If you've got an app in mind for a future Roundup, let us know. Check back next week for more great apps.