The Play Store has hit 25 billion downloads, which is a milestone that seemed impossible a few years ago. That's a whole ton of apps, but you don't need 25 billion apps -- you just need a few. So here we have the weekly Google Play App Roundup with the best new and newly updated apps for your phone or tablet. Just click on the app name to head to the Play Store.
This week the pigs are back, forecasts are more local, and platforming gets pretty.
This is not an app designed to take over for your full weather app. No, Sky Motion serves one purpose, but it does it very well. This app tells you if it’s about to rain or not. Bear with me; how often are you opening your weather app just to scrutinize a delayed radar image, or estimate how accurate a vague forecast is? Sky Motion takes the guesswork out of that.
The app will determine your location via GPS when you open it. Sky Motion bills itself as being a hyper-local service, and it deserves the distinction as much as anything else. It splits up your local area into square kilometer blocks, so you always get the freshest, most relevant forecasts.
The main display in the app is the current temperature, and a simple phrase telling you whether or not it’s going to rain in the next two hours. You can configure Sky Motion to refresh your forecast every 1, 5, or 15 minutes. When bad weather is approaching, it tells you exactly how long you have, and how long the precipitation is going to last. This is very cool when you’re just on your way out the door and need to know what to wear.
If you move over to the Details tab in the interface, you can see the minute-by-minute chance of rain. Although, I should clarify it’s not just rain. It’s precipitation of almost any type. Sky Motion will clue you into snow, hail, sleet, and freezing rain too.
Sky Motion is free in Google Play, but there is a somewhat annoying ad at the bottom of the screen most of the time. Still, this is a handly little utility that you ought to install.
We've all mostly gotten over our Angry Birds addiction from a few years back. It was a long, hard road, but we've finally beaten that habit. But have you heard about this new thing? They call it Bad Piggies, and it’s really something. Those iconic green pigs are back, but this time you’re trying to snatch the eggs by building insane contraptions to reach the end of the level.
The premise of the game is simple; you have to get your pig from the starting blocks to the end of the stage. The way you go about that is where all the fun and challenge comes in. You have to build a vehicle with the pieces provided in each level. You’ll get a grid of boxes to drop items into. The only requirement is that your pig must be included in the design, likely nestled safely in a structural square.
There are over 30 different objects that can be included in your design. Everything from simple wood blocks, to bottle rockets, to balloons, and several different types of wheels. The first few levels are just about making a simple wheeled wagon that doesn't topple over, but things quickly escalate with carefully balanced frames and multi-stage propulsion.
You can take as long as you want putting things together just so. When you’re ready to give it a shot, hit the play button and watch things get crazy. Most levels rely on gravity to start things going, but you might have to activate your propulsion systems (if applicable) with the buttons at the bottom of the screen. As with Angry Birds, you are mostly at the mercy of the game’s great physics engine.
All of this is really fun, but the thing that makes this truly engaging is the way you accrue stars. Each level has three star conditions. One is always simply getting to the end (even if your vehicle breaks apart in the process). Another is obtained by collecting a star box along the way. The last star is a wild card. In some levels you get that one by reaching the end without damaging your contraption, and other times you have to make do without a certain useful part. You can essentially play a level several different ways to get all the stars.
Visually, this is like a cleaner, more detailed version of Angry Birds. It’s got the same cartoon look that the first game had, but everything is just a little nicer. The physics are easily grasped, but there is a bit of variability that keeps things interesting. I played the HD version on the Nexus 7 and it ran perfectly.
Bad Piggies is free on Android, and there is no paid version at all. I’m pleased that ads are only shown in the menus, which I’m totally fine with. There are in-app purchases that grant you Mechanic Pigs that can build the right machine for you. Overall, I’m shocked you’re still reading. Get this game now.
Rayman Jungle Run
The Android faithful have been waiting on this game to come to the platform for quite a while. Rayman Jungle Run is an action platformer with intuitive touch controls, killer graphics, and a ton of content. This one isn't free. though. So is it worth your hard-earned dollars?
This is a game that you can dive right into because it was devised in a way that makes it touch-centric and very intuitive. Rayman is going to be running forward on his own at all times. All you have to do is control the jumping, attacking, and floating. When you get things figured out, it looks amazing. I keep having these moments where the fluidity of the gameplay surprise me.
There are 40 levels, each of which takes a minute or two to run through. If you do well enough, more levels are unlocked. Along your pre-arranged path there will be 100 gold floating creatures called Lums. You want to pick up as many as possible -- a perfect run gets you a step closer to bonus content. The game has replayability in that it’s hard to get a perfect score on many of these stages, so you're compelled to go back. It can be hard to even finish some of the later levels.
Each block of levels integrates a new control mechanic, all of which are controlled with a tingle touch interaction. For example, tap to jump, long-press to hover, and so on. This is all about timing, and you won’t want to be spending precious brain cycles looking for the right button. Even later in the game when you have to both jump and punch, the hit boxes for the two buttons are insanely big. Rayman Jungle Run does touch controls right.
Rayman Jungle Run has a delightful bubbly art style as indicated by the bright colors, exaggerated environments, and classic Rayman style. I really can’t stress enough now smooth this game is. It looks like an incredibly well-made experience from top to bottom. The sound is also nice, but can get a little repetitive. Rayman Jungle Run is a solid game in every respect. The asking price of $2.99 is totally reasonable.
That's the list for this time, folks. As usual, feel free to drop me a line if you come across an app that deserves to be featured in the weekly Roundup.