Another week has passed and the Play Store is again brimming over with new and updated apps. Here in the Google Play App Roundup, you can find out about all the best apps so you don't end up with buyer's remorse. Just click the link for each app to head nonstop to the Google Play Store in order to download it yourself.
This week there is a very pretty puzzler, a great alarm app, and a game from a different era.
How good a game looks is subjective, but in the case of Machinarium, no one can ignore how drop-dead gorgeous the art is. Every single inch of this game is art, and the puzzles are every bit as good. Don’t get too excited, though. The game is currently only available on tablets and some phones with 720p screens.
In Machinarium, you play as a delightful little robot called Josef with perhaps a few screws loose. Your goal is to make it from the trash heap to the depths of a strange steampunk city in order to rescue your robot lady love. Think Wall-e, but with more whimsy.
This is a point-and-click adventure at its most basic level. Josef will walk where you tap, unless an area is inaccessible, in which case he’ll shake his head and stay put. Each screen in Machinarium is a puzzle to be solved, and a lot of the environment is interactive. A seemingly unimportant bit of wire or block of wood might be the key to solving the puzzle and moving on.
You can tap on items to add them to your inventory, and can combine certain objects to make new devices. When you need to use an item, you can just drag it from the inventory bar to the place on the screen you need to apply it to. Like moving, if something isn’t possible, Josef shakes his head. By dragging Josef’s head up and down, you can change his height. This is often an important element of solving the puzzles.
This is not the kind of game you play for a minute or two in line at the bank. You have to really think the problems through, explore the space, and perhaps use some trial and error. If things are just too tough, there is an icon in your inventory area that will give you a single hint per screen. Similarly, you can access your almanac for a (very) basic walkthrough of a puzzle, but you have to play through a little minigame to open it. I like this mechanic because it keeps you from taking too many peaks at your notes.
As I said, this game looks absolutely fantastic. The entire game has a hand drawn look and the environments are imaginative. I love the animations as Josef walks around and interacts with the environment. If you’ve seen Wall-e, Josef has the same ability to emote without actually displaying human emotions. It’s all just so breathtaking. The sound and music are also completely original and immersive.
Machinarium has been on other platforms before, and you can play the first few puzzles online if you want to try before you buy. If you have a compatible device, there is going to be a big additional data download when you first open the game. The developer is asking for $3.99, and you should pay it. In fact, send them more money later. Machinarium is that good.
doubleTwist Alarm Clock
Yes, it’s an alarm clock. Your phone comes with one of those, so why would you need another? Mostly because this one has some great features, and it’s really attractive. What’s more, doubleTwist Alarm Clock has recently been updated with a new UI and better features. To top it off, it’s currently on sale for just $0.99, down from $2.99.
When you open doubleTwist Alarm Clock, you will be presented with a lovely analog clock that takes up most of the screen. If you tap the drop down arrow, you get to the meat of the app’s functionality: the alarms. You can tap on any alarm to modify it, and tap the toggle switch to enable it. When you have one or more alarms set, a handle little bar at the bottom of the screen will show you the amount of time until the next alarm goes off. I really like this feature because I'm always paranoid I've set an alarm incorrectly.
When the alarm goes off, the sound will fade in over the course of a few seconds so you aren’t startled out of bed. Although you can crank the volume if you like that sort of thing. If you use a dock, you can set up the big clock interface as a bedside display. Tapping on the analog clock makes it switch to a dark theme with glowing blue hands. In addition to the analog clock face, there is a flip clock that you can use, but it doesn’t look nearly as good if you ask me.
In my testing, I’ve found the app to be completely stable. Everything goes off on time, and I really like the attractive spinners for setting times. My only interface complaint is that the buttons for turning off the alarm are a bit too small. If you were sleeping on your arm, you’re going to have issues. In addition to setting times manually, doubleTwist lets you choose from alarms that go off at sunrise, or after what it deems a "full sleep cycle" based on average sleep needs.
The polished alarm functionality is one thing, but doubleTwist Alarm Clock also comes with a great live wallpaper. You can have the analog clock as your animated background, and you can even toggle between the light and dark theme with a tap. On a tablet with more screen real estate, it looks fabulous. Everything in this app also works well on a phone. Even at $2.99 I think this app is worth it. At just $0.99, it’s a steal.
Pix'n Love Rush
In every way that Machinarium is not a quick play, Pix'n Love Rush is exactly that. This is a retro 80s pixel romp through a series of fast-changing screens as you seek to get the highest score possible. You have your choice of 5 minute timed score attacks like Classic Rush, or survival mode for when you’ve mastered the game.
In this game you play as a little pixelated monster-alien-dog-thing. I’m not actually sure what it is. It sure can jump, though. All the stages you cycle through have an element of platforming to them. You have to jump along, sometimes with the screen scrolling in one direction or another, and pickup up as many points as possible. There are objects that add points, but also some that subtract them. If you can pick up a sufficient number of points in a short time you can get a multiplier going. This is especially fun because the color theme of the game changes each time the multiplier ratchets up.
You control your avatar with a series of soft buttons along the bottom of the screen. Off to the left are the left and right movement buttons. On the right you have jump and fire buttons. Jump is pretty self-explanatory. The projectiles you launch go straight up and come down in a steep parabolic trajectory in front of you. Some levels have more enemies than others, but be aware you can’t just blast your way through -- your projectiles can cause you damage as well.
In some game modes, you die when you fall off the screen, and that’s it. In the main Classic Rush mode, you have a live meter at the top of the screen which will go down each time you take a hit. If you fall off the screen, the game will place you about where you were, assuming that won’t lead to an immediate and repeated fall.
The thing that makes this game enjoyable is that there is a real frantic feel to it. You get used to the vibe of one level, then suddenly you have to completely change your play style. On a phone, this all works very well. On tablets, I’m less impressed. The hit boxes for the buttons are too small, and I found I tended to lose the buttons under my fingers.
The graphics are intentionally crude, and the sound is straight out of some old stand-up arcade machine. The bright colors make the game pop, especially on an AMOLED screen. If you yearn for the classic 80s video game style, Pix'n Love Rush has it in spades.
The game is $1.99 in the Play Store. I feel like this is a good price if you’re looking for something to occupy you for a few minutes at a time. This isn’t a game that’s going to keep you occupied for hours on end like Machinarium, but it serves its purpose.
That's it for this week's Roundup. Feel free to drop me a line with suggestions for future editions of the Google Play App Roundup.