Android is a more open operating system than that other big name. It doesn't often get the same amount of development love as iOS does, but popular apps are increasingly coming to the platform. On the flip side, some really interesting system utilities are possible on Android that could never exist on iOS. That's one of the things the Google Play App Roundup is here to tell you about. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store to get the app for yourself.
This week we search like we've never searched before, infect everyone, and play some sportsball.
Searching has been a mainstay of Android since the beginning. One of the ongoing legal cases against the platform has to do with universal search, and some phones have been stripped of useful search features as a result. Well, Conjure is an app that can be used to search your device in a new, and very cool way. This app pulls up content, but also settings and deeper parts of the OS.
Conjure does not just provide links to your settings, it integrates the controls matching your searches right into the results. Opening Conjure can be accomplished in two ways; if you have a search button on your phone, Conjure can take over the long-press functionality of that button. If not, you’ll have to use one of the Conjure widgets, but I find this to be just fine. There is a 4x1 search bar, as well as a 5x3 search and history widget.
You can do any kind of search on Conjure, and it will send you to Google if that’s appropriate. Type something like ‘volume,’ and you get a list in the autocomplete area of active sliders that you can use to adjust the volume of your notifications, ringtones, alarms, and so on. Android is good about exposing settings in a fairly convenient way, but there are still some things like this that are even better with Conjure.
You can also start typing a contact’s name and you get handy call and text buttons next to the results. Similarly, if you start to spell out any of the standard system toggles, like Wi-Fi or Airplane mode, you get buttons in the autocomplete area to toggle those settings. At a more basic level, this search app will replace the local app launching that was disabled in many Samsung devices following the Apple court filing.
If you’re really into Conjure, you can even have a persistent notification up top that launches the app from anywhere. Conjure is not free, but $1.99 is a reasonable price for a certain set of users. I think anyone that tries to go for a more minimalistic home screen would find Conjure useful because it brings so many functions together in one place.
The end of humanity is nigh and you get to make it happen. At long last Plague Inc has come to Android and it’s every bit as disturbingly fun as I expected it would be. It’s not often that rooting for the painful death of all people everywhere is a good thing, but here we are.
The main interface in this game is a world map with a few informational bars around the periphery. It seems static at first, but you can see small boats and planes gliding along and a strange red stain slowly leaking through. That red stain is you -- a deadly pathogen ready to take out the world.
You spread by adding traits purchased with DNA points. Small flags will pop up on the map, which you can tap in order to gain more DNA points. You also get points by infecting large numbers of people, and then still more for killing them. In the disease menu you can see how your pathogen rates for transmissibility, severity, and lethality.
Your goal should be to evolve the traits necessary to spread without being too visible. Once you’ve been spotted, those measly humans will start working on a cure. You can evolve more abilities to stymie their efforts, and even set back the progress of developing a cure. It’s also important that you don’t make yourself so deadly that you kill the infected faster than you infect new people. There’s real strategy here.
When you’ve beaten the game with one type of pathogen, more will be unlocked more. You’ve got bacteria, viruses, parasites, bioweapons, and more. Each one has strengths and weaknesses but it takes time to unlock. This is the first place you’re likely to encounter an in-app purchase. You can unlock more pathogens for a few bucks if you like. The game itself has an ad at the bottom, but it’s just $0.99 to unlock the full version. It’s worth it if you’re annoyed by ads.
Plague Inc is a simple concept, but it’s really engaging and fun to play. Each round plays out just a little bit different as you evolve to thrive in different regions and attempt to topple nations before they finish a cure. There are various random modifiers that come up. For example, the humans might invent a new safer way of filtering air on planes, meaning that you have to evolve advanced air transmission if you want to hop a flight.
You should absolutely download Plague Inc. seeing as it’s free to play. You don’t even have to drop a dime on it if you don’t mind that ad.
I don’t pretend to be an expert when it comes to sports games, but NBA 2K13 seems like a solid game that takes a more realistic approach to basketball than some of the competition. It comes with all the teams and players you know, and the controls are actually better than I expected them to be. This title does come with a big download, and it’s also not cheap. Just for super-fans, or general appeal?
When you start up NBA 2K13, you have your choice of a quick game, or multi-season league play. You’re probably familiar with the game of basketball if you’re interested in this game, so I’ll spare you the details. You can play each game on your schedule, and simulate the ones you don’t want to play. This is a standard feature of full-scale sports games, but it’s nice to see it in the Android version at any rate.
There are a few options to be aware of when setting up your game. Since having a multi-hour b-ball game on your device isn’t the best use of time, you will have the option of picking how long each quarter lasts in real time. A five minute quarter will result in a game a little over 20 minutes because of replays, penalties, and animations.
Controls come in two forms, classic and one-finger. Classic controls have a thumbstick for controlling your player. Off to the right are buttons that change depending if you are on defence or offense. You get all the necessary stuff like passing, shooting, blocking, and stealing. This control scheme works fairly well, but playing defense is very hard until you get familiar with the feel of the game. The only real complaint I have here is that the buttons are too close together, and the thumbstick is too light.
The one-finger controls are very strange, but interesting if you want a more casual experience. The players will drive toward the basket automatically. You simply have to swipe in the direction of a teammate to pass. Long-press and release to take a shot. Definitely not in-depth, but some folks might appreciate it.
Graphically, NBA 2K13 oscillates between very good, and lacking. This is an example of developers that don’t know how to work within the limits of their engine. The main game looks great. From a normal distance, the players look lifelike and detailed. When the game zooms in between plays, everything looks blocky and odd. This is the exception rather than the rule, though.
The audio will probably appeal to sportsball fans. The music is varied and the announcers are not that bad. They can get repetitive, but not egregiously so. NBA 2K13 is $7.99, but it is one of the better sports sims on Android. Basketball fans should check this one out.
That's it for this week. Hopefully you saw something you like this time, but check back next week for more picks.