Even if you don't have the latest and greatest Android device, there are plenty of apps in Google Play to make your device more useful and fun. These days, in-app purchases are more prevalent than ever, and you want to know what you're getting into before you get your hopes up. This is one of the many concerns that the weekly Google Play App Roundup is here to address. Just click on the app name to head to the Play Store on your device or computer.
This week we look at a new location-aware exploration app, a game that exercises your vocabulary, and a game that puts the fate of thw world in your hands.
This app dropped a few weeks ago, but other releases got in the way until now. I also wanted to give it a thorough test before I formed an opinion because of its nature. It might not look like it, but Field Trip is a Google app that comes from an incubator within the company. The basic premise is that you leave Field Trip running in the background and it just tosses fun facts your way as you wander about town. I find that I quite like it.
When you first start using Field Trip, the app will have you select your preferred notification level, from off to frequent. You can also select the kinds of locations you want to be notified about. Maybe you’re into architecture, deals, and restaurants, but you don’t care about historic events. No problem -- Field Trip can handle that.
When you’re strolling around and a notification is triggered, it will take over the screen when you unlock the device. The card will have rich visuals and some text explaining what you've stumbled across. If it’s a restaurant you might get Zagat scores. If a movie was filmed in an area, you get details of the scene and links to learn more. Field Trip makes walking around your home turf an entirely new experience.
There are a ton of settings too. You can have the app just start reading out the notifications as they come in. This might not be great for everyday life, but if you’re in a new area you might enjoy it. It's also smart enough to hold off on notifying you of locations when Google Navigation is active. If you choose to leave the notifications cranked up, you will also see battery life suffer. Its not the geolocation that gets you; it's the constant push messages. I haven't had any issues with the setting for occasional notifications.
The app's main interface is more skeuomorphic than most of Google's apps. It is split into columns, with the far right being a map view. The center column lists all nearby points of interest. On the right is the history of notifications in case you dismissed something you want to check out.
I think Field Trip is really cool, and it's free. You can safely leave it on the limited notification mode without worrying.
This is yet another game that did quite well on iOS, and has now finally come to Android. W.E.L.D.E.R. is like a crazy combination of Bejeweled and Scrabble that will be hard to put down. You have to slide letters around the board to make words and clear the tiles. You get points based on how complicated the word is, and on what kind of tiles you used. It’s a game that’s both fun and a little educational.
It is going to take some time to get used to the gameplay in W.E.L.D.E.R.. There is no time limit like in straight-up matching games like Bejeweled, but you do have a limited number of moves. When you run out of “swaps” it’s game over. You use one swap each time you tap on two adjacent tiles to swap them. If the move creates a word, it gets cleared from the board.
You start with 25 swaps, and each 250 points you score nets you 5 more swaps. It is possible that as you clear tiles, and more drop in from above, that words will be formed without your intervention. In each level, you have to generate a certain number of words to move on, but you get a fresh board when you do.
As you advance through the levels, you will unlock more aspects of the game. Your limited supply of special swaps can come in handy when you need to move tiles from a different part of the board, move entire groups, and more. The Gigawatt counter is like a form of in-game currency that can help you out by resetting the board, or adding swaps when you run out.
I like that the game keeps track of the words created over time. If a tile drop forms a word that you’ve never heard of, you can tap on it to pull down a definition. Not only can you exercise your existing vocabulary, you can learn new words at the same time.
W.E.L.D.E.R. does have a system for in-app purchases in addition to the up-front price. You essentially buy Gigawatt points to pump up your game. You can still get a fair number of points from just playing, and you start with quite a lot of them. I’m tentatively giving W.E.L.D.E.R. a pass on this count.
This is a game that’s deceptively addictive. I’m particularly taken with it because of the fun steampunk style and that you can play it for just a few minutes at a time. W.E.L.D.E.R. can be yours for the price of $2.99.
In Global Outbreak, a zombie virus has infected the populous. It’s up to you to control teams of elite soldiers to keep the infection at bay by building defenses and deploying ground troops. This game is part real time strategy, and part tower defense It’s going to take some time to get familiar with the rules, but Global Outbreak can be really engaging.
This game spans the entire world with major cities marked by informational beacons. The infections will randomly spread to new cities with the formation of a “pod” of infection. These are literally giant pulsating pods on the street. When they spawn, the infection will spread to nearby nodes and strengthen the zombie forces. You have to intervene by either weakening the outbreak at the periphery, or by diving right into the middle and killing the pods.
When you opt to land a ground squad, you will get a top-down view of your soldiers, usually 4 to a team. Tap anyplace on the screen and they will move there. Firing is handled by swiping across the screen. Any valid target you touch will be targeted and you get bonuses for linking together multiple enemies. When you’ve put down the pods and zombies, it’s time to run back to the chopper.
You have to develop your defense over time by adding outposts and towers to control the spread of the infection. Various special missions pop up occasionally, and these can bring big bonuses. The better you play the game, the more experience your troops get, and the more cash you have on hand for upgrades. Building structures, researching upgrades, and other activities take some time, but you can do other missions or even close the game while you wait. You'll get a notification when activities are complete if you allow them.
Along with the cash, you also have gold to worry about. If you haven't guessed, this is a game that utilizes in-app purchases. You will have to spend a few bucks to have a good experience, but Global Outbreak costs nothing up front. On that basis, I’m okay with spending a few dollars.
The graphics in this title are at the high end. The environments are detailed and animations are very smooth. There is a little aliasing visible, but it’s not bad. You can zoom in on the action with a multitouch gesture, and things still look good up close. The solid lighting effects help make the ground combat feel more real too.
This is a good game despite the in-app purchases. The controls are effective, the graphics are good, and I like the geolocation leaderboards. The gameplay is a little complicated, but you’ll get the hang of it. Check out Global Outbreak in the Play Store and see if you dig it.
That's all for this week. I hope there was something here that could find a place on your Android device. Check back next time for more cool apps.