Sometimes is take a little while for an app to make its way to Android from other platforms. Other times Android gets top billing, but not all phones have access. Yes, it's not always easy to keep track of the apps in the Play Store, and you don't want to miss those introductory sales. That's why we do the Google Play App Roundup. Each week you get the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Just click on the app name below to head right to the Play Store to download these apps yourself.
This week things get real with zombies, your phone shows off its linguistics, and a racing game isn't what you expect.
Nvidia showed off a few beautiful games several weeks ago to demo its new Tegra chips. One of those games was Dead Trigger, which is made by Madfinger Games. I feared this would be another Tegra exclusive app, but instead we have an example of how gaming on Android is supposed to work. You can get Dead Trigger on any mid or high-end Android device, but it plays best on devices with Tegra for special visual effects.
There are only so many ways to tell the zombie apocalypse story, so Dead Trigger dispenses with the pleasantries and drops you straight into the swarms of undead with nothing but lots of guns to defend yourself with. All things considered, that’s not bad.
Unlike Shadowgun, this effort from Madfinger is a first-person shooter. The lessons learned from Shadowgun are put to use here, though. Your controls are laid out as you’d expect. Tap and drag anywhere on the left of the screen to walk and strafe. Do the same on the right side to aim and look. There is a fire button off to the right, and you can continue aiming while holding it. This is a handy feature in a shooter. You also get buttons for reloading, and scope view (if your weapon has one).
Each level is laid out with a clear objective. You might have to get from one place to another, or protect a location for a certain amount of time. I am infinitely happy that these levels are nice and short. It takes, at most, a few minutes to blast through one. It's great for playing when you just have a few minutes to kill. I still find the levels appropriately challenging and enjoyable at this length, though.
The graphics engine is really what sells Dead Trigger, though. The game is gorgeous, and the zombies have crazy levels of detail. Tegra devices will have better shading and textures, and Tegra 3 will offer stunning water effects and ragdoll physics.
I truly appreciate that you’re not just looking at three different zombie units ambling toward you the whole time. You will see some repetition, though. The clothing, faces, and movement are somewhat varied. Some of the undead shuffle at you slowly, and some have a little more speed. Some others will take more than a single well-placed shot to drop as well.
You will pick up cash in each stage, which can be used for upgrades, There is also an in-app purchase system, which I’m not crazy about. The game already costs money, so it should be complete. The introductory price is just $0.99, so maybe it’s not that bad.
This app made quite a splash when it came out on iOS a few years back. Word Lens allows the you to hold the phone up, and using the camera as a viewfinder, instantly translate text from one language to another. This is an imperfect solution, but it’s really fascinating to play with as long as you understand it's not perfect.
The app will open with a camera viewfinder taking up most of the screen. All the translation happens live, and you can choose your preferred mode with the button at the top of the screen. You can go from English to another language, but for most of you, the opposite will be more useful. The app uses optical character recognition to find the words, and overlay the translation.The app will autofocus if you give it a second, but you can also tap to force a faster re-focus.
You will notice that there is some jitteriness and flashing as the image works itself out. I would like it to be a little more sure of itself, but this is just the cool preview mode for showing off. If you want a better translation, hit the pause button at the bottom. That will capture the current view and translate it more effectively.
I tested Word Lens by finding a few Spanish language news stories online, as well as some images of street signs. The screen distortion was not helping, but printing them allowed me to do some more extensive testing. I find that it works well on street signs -- flat surfaces with large, sans serif fonts. It works less well on computer screens. I also found a few items around the house and translated the labels into Spanish. Smaller fonts, tightly-spaced paragraphs, as well as anything that is italicised or looks handwritten won’t work.
While the live view could still use some cleaning up, I like that it actually tries to match the background color of whatever you’re testing. The static paused screen replaces that with blue overlays which are easier to read. You can lock the orientation from the on screen controls, and if you have a flash on your phone, that can be activated as well.
The free version of Word Lens comes with two demos: reversing words and removing them. These are just to help you figure out how the app will do on your device. From inside the app, you can make in-app purchases for Spanish, Italian, and French language packs. During the introductory sale (through July 22) each pack is $4.99. There is a version of the app that costs $4.99 up front and comes with a language pack of your choice, but you should definitely start with the free trial.
Overall, I like Word Lens. While it’s not perfect, the technology is useful and it’s very fun to play with.
Draw Race 2
The first Draw Race game was a ton of fun, so I’ve really been looking forward to the second incarnation. Happily, it’s everything I’ve been hoping for. This is not your run of the mill racing game, but it’s every bit as pulse pounding as the Asphalts and Need for Speeds in the Play Store.
In Draw Race 2, you draw out your entire race before the race actually starts. The game will direct you to start by pressing and dragging from your car. Draw the exact path you want to take by circling the track the correct number of times. When the race starts, your car will follow that path. Hopefully it’s an efficient path, or the other cars could win. There are also a few races that require you to collect a minimum number of balloons to advance. This is a nice way to keep things interesting.
Essentially, the race itself is a simulation. You might think that sounds boring, but it’s really not. You’re watching as your car speeds along, and you have to wonder if you’ve made the right call. Each race take under 30 seconds to run, so you don’t have to wait too long to see if you nailed it or not. You can also trigger nitro boosts for a small measure of interactivity during the race.
As you trace out your path, the speed at which you move determines how fast your car will go. You want to go faster on straightaways, and slower around turns. This is a really cool game mechanic, and really makes the game, as far as I’m concerned. If you are going too fast around a bend, it won’t matter if you’ve traced the perfect path. Your car will still spin out and give your opponents an edge.
New cars and tracks are unlocked as you go through the game, but you also have the option of unlocking everything for $4.99 as an in-app purchase. I don’t recommend you do that. Why would you want to pay money to have the game beaten for you?
The graphics here are pretty great. When you’re drawing, the camera is zoomed out so you can see where you’re going. As the race starts, it zooms in and you can get a closer look at things. There is a little aliasing, but it’s not bad. The textures are nice and crisp, and the animations are great. I’m also very impressed with the lighting effects, especially in the night races.
I did get a strange pop-up ad upon starting the game recently. I hope that was a one-time occurrence, but I’m not sure if it will continue to happen. Otherwise, it’s a great game for $2.99. Be aware there is a roughly 250MB download associated with this game, and it happens upon first start up. Kiss that return window goodbye.
That's it for this week's Roundup. Let me know how these picks treat you, and feel free to recommend more apps and games for future Roundups.