It's not all about numbers in mobile app stores. The Google Play Store has ballooned over the years to hundreds of thousands of apps, but how can you find the good ones? Might I humbly suggest the thing you're reading now is a pretty good place to start? The Google Play App Roundup is here to tell you about the best new, and newly updated apps on the Play Store. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store and check it out yourself.
This week it's time to go for a relaxing trip down the slopes with certain death on your trail, track your packages more effectively, and survive a microbial world.
I test a lot of games on my Android devices, and many of those are good titles. I often find, however, that developers get too caught up with making a deep and engaging experience to remember that people are playing these on phones most of the time. A game that takes too long to progress through won’t get as much screen time from me. That’s why I love Ski Safari. It’s simple, attractive, and insanely fun.
Here’s the premise: there’s an avalanche, and you don’t want to die. See? Simple. To expand on that a bit, you’re on the mountain, and your only route of escape is to ski like a madman down the slopes to stay ahead of the snow and ice. Your little skis and limited body weight can only carry you so fast, though. It’s lucky that the mountain’s fauna is able to help.
As you go down the slope, you can hop on penguins, yetis, and birds to get a little extra speed. Each of these has a special skill that you can take advantage of. Penguins are fast and let you jump farther. Yetis can withstand several impacts before dumping you off, but won’t jump as far. The bird flies of course, and can take you a fair distance very quickly.
The game’s controls are simple. You just tap on the screen to jump, and long-press while in the air to rotate for backflips. There are a ton of obstacles and jumps to contend with, so you’re going to be jumping a lot. Pulling off one or more backflip rotations nets you points and speed. When you hit a rock or other obstacle, you take a little tumble that slows you down. Riding an animal when you run into an obstacle will keep you from falling, but the beast will be lost.
The game is one of those that you just play until you fail. A few minutes on the slopes, and you’re going to make enough mistakes that the avalanche catches up. At the beginning of each run, you get three objectives to accomplish. You might have to ride 10 penguins, do backflips while in a cave, or find a snowmobile. Each one you finish gets you a star, and closer to a new rank. New ranks mean some perks to help you get farther before the snow catches up.
The art style is very, very good. It’s got a cartoony, almost Pixar vibe. The lines are sharp, and there’s no hint of aliasing. The background is done with long, swooping vector lines that make up far away hills. You can also see some animals running around back there. This is all perfectly smooth.
This game is only $0.99, and it will completely dominate your free time. In fact, your non-free time is as risk too.
This is not a new app, but Slice has just gotten a pretty killer update to version 2.0 that adds some really cool functionality to an app that was already great. Slice is an app that looks for the patterns in your email that indicate you’ve bought something. It then aggregates all your purchases and helps you track your packages.
Previously, this app mainly supported Gmail, but now the service connects to iCloud, Hotmail, and AOL as well. When you sign in with one of your accounts, Slice reaches out and scans for tracking numbers and receipts. Anything with a tracking number will be monitored for changes. So, when something ships, you get a notification, Delivered? Notification. The app’s main UI shows you how many packages you have pending, shipped, and delivered today. Very handy.
If you’ve got a long history of delivery confirmation emails, you can really take advantage of a new feature in Slice. The "Thingerprint" is a data visualization tool that categorizes your spending. You can get this info in your profile within the app. If you buy a lot of electronics, you’re labeled a gadget geek, for instance. You get different designations based on total items, and cash value. I really like the pie chart the app uses to show you how much you've spent.
I’m also impressed with how well Slice identifies purchases now. Most items pull up thumbnails to remind you at a glance what kind of stuff you’ve been buying. You can tap on any item listing, and get an info page with order numbers, cost, customer service numbers, and links to the receipt from your email.
The app picks up on most purchases just fine, but sometimes it does miss things. If that should occur, or if you just want to add a package not in your email, you can now scan a tracking barcode with the app. This is new in version 2.0, and it’s nice to have.
My only concern is that the UI is a little clunky. It doesn’t use an action bar, and there’s no Holo to speak of. Slice 2.0 is free, and everything else about it is great, though. Check this one out.
Life in a petri dish is hard. It’s survival of the fittest, microbe eat microbe, and other clichés too. In Petri, you get to have a go at surviving in this world. You are a lone microbe, but if you swim your hardest, and eat well, you can become an army.
In Petri, you play as a small green bacterium, spinning your flagellum around in search of food. The trouble is that there are plenty of other bacteria humming about that also want to survive. This is problematic seeing as there’s only enough resources for species. In each level, you have to survive and take out the enemy bacteria by consuming them. Sometimes, you have to eliminate a certain number of bacteria of various colors, so you'll have to let them replicate a bit.
You move around by tapping and dragging where you want your microbe to go. This works well most of the time. The physics of movement feel realistic as your bacteria contends with momentum and currents. There are some on screen buttons that control special skills, which can actually get in the way when you’re maneuvering around.
As you gobble up little glowing food specs, your cell will grow. When you reach a certain size, you can split into two smaller cells. One goes off on its own, and you continue on controlling the other. You can keep replicating until you overwhelm your opponent, or just get big and absorb them yourself. If they’re bigger, though, you are the one being eaten. Having multiple cells is like having extra lives, If your main cell is eaten, you get to control one of the others.
There are other skills like scare, which makes other cells get away from you. You might have to use scare to make a path in some levels with barriers of living cells. There is also speed, for when you need to catch up to another bacteria. Keep in mind that the longer you go without food, the smaller your cell gets. You won’t be much good at fighting if you aren’t the biggest. The enemy cells can do all the same tricks you can, so look out.
I really like the graphics in Petri. It has a vaguely Osmos vibe, but not as polished. It does still look nice, though. The background is appropriate and all the microbes have a cool glowing effect. The lighting really works here. As for the sound, it’s mood music and adds to the character of the game. Petri is just $0.99, and I’m impressed with the quality of the experience. It’s a hefty download at 95MB, but worth your time.
That's all for this week. Let me know how you liked these apps, and give me a shout if you find anything good for next time.