It's time again to dive into the Play Store and see what treasures it hides. Will we find a killer game? A gem of a to-do manager? Something else entirely? The only way to find out is to read the Google Play App Roundup, which is what you're doing right now. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store on your device.
This week we've got a new Reddit app, a game from a well-known developer, and a puzzler that's almost too cute for words.
Reddit is a pretty great way to pass time on the internet, but to get maximum enjoyment out of the site on mobile, you'll want a good app. There's no shortage of such apps, and this week we have a new one to check out. Reddit Flow is admittedly light on features. However, it's got some potential.
Reddit Flow is clean and minimalist, relying on sliding panels for navigation. Interestingly, it behaves like a Holo app, but doesn't look particularly like one. If you slide the list of posts off to the right, you get a panel listing all the sub-Reddits you are subscribed to and various settings. You'll notice right off the bat that the main app settings are not yet implemented. You can at least log in, though.
Just tap on a post to open it in a new panel off to the right. You can get back to the main list by sliding to the left. Sliding from the open image or article to the right brings up the comments. I quite like this setup -- it's considerably faster than many other apps in this respect. Reddit Flow also strips out formatting and extraneous junk from many sites. It's almost like using Instapaper.
Reddit Flow works on both phones and tablets. On a tablet, this app is close to being great. In landscape mode it has a solid dual-pane interface. You can open an image and keep it on the right, while still scanning through the front page on the left. In addition, you’re still able to slide back and forth between the link and comments on the right. I'd like to see portrait mode dual-panes, though.
Of course, Reddit Flow does all the normal Reddit things like voting and commenting. However, some more advanced features like user badges and sidebars are not supported. You also can't submit links yet. A lot of apps actually lack this feature when they first debut.
Reddit Flow is incredibly smooth and opens links very fast. There are a few different themes right now, with more possibly coming later. What this app does now, it does very well. It's free, so give it a look.
Rise of the Blobs
You might remember a little action platformer game called Wind-Up Knight. Well, the developer of that smash hit is back with a puzzler called Rise of the Blobs. It’s a completely different style than we saw last time, and it has some positives and negatives. Lets take a look.
In Rise of the Blobs, you have control of a little marshmallow man sitting atop a large cylindrical tower or building. With each passing second, the wall of blobs creeps upward toward you. To stop them, you have to throw fruit down to pop them. Why fruit? Well, I’m not sure if the blobs really like the fruit, or really hate it. But they certainly do blow up when you match the fruit to the color of the blob.
The “game board” is three-dimensional, so you’ve got to swipe from side to side to rotate the camera and align the fruit. When a fruit hits the right color blob, it is ready to pop. Hold on, though. Part of the strategy is to wait for the right time. You can continue loading the board up with primed blobs, then pop them. See, each blob you trigger a chain reaction clearing all blobs of the same color it is connected to.
The game comes with several modes, all based around this same concept. The longer you can survive, the faster the game moves. I don’t have a problem with the nature of the gameplay. It’s very enjoyable overall. However, the speed ramps up too fast. Each wave of blobs is considerably harder than the last. A few minutes, and you’re toast... unless you want a little boost?
Like Wind-Up Knight, Rise of the Blobs is monetized with in-app purchases. You can buy power ups, special abilities, and other goodies. You get coins from playing the game, and thankfully there is not a second shadow currency like you’ll find in some games. Just use the coins that you win or buy to unlock things.
The visuals in Rise of the Blobs are solid. It has the same 3D vibe that Wind-Up Knight did. The colors are vibrant, and the animations are cool. Once you get more locations unlocked, the environments turn out to be varied and well-designed.
I like Rise of the Blobs, but I worry the in-app billing is going to be too aggressive. You’re not just buying stages like in Wind-Up Knight, you’re buying (among other things) single-use power-ups. Still, Rise of the Blobs is fun and free to try.
Tupsu is the name of both the game, and the creature you control in the game. Tupsu is a sort of furry, sticky thing with multiple eyes. I know that sounds gross, but Tupsu is actually pretty cute. This is a puzzle game that borrows a lot from the likes of World of Goo. You have to guide Tupsu to the end of each level using only his sticky eyes.
The only way Tupsu can move is if you stretch an eye to a suitable surface and place it there. Then the elastic action of Tupsu’s eyestalk will pull it closer. You can then tap on the eye to dislodge it so it can be connected somewhere else. If you get some momentum going, you can really pick up speed. Not all the platforms and ramps in Tupsu are compatible with your sticky eyes, so you’ve got to plan ahead. It’s possible to get Tupsu stuck in a corner, or to just tumble off the level and have to start over.
As you play, Tupsu introduces a number of additional game mechanics, but the core of the experience is the eyeball stretching. By the end of the first 10 levels, I was starting to get a little bored with the limited nature of Tupsu’s single eye. Luckily, the next set of 10 levels steps it up to two sticky eyes. You can do a lot more swinging and crawling with two appendages, and it really spices up the levels. Likewise, the third set of levels adds a third eye. Tupsu is really enjoyable to swing around in.
I have to admire the level design in Tupsu. There are times that it feels almost like a physics platformer, but there is always that element of puzzle solving. How do you get from this platform to that one? How can you detach an eye from this ledge without falling to your death? It’s genuinely challenging.
The graphics are cartoony and look almost hand-drawn. Textures are simple, but everything is smooth and free of aliasing. It’s a very clean game overall. If there is a visual drawback, it’s that the three worlds are too similar. They’re basically made of the same objects in different colors.
So you might be thinking that Tupsu sounds like a good time, and you could see dropping $0.99 on it. Well, put that money away. Tupsu is completely, inexplicably free. This same game costs $0.99 on iTunes, but it’s free on Android and there are no ads! Download this.
Well, that's it for this week. Everything in this week's Roundup can be downloaded for free, which doesn't happen that often, so try to have some fun. You probably deserve it. Make sure to check back next week for more (possibly free) apps.