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Google Play App Roundup: Photoshop Touch for Phones, Slingshot Racing, and Infinite

By Ryan Whitwam

Photoshopping, sling racing, and star building

You work hard, don't you deserve the best mobile apps? The answer to that is surely yes, so read on for this week's Google Play App Roundup. Inside, you'll find the best new Android apps and games. Just click on the app name to head right to the Google Play Store.

This week we look at a pro-level photo editor, a game with sleds, and an abstract arcade experience.

Photoshop Touch for Phones

Adobe released the tablet version of Photoshop Touch many moons ago, but the company just put out a phone version. However, this is not just an update the the tablet-specific app. Rather, Adobe has released a completely separate app for the phone-oriented crowd. It’s fairly expensive at $5, but it has more features than the competition. Is it worth it?

I’ve always been a little at a loss with the interface in Photoshop Touch on tablets, but there is something about the phone UI that feels more usable. Once you’ve selected your picture, or chosen the settings for your blank canvas, the app presents you with bars of icons at the top and bottom. At the top you’ll find all the tools you need to copy, paste, cut, and so on. There are also various adjustments, filters, and transformations in these menus. At the far right is an undo button.

The bottom bar is where you’ll find your brushes, selection tools, and the always useful clone-stamp. When you select a tool on the far left, the center buttons will actually be a scrollable menu where you can change the settings. On the far right is a button to pop open the layers panel. This allows a level of interaction that you don’t get in most other apps.

If you use desktop Photoshop on occasion, you’re going to have to retrain your brain to an extent. Some of the tools are grouped in different places, and the advanced functions are not present. You’re basically getting a stripped down version of Photoshop, but you can manipulate and save PSD files on a phone. That’s pretty cool.

This is a more serious tool than, say, Snapseed. There is no automatic fix setting. You have to make the changes you want to photos, but the tools are very robust. One feature that I love for use on the phone is the cursor view. This gives you a little arrow to drag around via a handle so you can see where it’s resting. There is a button off to the side that triggers a click, allowing for very precise control of the cursor without your fingers in the way.

Photoshop Touch also employs features like scribble select and refine edges to assist with your selection. All of this works fairly well, but the app does have to churn for a few seconds to calculate all those complicated selection changes. Even on the Nexus 4, there are a few instances of sluggishness here.

Overall, this is the king of photo editing on Android phones -- provided you don’t mind a more manual approach. It’s worth the price if you already use and like Photoshop, or if the other photo editing apps just don’t give you enough functionality. Keep in mind the PSD files this app uses will only work with Photoshop CS 5.1 or higher on a desktop.

Slingshot Racing

Racing games on mobile devices seem to take one of two tracks: the simulator and the arcade experience. Slingshot Racing is closer to the second, but it has a game mechanic that makes it unique among racing games. In Slingshot Racing, you have to use your grappling hook to veer around corners while still keeping your lines tight.

Your vehicle in this title isn’t a car, but more of a suped-up sled, which explains the sliding around corners a little better. As soon as the race starts, your sled starts accelerating in a straight line. All the turning is handled by attaching to the posts at every turn, and whipping your vehicle around.

The control scheme in Slingshot Racing is dead simple and perfect for a touchscreen. All you have to do is tap on the screen in any location and the grappling hook will shoot out to the nearest post. The longer you hold, the longer the sled will swing around the post in an elliptical orbit. For a hairpin turn, you might have to hold for a long time, but a gentle curve you can just nudge the sled with a quick tap. Timing is very important here -- if you press to early or late, you might end up attached to the wrong post and swing yourself right into the wall.

To stay ahead of the other racers, you have to keep in mind what the fastest route around the track is. If you try to stay in the middle of the track, your swings around the poles will take longer than if you were in closer. You quickly figure out that the angle of release is just as important as when you latch on with the hook. The gameplay is genuinely challenging and addictive. And there are over 80 races.

Visually, Slingshot Racing has a steampunk vibe, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The style is just different enough to be interesting. The lighting and particle effects are also quite good. Overall, it’s a very attractive game with no lag at all.

Slingshot Racing is only $0.99 and it’s absolutely worth it. This is a nearly perfect mobile game.

Infinite

The first time I picked up Infinite, I was skeptical about the gameplay. The first stage is relaxing -- maybe even placid. How long could that be entertaining, though? Just a few minutes of exploration, and the game has a completely different vibe. The challenge increases, and you get really drawn into Infinite.

The goal of each stage in Infinite is to use your orbiter to collect polygonal clumps of matter floating around the star system. You are tethered to the star, constantly orbiting with no way to slow down or speed up. All you can do is change your distance from the star by pressing and holding. This is how you steer yourself into planet fodder.

When you’ve collected enough mass, you can drop a planet wherever you wish. The level isn’t passed until you’ve placed the necessary number of planets. The twist is that each of these planets also exerts a gravitational force on the surrounding space, changing the gameplay as they orbit the star along with you.

In addition to the matter you’re scooping up, there are hazards to avoid. Various projectiles and enemy vessels fly through the solar system, and you’ll want to avoid them as best you can. Space gets more congested level by level until you take too many hits, and it’s game over. This is an arcade style game, so if you die, it’s back to the start with you.

So the gameplay ended up being more compelling that I thought it would be, but with just these elements it could still wear thin. However, Infinite also has come cool power ups to keep you going. If you grab a shield icon, for instance, you can withstand a few hits without losing any life. This is a nice touch.

The graphics in this title are simple, but I think also appropriate. Everything is geometric vector art. It actually reminds me of the Holo UI conventions used in Android. Each level has a different dominant color and accent background behind the star. The sharp graphics help you keep things straight as dozens of objects fly around the screen. The music is very cool as well. It’s ambient and actually very lovely.

Infinite would be a great game to play for a few minutes while you’re killing time. It’s not deep, but the gameplay is compelling. It’s only $0.99 in Google Play.

That's all for this week, Make sure to drop me a line if you find something worthy of the Roundup!