Just when you think Android app developers have found all the angles to make compelling apps and games, another installment of the Google Play App Roundup comes out to prove you wrong. This is your weekly look at what's new and cool in the world of Android. Just click on the app name to check out the Play Store listing for yourself.
This week we send files faster, save the universe with swords, and find a dog in space.
If you have a device with Android Beam, it can be a really cool experience. Just tap phones together, and files, apps, and more can zip right over. The downside is that file push is negotiated over Bluetooth, and that’s a pretty slow way to move large files. Enter SuperBeam, which uses WiFi and NFC to accomplish the same task in a fraction of the time.
SuperBeam integrates with the Android sharing menu, so you can send your large files from any app that supports it. Just trigger SuperBeam, and hold your phone up to a second device (also with SuperBeam installed), and magic happens. The transfer happens lightning fast, and I’ve had no issues with reliability.
SuperBeam currently requires you to have both devices on the same WiFi network, but there is an interesting experimental alternative. If you enable Hotspot mode in the settings, you don’t need a regular WiFi network. In Hotspot mode, the sending device toggles on its Android hotspot, and the other device connects automatically. The file is pushed, and both devices disconnect. I tried this with great skepticism, but it worked flawlessly between my Nexus 4 and Nexus 7.
This app does not use WiFi Direct, which is what I expected when I first downloaded it. The developer plans to integrate WiFi Direct in an upcoming release, but the standard is still awkward to use and tends to be prone to bugs (I agree there).
The app itself has almost no UI, but will show you a progress bar if the file you’re sending is especially big. I’ve been testing it with videos, and it cuts the transfer time from multiple minutes with normal Beam, to about 10 seconds with SuperBeam. You can tap on the SuperBeam notification to see a list of files transferred. There is also a toggle for light/dark Holo modes.
SuperBeam will work on any phone running Android 4.0 or higher with an NFC chip. The Hotspot mode might cause issues on phones with heavily modded carrier skins. If the stock Android tethering menu has been moved somewhere else, it might cause your device to reboot. Otherwise, go crazy. SuperBeam is free.
You’re not supposed to run with sharp objects, but the Nameless King is not technically alive, so it’s okay for him to sprint across the landscape carrying giant flaming swords. That’s handy, because it’s the entire premise for this very entertaining game.
In God of Blades, you must defend the world against unspeakable evil from the heavens. The Nameless King takes the fight to evil with spectral blades forged from legend and memory. You start out with a single sword, but the more stages you complete, the more mythical blades you can “remember.”
God of Blades uses a formula we’ve seen before, but mostly in platforming games. The Nameless King runs from left to right across the screen. Enemies will come at him from the right, and it’s up to you to take them out by timing your attacks well. All the controls come in the form of swipes. Swipe up for a rising attack, down for a slam, forward for a spinning slice, and back to block. This is very easy to get used to, and the game itself is totally responsive.
Different enemies will have different attacks, and you might need to adjust your strategy accordingly. Some attacks are faster, and others are more powerful. It’s all about how good your reaction time is. If you don’t plan ahead, the baddies will get in a few hits before you can take them out.
There are three different weights for the roughly one dozen swords in the game. Light swords have fast attacks, but little power. Heavy ones are slow and pack a punch. Medium blades are right in the middle. When you unlock new swords, there is a brief description of the blade’s history, and more importantly, a clue to its special attack. As you take out monsters, your special attack recharges. It’s good policy to trigger it regularly. It can really make the difference.
God of Blades weaves an interesting story with the aid of ethereal dream sequences and eerie background music. It all feels very well done. Even the combat, which is simplistic, comes off as impressive and engaging.
Visually, God of Blades is really killer. The lighting and particle effects are a little over the top, but you’re carrying a sword taller than you character -- this is not a subtle game. The backgrounds are vibrant and actually move to make the game feel more alive. The animations are smooth, allowing all those swiping gestures to feel completely fluid. Be aware that the sword textures are, for some reason, not showing up in screenshots. They really look much cooler than this.
God of Blades is a solid game that you’re going to want to check out. It’s currently going for $0.99 as an introductory price.
I will grant you that the premise of Astro Shark HD doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. See, Astro Shark’s beloved dog has been shot into space, and now its up to you to travel the stars in search of her. Also, there are missiles. As bizarre as the story seems to be, Astro Shark is actually a really awesome game.
Astro Shark has controls that are perfectly suited for casual touch screen gaming. As you hurtle through space, just press and hold in the general vicinity of a planet, and Astro Shark will go into orbit around it. Not only does this let you change direction with a well-timed release, but you pick up speed from the slingshot effect.
Even if you’re headed in the right direction, picking up speed is going to be important. As you head for the goal in each stage, there will be missiles flying after you. It’s not easy to shake them, but you can use the environment against the projectiles. A well-executed turn can steer missiles into other objects, and some levels include special planets that can be used to your advantage -- like giant ice balls that can freeze missiles solid. It’s this sort of detail that keeps Astro Shark interesting as you progress.
You can also earn stars by completing optional objectives in each level. You might be asked to destroy three planets in a certain amount of time, or freeze 10 missiles in one of the ice stages. This adds a little more substance to the gameplay and improved replayability.
The art style here is an interesting cross between hand-drawn and cell-shaded. It uses a lot of very bold colors and lighting effects. Everything looks whimsical and cool. It’s got a fun vibe, and the animations are all completely smooth on the Nexus 7. Astro Shark HD is only $0.99, and I think it’s a very enjoyable experience. Pick this one up.
That's all for this week, folks. Check back next time for more Android awesomeness.