The next generation of Android phones is fast approaching, so now is a great time to see what's cooking in the Play Store. There are always new apps and games that you're going to want on your next super-phone, and the weekly Google Play App Roundup is the place to find them. Just click on the app name to head right to the Google Play Store so you can test things out for yourself.
This week you can watch where you're going, carve up some demons, and blast through some zombies.
Your phone probably does a lot of cool stuff, but it can be hazardous to go walking around with your face buried in it. It’s just not safe. Sidewalk Buddy offers an alternative to tripping over things and running into people, though. With this app, you can place a small live camera view in a floating window on top of whatever app you’re using. Now you can see where you’re going while using your device.
All you have to do is open the Sidewalk Buddy app and enable the camera view. It’ll spin up in about a second, and you get a window in the middle of your screen with live images from your rear camera sensor. The initial size of the video feed is a little small, but you can just tap the Window Setting button to change the parameters.
You can change the overall size of the window, but the ideal volume is probably going to depend on the size of your display. If you’ve got a Note II, you can probably afford to have a pretty big vide feed. The default Window Size slider will preserve the aspect ratio, but you can uncheck a box to alter the width and height independently. There is also a zoom control
At any time you can drag the live feed box around on your screen. It’s probably best to scoot it off to the corner. You can’t change the size of your feed without opening the Sidewalk Buddy app, but you can double tap on the window to bring up the app and close the camera feed.
I make no claim that everyone needs to install this app, but at the very least it’s fun to play with. It handles the problem better than similar apps that overlay video feeds in a full-screen transparency layer. I don’t notice any device slowdowns on my Nexus 4, and no crashes either. Sidewalk Buddy is free.
Things are not well in the tiny desert town of Hammer’s Peak. The townsfolk have been corrupted by some ancient evil, and only general-purpose badass William Glaston can save the day. You take to the dusty streets of Hammer’s Peak in this third-person action RPG with nothing more than a revolver-sword and electrified robot arm... well, I suppose that’s actually pretty good.
You have two control schemes to choose from in Bladeslinger. The one-handed controls are based around swipes and multitouch gestures. This seems like a good idea at first, but it’s terrible as soon as the difficulty begins to ramp up. It’s just too inexact to be usable. The two handed controls split most of the actions off into dedicated buttons with a thumbstick for movement. You still swipe to swing your sword, but this actually works quite well.
In addition to the regular controls, you will find yourself drawing various shapes on the screen to unlock powerful finishing moves and open gates. The game doesn’t overuse this mechanic, I find that I quite like it. The controls in general are good, once you turn off the one-handed mode. There is a little weirdness with the camera getting flipped around during battles in confined spaces, but it’s usually fine.
Bladeslinger feels at times like an open world game, but it’s actually guiding you through a series of small pockets filled with monsters. As you fight through the hoards, more areas are opened up. You can count on frequent save points to fall back on if things get too hairy, and you can also buy upgrades and equipment with the gold you acquire from battle.
Speaking of the gold, you’re going to find some in-app purchases in Bladeslinger. There are spirit stones and gold to be collected, but you can buy batches of the stuff to get a leg up. I’m not sure that you have to buy additional resources, but it makes things much easier. It’s a little irksome to see IAPs in a $3 game. I do think Bladeslinger has more than $3 worth of appeal. Though, I suspect many potential buyers won’t take a look at Bladeslinger because of the in-app purchases.
The graphics in Bladeslinger are truly top notch. Without a Tegra 3 chip, Bladeslinger is still very good, but devices with Nvidia hardware will get enhanced graphics. The textures are very high-resolution, and everything looks sharp -- no aliasing at all. The game uses a cool depth of field effect to blur objects that are farther away from the camera, but it sometimes goes a little far and makes objects right in front of your character fuzzy. This is probably one of the most attractive games I’ve played on the Nexus 7.
In the end, I feel like Bladeslinger is worth your time if you like action games. You CAN play it without additional purchases, but you’ll enjoy it more if you do. If you end up paying an extra $2-3 for a better experience, I think you’re still winning.
This game has zombies in it, but before you roll your eyes, just give it a chance. Earn to Die is not your typical zombie game -- it’s more of a 2D Mad Max redux with zombies peppered throughout. Your goal is to survive the ultimate road trip across the western US during a zombie apocalypse. Along the way you can unlock 8 different vehicles with tons of wacky upgrades.
You start the game with a beat up old car with limited gas -- you will fail to reach the next checkpoint. Each time you fail, you get a bit of cash to upgrade your ride. Little by little you increase your fuel capacity, add better components, and load up on weapons to clear the way.
There are several elements conspiring to drag you down each time you make a run at the checkpoint. Zombies are all over the place, and each one you hit slows you down just a bit. There are also various bit of wood, boxes, and explosive barrels in your way. Upgrading your vehicle can ameliorate these effects and help you get closer to the goal.
There is an accelerate button in the lower right of the screen. You’ll want to keep that pressed most of the time, but you have to pay attention to the terrain and how your vehicle is landing each time you catch some air. There are clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation buttons on the opposite side of the screen that help you keep an even keel. If you land awkwardly you’re just going to waste your limited fuel.
As you make larger sums of cash, you can get better equipment and vehicles. There’s a humvee, a school bus, a monster truck, and more. I love the upgrades, which are just the right kind of over-the-top fun to fit with this game. I’m talking about things like a giant buzz saw on the front of your decked-out school bus to chop up zombies. There is no denying that’s cool.
The upgrade gameplay in Earn to Die is extremely compelling. It only takes a few minutes to do each run, even if you reach the next checkpoint. There’s always that urge to just make one more set of upgrades and take your crazy conveyance for a spin. I’m also incredibly happy that this title has NO in-app purchases. It’s a game that could have easily added them, but the developers thought better of it. Yay.
Visually, Earn to Die is solid. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s clean and well-designed. There is very little aliasing, and the animation is perfectly smooth on my Nexus 7. My only concern is that the game could use a few more environments. Most of it looks very much the same.
Earn to Die selling for a little more than $1 in Google Play. You should definitely consider picking it up for some casual gaming fun.
That's it for this week's Roundup. Check back next time for more apps.