It's time for another installment of the Google Play App Roundup. This is the weekly event where we tell you what's new and cool in the Google Play Store. Fire up your phone and click the app names to head right to the Google Play Store so you can try things for yourself.
This week we've got Google's newest service, a game that combines many genres, and a shooter that's sure to eat up your time.
There is no shortage of note taking apps on Android, with Evernote being perhaps the most prominent example. Now out of left field comes Google Keep. This is a web and Android tool for taking notes that are synced with your Google Drive account. Is Google about to run Evernote out of business, or is Keep the next Google Reader?
The main advantage of Keep, from where I stand, is that the app (and web interface) is incredibly clean. It works on both tablets and phones with a large tile UI that reminds me a little of Windows Metro (or whatever they’re calling it these days). There is also a single-column view available in the settings which is a bit more information dense.
At the top of the UI is a bar that lets you add a quick text note. You can also select a special template for a list, image, or voice note. Keep also allows color-coding of notes for organizing your thoughts That, however, is the extent of categorization in Keep. This is really what separates it from Evernote in my day-to-day use. Instead of tagging notes or splitting them up into notebooks, you just search Keep for what you want. It works okay in that respect.
Keep ties into Google Now voice search in a very cool way. In the past, saying “Note to self,” would send you an email with the voice transcription. Yeah, not very useful. Now Google Now will drop the transcribed text right into a new Keep note. It even stores your voice recording as a note attachment in Google Drive. You can remove the audio file if you want to save space. But this is really cool.
Google Keep also has a pair of widgets that fit in perfectly with the Android style. There is a 3x1 with shortcut buttons to making various types of notes, and a larger 3x2 with the same shortcuts along with a scrollable list of existing notes. Both of these widgets are resizable too.
I think Google Keep is a good service for people that don’t need to advanced features in something like Evernote. It’s fast to add notes, and the UI is solid. I wouldn't be surprised to see the often overlooked Google Tasks service folded into Google Keep. Keep is, of course, free.
Dungeon crawling has been done, infinite runners have been done, and matching puzzle games have been done. 10000000 is a mashup of all these genres. That may sound bizarre, well... it is. 10000000 is an unusual experience, but it’s also very addictive.
The premise is that your hero has to earn 10000000 points to earn his freedom, and the only way to do that is to run the dungeon. The dungeon will be in a strip at the top of the screen with everything below being a matching game board. You have to slide the pieces around to give your hero what he needs to survive.
Chests, locked doors, and enemies will stop his progress, so you need to match three or more of the proper item to help him out. So, for example, if you encounter a fearsome skeleton warrior, you need to match swords or staves to attack. What’s more, different enemies will require more matches to defeat. If you get hung up too long, or just can’t find a match, your run ends.
There are a few elements that 10000000 compelling beyond the raw matching game. There are dozens of objectives to complete that deliver gold when completed. Combine this with the gold you earn from chests, and you can buy upgrades to your hero, as well as perks that help you do better in the dungeon.
The matching game also ties back into the upgrade system in a clever way. Mixed in with all the keys, swords, and other useful stuff, you’ll find wood and stone. These tiles won’t do anything for you in the dungeon, but the wood and stone are required to improve your castle and open up the rooms where you can buy those aforementioned upgrades. You''ll also want to clear as many wood and stone tiles as possible so you are more able to make the action-oriented matches you need to survive.
10000000 has retro graphics that seem to fit well with the style of play. The entire game is done in cute 8-bit pixel art. It actually feels like you’re playing an older game with very modern gameplay. The music too is retro, but it works well with the overall vibe.
10000000 costs $1.99 in Google Play, and it’s worth the price. You will get drawn into this experience more than you think. It’s one of those games where you keep talking yourself into just doing one more run at the dungeon, then you’ll totally go to bed. Totally (you won’t).
This game is a top-down space shooter, and it’s far from the first. I would venture, however, that Plasma Sky is among the best on Android. It costs a little bit, but there are absolutely no in-app purchases. Just 80 levels of shoot-em-up action, plus an endless hardcore mode.
There are two control schemes: touch and tilt. I found the tilt controls to be a bit too inexact for my tastes, but I feel that way about tilt controls in most games. The touch controls let you swipe anyplace on the screen and your ship will move 1:1 from its position. This option works well.
There is no story behind Plasma Sky. You just need to survive for as long as possible and destroy all the baddies out to stop you. In each level, a red glow will clue you in to which area of the screen the attack will come from. It might be in front of you, to the side, or even behind you. You don’t have to destroy everything to move on to the next stage, just survive long enough. You’ll see advantages from doing as much damage as possible, though.
I tend to get bored with space shooters when there aren't enough power-ups, but that’s not a problem with Plasma Sky. Every enemy you vaporize will drop a small energy unit. Picking these up slowly fills the gauge at the top of the screen until it levels you up. The higher your level, the more powerful your weapons. There are continues in Plasma Sky, but you lose your weapon level when you die. You want to avoid that.
In addition to the leveling system, there are a ton of special abilities dropped randomly. You can get short term super lasers, shields, slow time, and spiked shields that let you ram enemies. You can even get wingmen that benefit from power ups. The power ups are going to come in handy when you reach the awesome boss battles too.
The thing that makes this title more than just a well-designed game is the killer visual style. Plasma Sky is a neon dreamscape of lasers and explosions. I love it. The lighting effects are dramatic and the wireframe look of most ships keeps things from being too busy. It’s also not too loud, if you know what I mean. The audio isn’t overwhelmed by the sounds of gunfire.
Plasma Sky is only $0.99 (on sale as of this writing, usually $1.99) and you should definitely consider picking it up.
Well, that's it for this week's Roundup. I hope you found something to sustain yourself through the coming week. See you next time.