There's always a new app or game coming out for Android, which is rapidly catching up to that other platform. If you seriously evaluated every app of note, it would be a full time job. Best to just rely on the Google Play App Roundup to filter things for you. This is the place you can find the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Click on the app names below to head right to the Google Play Store.
This week we have a completely redesigned file explorer, a great platformer, and a game with lots of explosions.
Android has a full file system and there are times you might want to dig around in it. Plenty of apps exist that fulfill that function, but ES File Explorer was one of the first well-known options. It has been around for years, but changed very little. Now ES File Explorer has been updated to version 3.0, and it’s totally redesigned. Not only that, but it’s still completely free.
The new UI has a more modern feel, but it’s not Holo. That’s fine by me as I feel like some of the straight-up Holo apps are starting to look a little generic. ES File Explorer uses an Android-friendly color scheme and simplifies the menu system quite a bit.
The interface is made up of a number of swipable panels, each for a different kind of storage. There is local storage, root, LAN, and cloud storage (Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, etc.). You can see what panels you have open with the icons at the top of the screen, and any of them can be closed with the X in the corner.
Your folders and files in each panel will be in a vertically scrollable list, and I’m very happy with the icons. ES used to have cartoon-y icons and it just looked unprofessional. The new icon set is mature and understated. There is also support for themes, but the only one right now is the “classic” look. No thanks.
Most of ES File Explorer’s UI is easy to figure out, but the function buttons at the bottom are more than they appear. If you swipe across that bar right to left, you get a thumbnail preview of your open windows along with the ability to manage them. Useful, but not terribly obvious. Long-pressing on a file or folder activates multi-select mode. However, if you just start dragging an item, you get corner shortcuts. By dropping the icon onto one of these, you can delete, move, copy, or share a file. This is very cool, but again, not easily discoverable.
Like some other file managers, ES adds extra tools including an app backup manager, download manager, SD card analyzer, and the ability to create a local network server on your device. It’s impressive to see so much included with a free app.
I would say that Solid Explorer is still my favorite Android file manager, but it’s not free. I know that’s important to some folks. So if you need to access Android’s file system, check out ES. It’s virtually the same as the paid alternatives.
Platformers are a dime a dozen, but consider They Need To Be Fed 2 (TNTBF2) the exception that proves the rule. This game is a followup to one of my all time favorite platformers on Android, and it retains its unique visual style and killer 360-degree gameplay.
The goal in TNTBF2 is simple: get eaten. Yes, that’s usually a bad thing in games -- it indicates that you’ve lost somehow. But in this case, your avatar is little more than food for giant snapping plants. It’s for the greater good, you see. Between you and the hungry plant will be a number of floating platforms and traps, though.
Each platform in TNTBF2 has its own gravity. You can walk all the way around the surface of the islands in the sky with the clockwise and counter-clockwise buttons. The jump button is pretty easy to figure out, but getting a handle on the game’s physics will take a few minutes. When you jump close enough to another platform, its gravity will take over and pull you in. You have to maneuver yourself from one object to the next while avoiding dangers. It actually gets quite challenging.
There are several items to be picked up in each stage. The gems are optional, but improve your score. They’re not always easy to get, but the more you have the faster you unlock the next world. Some levels also have a seed you’ll need to pick up. The seed will germinate once you’ve reached a platform with the right conditions. Sometimes it spawns a bouncy plant that launches you onward, and sometimes it is the very plant you’re out to feed, thus completing the level.
Visually, TNTBF2 is absolutely awesome. It’s clean and vibrant, with each world using a different color scheme. Your avatar is a black slip of a thing set against the loud backgrounds. Everything is also perfectly smooth. If you have an AMOLED device, this title will look even cooler.
The gameplay in They Need To Be Fed 2 is just so compelling. There are 50 stages, and they're just the right length. You won’t spend 10 minutes negotiating obstacles just to get to the next level. TNTBF2 is selling for about $2 in Google Play. Even though it’s a bit short, I think the style and solid platforming make it worth your attention.
Yes, this is a World War 2 game, but don’t run for the hills quite yet. This one is actually pretty good, and it doesn’t beat you over the head with the WW2 thing. Hills of Glory 3D is a cross between real-time strategy and “castle defense” style games. It uses simple touch controls and an experience system to move the gameplay along.
In each level, you are in command of a bunker that everyone seem to want to blow up. Enemy troops will stream into the area, and it’s up to you to take them out. All the stages are a fairly large top-down battlefield with houses, bridges, and natural features. You can pan around by tapping and dragging.
The game will indicate approaching troops on the screen with yellow arrows. When you have the enemy in your sights, you have to decide how best to take them out. Tapping will fire single rifle rounds from the bunker, which is fine for handling regular enemies. You also start out with a mortar attack that can be triggered with a long-press. This is the best way to stop tanks and large groups of troops. The mortar has limited ammo, but it regenerates.
Your weapon panel off to the left shows you what you have access to, but it varies based on how far into the game you are. Most of the more powerful attacks (napalm, machine gun, etc.) are triggered with a multitouch gesture. These weapons also regenerate, but can be upgraded to do so faster, or dish out more damage.
The strategy element in Hills of Glory is mostly about managing your time. Enemies will come at you from multiple directions, and you have to stop them before they start firing on you. Sometimes you need to take out a bridge, or lay down some napalm to funnel your adversaries into an area you can more easily mop up. The layout of the level also comes into play as your rifle attack will be blocked if the enemy is passing behind a house or other obstacle.
The graphics in this title are nice -- actually a lot better that I expected. It’s not photorealistic, but rather a slightly skewed cartoon style. The textures are much more detailed than I would have guessed considering the game type. Although, the character models are a bit on the simple side. The animations are smooth, and I don’t see any slow downs on the Nexus 7.
Hills of Glory 3D is free to play, but it also uses in-app purchases. Yeah, I’m not crazy about it either, but this is the world we live in. You earn coins from playing the game -- actually a fair number of them. You can buy more to beef up your weapons, but you don’t HAVE to. Spending a few dollars will help keep things moving along, though. There are also ads in the menus of the game, but nothing during actual play.
Whether or not you like in-app purchases, this is a fun game. It’s worth checking out, even if you don’t want to put any cash into it.
That's the end for this week's Roundup. Check back next time for more killer apps and games.