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Google Play App Roundup: Scatter, Frozen Synapse, and Batman: Arkham City Lockdown

By Ryan Whitwam

Secure file transfer, strategy, and bats.

The week has begun, and that means it’s time for another installment of the Google Play App Roundup. This is where you can come every week to learn about what’s new and cool on Android. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store.

This week file transfers get more secure, strategy pays off, and the bat is back.

Scatter

Getting data synced between your mobile devices and PC can be a pain. There are cloud services, of course, but what if you don’t really want to put your sensitive documents on someone else’s server? Well, Scatter is an option. This is a new beta app from the maker of development utility AIDE. It creates a secure sync connection between your Android devices and a Windows PC.

Start by grabbing the app and signing up for an account. Next install the Windows client and log in. Your phone and computer should instantly see each other. Scatter will sync data over the internet, but it will default to local Wi-Fi if both devices are on the same network. However it’s sent, everything is encrypted and not stored on any server on the way to your device.

From the app, you can hit the menu button and add a file to the app’s sync list. It will immediately set to work uploading it to your computer. On the PC, simply drag a file into the Scatter window to send it to the phone. The process seems reasonably fast for me, even over mobile data.

There is also automatic clipboard synchronization in Scatter, which is kind of magical. In the app, you can set a size limit for this feature between 10kB and 10GB. Anything you copy under the cap -- be it a document, text, URL, or an image -- will be pushed over to the other device. This feature can also be deactivated if you don’t need it running all the time. You may also set a maximum cache size for the app so it doesn’t eat up your phone storage. The app helpfully lists all the data that has been synced from your computer so you can organize it into folders, archive, or delete it.

This app is free right now, but it just hit public beta a few days ago. It seems remarkably stable for me, but some users are having intermittent sync issues. I wouldn't be surprised to see this app cost a few bucks after it’s out of beta. This is one of the best ways to securely move your data between devices, so check it out.

Frozen Synapse

If you’ve ever felt like mobile games are too easy or simplistic, this is going to be a great day for you. Frozen Synapse has arrived on Android, and it will really test your planning and strategic thinking skills. This is a turn-based strategy game optimized for tablets. You play the role of Tactics, a human-digital hybrid capable of crashing through any security system.

There are a few different game modes in Frozen Synapse, including a 55-mission single player campaign. The campaign has a surprisingly compelling storyline to go with it, as well. Each level consists of a randomly generated array of corridors and rooms as seen from above. You control the green units, and you have to take out the red ones. Your units will also have a random assortment of weapons, so pay attention to what they can do.

You set up each turn by tapping on the units you want to move, and creating waypoints with a double-tap. You can set a waypoint anywhere on the map, and the game will find the best route. On the left of the screen are a ton of actions, which can be added to waypoints. For example, you can have a unit duck when it get to a certain place, or open fire on a particular area.

When you’ve set up your turn, you can preview it with the ‘play’ button. This only shows what your own units will do, though. The enemy will have a response, and you’ll have to commit your decisions to find out what it is. The turn will play out after a short loading screen. It breaks up the gameplay a bit, but it’s not too tedious. Your units will take shots at the enemy when they can, but the AI is very good about fighting back.

The gameplay is about the same in all the various modes, but the online multiplayer is really something. Because Frozen Synapse is turn-based, the multiplayer is asynchronous. You don’t have to sit there for 10 minutes while the match plays out. You can come back to it and make your moves when you have time. I suspect more games will actually be completed this way.

The graphics in Frozen Synapse looks simple when you first see it, but there’s actually a lot going on. The glowing outlines of units and hallways get more detailed as you zoom in, and the lighting effects are killer. Even though the levels all basically have the same vibe, it doesn’t really bother me -- it’s a good vibe.

Frozen Synapse is not cheap, though. It’s $6.99 in Google Play, but it’s part of the current Humble Bundle. Only a few days left to claim that deal. This game is currently only for tablets.

Batman: Arkham City Lockdown

This is far from the first Batman game to arrive on Android, but I think it is worth checking out in a way most of the others aren’t. Batman games seem to invite an open world experience, which is fine in some contexts. However, I don’t think mobile is necessarily one of them. While there’s room for that, a simpler style of gameplay often makes more sense. That’s just what Batman: Arkham City Lockdown brings to the table.

Before we gets started, yes, this is an Infinity Blade clone, but it’s a good Infinity Blade clone. You crisscross the city as the masked crusader, taking out thugs and larger baddies with an array of punches, kicks, and gadgets. Each engagement is listed on a map with a brief description. You can take as many runs at the gauntlet of bad guys as you want, and some of the levels are pretty challenging.

This game has simple controls based on swiping. Left and right gestures unleash punches, but you can also add in some up swipes for an uppercut, and down for a kick combo. The pattern of swipes will actually trigger a few different powerful combo attacks, but you have to figure them out on your own. The downward swipe by itself deflects incoming attacks and staggers opponents. Tapping on the screen dodges. The controls are solid, and seem responsive on the Nexus 7. A few times I’ve seen lag pop up, but the N7 isn’t what it used to be. Make sure your device is up to the task.

In addition to the regular attacks, Arkham City Lockdown includes a few curveballs. Your opponents will occasionally become enraged, and while in this state will continue attacking even if they are hit. Best to avoid them until it passes. You also get occasional opportunities to tap targets on an enemy to trigger a special takedown attack. There are occasional sequences where you have to steer a batarang too. All these elements help spice up the gameplay nicely.

The graphics are excellent overall. The character models are detailed, and aliasing is at a minimum. Some of the textures aren’t very crisp, though. And the game’s heavy use of cutscenes makes that kind of obvious. You get a few different environments, but they all have that dingy Gotham City feel. A little more variety would have been nice.

The game costs $6.99, which is definitely high. Your character will level up as you play, granting you cash to buy upgrades. It’s a challenging game, but not overly so. After getting a few upgrades, it really opens up. You can buy more in-game credits if you want to accelerate matters, but I think you should be fine without. Most of the alternate Batman costumes are in-app purchase only, which makes me sad. That animated series batman looks mighty neat, but the free 70's costume is rad too.