There are always new apps and games arriving on Android, but they're not always easy to find. That's why we do the Google Play App Roundup every week. This is a quick look at the best new and newly updated things on Android. Just click the app name to heat to the Play Store.
This week there's a new timer app, a game with a moderate number of pixels, and a wonderful puzzler.
It’s not a headlining feature, but you really need to have a solid timer app on your phone. Google improved the timer situation dramatically in Android 4.2, but you probably don’t have that app built into your device. There’s a new app in Google Play called Beautiful Timer that gives more Android devices a similar experience.
The interface lives up to its name, which is what’s going to hook you on this app. It’s very attractive and has an Android-y Holo vibe. You set timers with a popup number pad just like the stock app. The remaining time is displayed in a circular gauge that fills most of the screen. A cluster of buttons are also present to pause, save, delete, and change the sound of the timer.
You can swipe left and right to access more timers, which can be run simultaneously. At the bottom of the UI is a slide-up tray with a few extra options. Your saved timers will be in a scrollable list here along with buttons to add blocks of time to the currently selected timer. This might be the least Holo element of the UI, but it does use that sharp Android-blue color.
When you have countdowns running, Beautiful Timer will place an item in your notification shade that lists the remaining time. It goes a step farther than the stock app by including buttons to pause or cancel the timer. You need Android 4.1 or higher to do this, though.
Another very cool aspect of Beautiful Timer is the multiple ways to dismiss alarms. If you venture into the settings, you can enable proximity and orientation dismissal. For the proximity mode, simply wave your hand in front of the device to shut it up. The orientation mode is triggered by flipping the device screen-down.
The basic functionality in Beautiful Timer is free, but a $1.99 in-app upgrade is needed for the more advanced features. The full version enables unlimited timers, home screen widget, quick add buttons, and proximity/orientation dismissal. It’s worth at least trying the free version.
I don’t immediately jump at new Kairosoft games the instant they come out like I might have in the past. This is partially a response to the predictable gameplay and design, but also because I’m busy and can’t always spend 12 straight hours playing a game. Yeah, Kairosoft games are still very addictive, and there is now a sequel to one of the best the developer has ever made. Pocket League Story 2 is in Google Play, and it’s free to try.
The game mechanics are mostly the same as they were in the original Pocket League, but let’s recap. You are the manager of a soccer team that starts out in the amateur leagues, but with careful planning can reach the upper echelons of sports. The key to making it appears to be a lot of tapping. Seriously, you have to press a button about every 0.025 seconds in Pocket League Story 2.
The thing is, you’re really going to want to press those buttons. The gameplay is extremely compelling. You begin with a mediocre team, but you can soon recruit new team members and train the other ones to improve their stats. The game really lets you drill down and see what every player is capable of. If you don’t need someone, you can let them go.
There are a ton of matches to play in and win money. The games are actually simulations -- you don’t control the players at all. Each one is about 2 minutes long, and it’s more compelling than you might expect. You start rooting for your players like you would in a real game. You can only set general strategies, activate special powers, and substitute players when someone runs out of stamina.
Outside the actual player management, you also have to keep track of fan outreach, sponsorships, and facility improvements. Neglecting these aspects of the game will make it tough to continue winning matches.
The graphics are essentially the same thing Kairosoft has been doing for the last few years. It’s retro, but retro done well. It’s a kind of enhanced 8-bit look with very smoothed-out animations. The game does its best to be adorable, and it pretty much succeeds. If you’ve been playing these games, it will be old hat. If you haven’t played A Kairosoft title, it’s going to be instantly endearing.
Pocket League Story 2 is a free to play title, and you don’t have to pay anything if you don’t mind a persistent ad at the bottom of the screen. The orientation is also locked to portrait mode. A $4.99 in-app purchase removes those restrictions.
The Quell games are among the most popular puzzlers on Android, and the newest installment has left its Amazon Appstore exclusivity behind. Quell Memento is now available in Google Play.
The gameplay in Quell Memento is similar to the past games, but there are a few twists. The premise of the game is that you’re solving these little geometrical puzzles to help an old man reassemble his lost memories. Each puzzle is spectacularly well-designed. The Quell developers make some of the cleanest, most engaging puzzles on a mobile device.
You use swipe controls to move your game piece -- a water droplet -- around the board. The droplet will continue to slide in the direction you indicate until it encounters a wall or other object. To get the highest score, you need to complete the stage in a certain number of moves. It’s possible to complete most levels in more moves, but you risk getting stuck. If you work yourself into a corner (sometimes literally), you’ll just have to start over. That’s not a huge deal, though. Each puzzle can be completed in under a minute.
The gameplay evolves as the game goes on. You start with the goal of picking up colored spheres. Later, the game moves on to having you toggle the color of all the blocks on the board. While the goal changes, the mechanics stay the same, which makes the game seamless. The difficulty ramps up slowly over 140 levels so you never feel outmatched by the increasingly complicated puzzles. There is also an option to see solutions to especially vexing puzzles by trading the coins you earn by completing puzzles in the requisite number of turns.
Quell is a 2D top-down game that doesn’t really emphasize its graphical prowess. Although, I’d say it’s a very attractive game when compared to other puzzlers. The lines are crisp, and the animations are buttery smooth. The soundtrack is also very cool. It’s a relaxing ambient track with a fair bit of variation. What more can you ask for in a puzzle game?
Quell Memento is $2.99, and it’s a must-have for fans of puzzle games. There are some optional in-app purchases, but they are in no way required to play the game as intended.
That's all for this week. Check back next time for more apps.