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Google Play App Roundup: The Transit App, Rymdkapsel, and Dropchord

By Ryan Whitwam

Transportation, space stations, and the groove.

You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That;s what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.

This week we get around better, manage a space station, and drop the bass.

The Transit App

Google Maps has public transit direction, but The Transit App comes along at a good time. With the new, more attractive redesign of Google Maps, some of the advances features were stripped out. Among them was the multiple choice transit search. This is functionality The Transit App includes, but it does a few other interesting things as well.

The default view in The Transit App is a "Nearby" mode that uses your physical location to tell you about all the buses, trains, subways, and light rail stops nearby. The app can instantly pull up the itinerary for any of these so you can see whereabouts you can get from wherever you are.

For a more exact plan, you can of course get directions to a location. The Transit App will show you the four fastest routes and tells you up front how long you have until you’d have to be out the door. It even includes walking directions to the pickup location. There is an embedded Google Maps frame to show you the routes visually, but a regular list of directions is also available.

A handy feature of The Transit App is future scheduling. If you plan to hop on a bus or train at some point in the near future, you can set a departure time in the app and get directions relevant for then, but delivered now.

The Transit App is only available in 43 metro areas right now, but it’s a better mix than you’ll find with most apps. It includes Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Baltimore, Austin, and a number of smaller cities in Canada (it’s a Canadian company).

Most locations supported by The Transit App have real time tracking of departure times. This allows you to know when a bus or train is actually leaving, not simply when it is scheduled to leave. It’s not universally available, but pretty cool when it is.

The UI is clean and easy to use, and I like that it offers the option of removing types of transit you don’t use. It keeps things more streamlined when looking for directions. The Transit App is free in Google Play, so check it out if you’re in a supported city.

Rymdkapsel

This particular game might look simplistic at first glance, but there is a lot going on in Rymdkapsel, a new real-time strategy game on Android. In this title you command a space station made up of flat tetromino blocks floating in a bleak, empty patch of space. It’s not completely empty, though. There are enemies to take out, and it requires a lot of strategic thinking to make it all work.

The station begins as a single small square, and you have to build it out with the corridors and various rooms listed at the top of the screen. Each structure you place will come up in one of those familiar Tetris block shapes, so you can fit them together like a puzzle for a more compact, efficient base.

You get two minions to start with who do all the building and resource gathering. You must keep track of energy, materials, and food. The correct structures must be built to keep everything supplied, but it’s also important where you place things. For example, food is made by assigning minions to move green sludge from the garden to the kitchen. You want these two rooms very close together for a shorter trip. This gameplay mechanic is very satisfying -- you really get to know what works and what doesn’t so you can build better stations next time.

The only rule for placement is that each room has to be touching a bit of corridor so minions can reach it. Rymdkapsel requires you to control your minions very precisely, because when the red bar at the bottom fills up, it’s time for battle. The angular red baddies will fly in from all angles, getting progressively harder each cycle. Your only hope is to get your minions into the weapon rooms you better have built. From there, they can take out the invaders and hopefully not die. Timing this right is harder than you think.

Rymdkapsel also throws you one more curve ball. There are four Monoliths that you can build paths to and research. Each one grants a new perk when it has been completed, and this is the only way you’ll survive the game. Rymdkapsel has 28 waves of bad guys, which will take a little over an hour to battle through. You lose if all your minions are killed. As you gain more minions and are engaged in more tasks, it gets easy to miss the impending attack until it’s too late. Trust me -- it’ll happen to you more than you think.

The visual style in Rymdkapsel is minimalist and stark, but I think it's a reflection of a particular vision and not laziness. The flat 2D shapes are easy to keep straight as you’re arranging things -- it’s all very clean and efficient. It’s not a stunning game, but it’s the strategy that should be the main draw here.

Rymdkapsel is $3.99 in Google Play, and I seriously recommend you try it out. I have not been this addicted to a mobile game in a long time.

Dropchord

You may be familiar with Double Fine Productions as the people behind Psychonauts and the upcoming Double Fine Adventure. Well, they've just released their first Android game, and it’s pretty neat. Dropchord was originally intended as a showcase title for the Leap Motion controller, but it also translates well to touchscreens.

This game is a test of your reflexes and ability to think quickly. The game is driven along by pulse-pounding electronic music composed especially for this game. As the beats come, so do the obstacles. Your goal is to pick up all the glowing points of light by sweeping your laser across the circular gameboard without hitting the red shapes.

The control scheme is really cool in Dropchord. Simply place a thumb on each side of the screen, and move them around. The laser will follow a straight line between your thumbs. So it can move up and down, but you can also place your thumbs at any angle and spin them around to get the beam out of a tight spot.

Dropchord proceeds in time with the music, but it gets progressively harder as more items show up. When you complete a set of dots by grabbing all of them, your score multiplier goes up. Miss some, or get hit by the red obstacles, and your multiplier is reset. Additionally, you have limited life, so try not to get hit.

The graphics and lighting effects are also connected to the beat, and that makes for an almost mesmerizing experience. The color scheme changes along with the tempo, with tons of crazy glowing and flashing.

I like the look and gameplay in Dropchord, but I am noticing one issue. The battery usage seems unusually high. My devices get hot and I can almost watch the charge evaporate. I feel like there’s room for optimization here. Dropchord is $2.99 in Google Play. It’s worth a look, even with the high battery drain.