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Google Play App Roundup: CM Installer, Anomaly 2, and Snapy

By Ryan Whitwam

ROMs, towers, and pictures.

It's once again time to make sure your Android device is filled with the best apps and games Google Play has to offer. We're doing the hard work for you with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. Just click on the links to head right to Google Play and get these selections on your device.

This week ROMs are more approachable, the aliens are back, and snapping picture is even easier.

CM Installer

Some of the top developers in the CyanogenMod project split off a few months back to found Cyanogen Inc, which is trying to turn the popular Android ROM into a legitimate business. Part of the plan is to make it easier to get CyanogenMod installed on devices, which is where the CM Installer comes in. The CM Installer was in beta testing for a few weeks, and now it's here for everyone (kind of). Support is limited right now, but a surprising number of phones will work.

I tested this app out with the Nexus 4, which is pretty easy to get unlocked and ROM'd. However, phones like the Galaxy S4, Note II, and HTC One are included in the support list (unless you're on Verizon, sorry). The app in Google Play acts as a connector and guide for getting the program set up and running on your desktop (Windows only). It is this PC client that does most of the heavy lifting.

When you open the app, it will scan your device and help you enable USB debugging and get it ready for detection. The PC app is just a quick download, then the time comes to plug in and give it a shot. The program will scan your device to make sure it is supported then it'll download the custom recovery, ROM, and Google Apps for you.

Your device doesn't have to be unlocked ahead of time to make this work, but it speeds up the process a bit. Some phones might be unlocked by the CM client, then require you to re-run the installer to actually get the ROM flashed -- it's an imperfect system currently. With the Nexus 4 I had zero issues and the entire process took about 5 minutes.

Your device will reboot a few times during the install, but the result will be the latest stable build of CyanogenMod fully installed with the Google Apps already there. If you do it yourself, you have to flash the ROM, then flash the Google Apps package separately, so it's cool the PC client handles the proprietary bits in addition to the ROM.

This is far and away the easiest way to get into custom ROMs. CM also has a really solid built-in update system, so it's straightforward to use from then on. Basically, this is almost easy enough that you can have family members do it without worrying about a crush of tech support calls.

Anomaly 2

Tower defense is a common gaming trope on mobile devices, but tower offense is still a rarity. Anomaly: Warzone and the followup Anomaly: Korea were two chapters in the same story of alien invasion, but now Anomaly 2 has arrived with more engaging gameplay and improved graphics.

The premise of this title will be familiar, but definitely not what you're used to when defense towers are involved. You are in command of a convoy of military vehicles that must be guided through the streets of destroyed cities and remote countryside brimming with alien weapons platforms. Basically, you play as the creeps.

Some levels only require you to reach the exit point to move on, but sometimes you have to destroy certain towers, or complete some other task before you can progress. You have extreme control over the vehicles in your convoy, but that also means you have to be keenly aware of your surroundings. The collection of units is extensive, and completely different from the previous games. Some are better for long range, and others are ideal at support roles. One thing that's constant, though, they can transform into robots. Seriously.

A double-tap on any unit toggles between its two forms. For most of them, they morph into walking mechs with a variation on the weapon or skill from the other form. For example, one of the more versatile units you have is the sledge hammer tank. In tank mode, it has a low rate of fire but does massive damage. However, it can only rotate the turret about 30 degrees in front of it. Turn it into the rocket hammer, and it fires less powerful rockets at medium range, but can do so in all directions. This is just one example of the deep strategic planning going on in Anomaly 2, and it's truly engrossing.

This title does a good job of easing you into what ends up a pretty complicated scenario. There are units to keep repaired, countermeasures to deploy, and routes to be managed. There are 16 single-player stages and some of them take a while to get through. Luckily, there is a checkpoint system included. Anomaly 2 also includes online multiplayer where one party controls the towers, and the other handles the towers.

Anomaly 2 is stunningly beautiful, but it really ought to be for the 1.5GB download. There was a time not that long ago that top-tier PC games were smaller than that. The textures are amazingly detailed, and it's not just a "good enough" thing. You can zoom in and see even more intricate details of your tanks and the enemy towers. There are also a ton of lighting effects and interesting level design. There are a few minor graphical glitches on the 2013 Nexus 7, but the developers have been notified.

This game is a little spendy at $4.99, but it's one of the best things you can play on your device.

Snapy

Opening a camera app is for chumps, right? Now you can get a quick snapshot on Android without looking away from what you're doing. Snapy allows you to pull up a resizable floating viewfinder to take a picture, and it includes just about all the settings you'd ever need. Best of all, you can try it out for free.

There are three ways to launch Snapy -- a homescreen icon, a notification, and a floating icon. The floating icon is the most convenient, but really only makes sense if you take a lot of pictures. The icon is semi-transparent and can be moved around on the screen to wherever you like. The notification has its appeal as it is a bit more out of the way and includes a button for the settings.

When you actually get the viewfinder up, it looks very much like the stock camera app. There is a capture button at the bottom next to a thumbnail of the last picture. Tapping the thumbnail brings up the last pic in a slightly larger floating window where you can apply filters, crop, rotate, and so on. You can share right from this interface as well.

If the default floating window size is too small for you, simply grab the corner and drag it out. It's actually quite cool how the viewfinder expands and the buttons rearrange dynamically. The camera will always focus in the center as there is no touch-to-focus. Tapping and dragging on the window allows you to move it around on the screen, so tweaking settings is done from the Snapy app.

The images taken by Snapy are about what you'd get from the stock camera app. It's a bit awkward to compose shots since there's no control over focus location, but it works well for most quick snapshots.

All the basic stuff is free with the app, as long as you don't mind some ads in the main app UI. If you like Snapy, the full version can be unlocked for $1.99. This adds some more image settings, control over the default size of the viewfinder and floating icon, 24 more filters, and a few more editing tools.