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Google Play App Roundup: Ridiculous Fishing, SidePlayer, and Badland

By Ryan Whitwam

Fishing, grooving, and flapping.

Some weeks there are a few cool things showing up on Android, and other weeks are like this one -- an embarrassment of riches. There are some amazing things going on in Google Play, and the weekly Google Play App Roundup is a pretty good place to find out about them. Just click on the links to head right to the Play Store.

This week we've got fun fishing, easier listening, and a game that almost defies description.

SidePlayer

So lets say you're playing a game on your device and listening to music at the same time. Ah, the joys of multitasking. On most Android devices, you can't easily access the player controls from a full-screen app. So what do you do? go back to the home screen just to change songs? Heck, no. What is this, the stone age? SidePlayer puts some handy music controls just a tap away.

SidePlayer has support built-in for some of the top music players on Android. There's Google Play All Access, of course, but also PowerAmp, Shuttle, Spotify, and many of the OEM music apps. Other than selecting the app you prefer to use, there's no special configuration necessary to make SidePlayer work.

The default behavior is to open the playback control buttons when you swipe in from the right of the screen. You get play/pause and skip forward/back buttons. These buttons will float on top of your app until you dismiss them with a swipe in the opposite direction. If they aren't in the way, you can even leave them up -- they'll just stay off to the right as you're doing other things.

I've had no issue using SidePlayer with any apps. It's been pretty responsive with everything, and I don't find myself triggering it by accident much. You really have to deliberately do an edge gesture to open it -- an errant tap on the right edge isn't enough to trigger SidePlayer.

This behavior is all covered by the free version of SidePlayer. If you get the $1.75 pro version, it adds a fair number of configuration options. You can choose from various skins, change the location of the buttons/gesture, change the button layout, and more. Perhaps the biggest selling point of the pro version is the ability to display song info on the screen when the controls are up. That's great if you're playing a radio station or have shuffle turned on.

This is a handy app to have around if your device doesn't have its own way of exposing notification controls in full-screen apps. You should definitely give the free version a shot to see if you groove to it.

Ridiculous Fishing

Fishing games used to be a big deal on smartphones, then they weren't such a big deal. Ridiculous Fishing makes fishing fun again by mostly doing away with all the realistic aspects of catching fish. This is a 2D game that's part reflex test and part shooting gallery, and it lives up to its name in the best way possible.

To play Ridiculous Fishing, you simply tap to drop your line into the water and tilt the device left and right to weave the lure around fish. Yes, that seems counter-intuitive, but the goal is to get as deep as possible before snagging your first catch. At that point, the line starts retracting back to the surface. This time you want to steer into the fish, which accumulate on your line. Not everything in the deep is desirable though. Fish are worth money, but jellyfish are a drain on your resources. You definitely want to avoid them as much as possible.

When you hit the surface, the fisherman doesn't haul the catch into the boat -- oh, no. This is ridiculous fishing, not regular fishing. The entire catch is flung into the air for you to shoot with frantic tapping and swipes. The view is always centered on the lowest target (not including jellyfish), so you want to make sure you don't leave anything behind. Otherwise all the fish higher up will just fall past you before you can take them out.

That's the gist of the gameplay. Yeah, it sounds simplistic, and it kind of is, but it's incredibly addictive too. The game keeps track of which fish in each of the various fishing spots you've caught (blown up) and offers upgrades to be purchased with your earnings. This is what drives you to keep playing Ridiculous Fishing -- getting better stuff to earn more money to get even better stuff. Don't judge.

You start with a boring gun and short line, but you can improve on those and add new abilities. For example, the chainsaw lure lets you slice through fish to get deeper when dodging isn't possible. The toaster is also handy -- it attaches to your line to electrocute the first fish you run into so you can keep going. Reaching the bottom of one of the fishing spots always nets you a rare fish worth a ton of cash so you can buy even more stuff.

This game has a pseudo-retro thing going on. It's not pixelated, but rather is made up of giant triangles, trapezoids, and other shapes. It has a very cool "vector-y" look -- it's cute and doesn't get in the way. The visual style really works with the game's sense of humor and the mechanics of the gameplay.

Ridiculous Fishing is $2.99 and that's it. There are no in-app purchases, no additional versions, nothing. You get the whole game, and it's wonderful.

Badland

The newly arrived game Badland is one of those titles that defies description. It's a little bit physics sim, a little bit adventure game, a dash of platformer, and some other less-identifiable bits. Basically, it has something that will appeal to most gamers without leaning too heavily on any one genre. That could end up a bit messy, but Badland is an incredibly well-designed game.

This is a 2D side-scroller where your main goal is to reach the end of each stage. You take control of a small animal in a mysterious forest in search of the source of some suspicious goings on. The only interaction you have with the game is to press on the screen to make your little beasty flap its... I think those are wings. It's sort of a little fluff-ball with wings, but it does some neat stuff.

When you tap on the screen, your fluff-monster will flap and drift slightly up and to the right. Hold a finger on the screen, and it will fly longer and farther. You just have to keep moving forward, avoiding obstacles and staying ahead of the edge of the screen. The other angle here is the way you pick up clones. More of the little fluff-monster-things will show up and join your party -- sometimes a lot of them. They all flap in unison, but are slightly spread out and have their own trajectories and momentum depending on what they run into and how they happen to bounce.

So sometimes you have a giant swarm of beasties, and that's good. It's a dangerous forest and a lot of them are going to get taken out. You only have to reach the end with one, but you get more points for saving more clones. But that's not all -- there are also power ups that will change how your fluff-things exist in this strange world. They can get bigger or smaller, move faster or slower, become sticky or bouncy, and more. This actually changes how the game plays from a physics perspective, and Badland's physics engine really impresses here.

Badland has a whimsical style -- from the black silhouette foreground to the vibrant multi-layered backgrounds, it's a lovely experience. All the lines are perfectly crisp and the animations are without stutter. Badland also makes use of some cool lighting and particle effects for a more polished look -- it's just gorgeous. Even the little creatures you control have been carefully designed to be more than black outlines -- their eyes are strangely emotive. As a bonus, it also supports immersive mode on Android 4.4, which hides the status and navigation bars completely.

There are 40 levels in the first world, and you can play all of them for free (10 of them ad-free). $2.99 unlocks the next 40, removes ads, and unlocks multiplayer (which is also quite neat). Just want the levels and no ads? That's $1.99. It's nice to have options. Seriously, you need to be playing this game.