Google Play App Roundup: Android Device Manager, Dead Ahead, and Savant - Ascent

By Ryan Whitwam

Managing, Zombies, and towers.

The year is drawing to a close, but the Play Store is open for business all through the holiday season. There's plenty of stuff to choose from under the Android tree, though, and we're here to sort through it. The Google Play App Roundup brings you only the best. Just click on the links to head straight to the Play Store to check things out for yourself.

This week we find our phones, stay ahead of the dead, and climb skyward.

Android Device Manager

Google rolled out a cool feature to all Android devices a few months ago called Android Device Manager. When enabled in the Google Play Services Administrator settings, it allows you to use the Android Device Manager (ADM) website to track, lock, ring, and even remote wipe your devices. It's cool, but missing was the mobile component -- until now. An official Android Device Manager app has finally hit Google Play.

To fully utilize ADM, you need to allow it access to the device administrator menu. If you haven't done this, the app will be able to send you a link to show you where to toggle the setting. It's in Settings > Security > Device Administrators. From there, you can enable Android Device Administrator, which lets it do more than just track your phone or tablet.

Obviously, this app is only of use if you have more than one Android device -- like a phone and a tablet. If you activate the location tracking for the device in your hand, the app will tell you right where it is -- in your hand. Google likes a good joke as much as the next multinational conglomerate. There is a drop down to select from a list of your devices, which will then pop up on the map in the middle of the screen.

There is a mobile version of the ADM website, but it's a little sluggish. The native app has the advantage of being more responsive and can switch between accounts on the fly. It should not be surprising in a Google app, but ADM scales very well from phones to tablets. The UI rearranges on tablets to have a larger map with a floating window for device selection, for example.

Getting a device location only takes a few seconds most of the time, and the same goes for pushing down commands to ring the phone so you can find it, or lock/wipe it when it's a lost cause. Google's back end will continue sending a command until the device shows up. So even if it has no connectivity when you try to wipe it, the command will go through the next time it's online. It's not an ideal solution, as wiping the device disconnects it from your Google account and ADM, but it's better than nothing.

Dead Ahead

In most portrayals of a zombie apocalypse, people have the sense to at least flee by car. This is not the case in Dead Ahead, where all you have is a motor scooter to get away. If you do well, you can eventually upgrade to better bikes and bigger guns, which might give you a fighting chance. This is an endless runner sort of game, but don't hold that against Dead Ahead.

The controls are pretty straightforward. You will roll along in the middle of the screen, but the boost button revs the engine for a little more speed. It's important to use it at the right time to keep ahead of zombies, but not to get yourself in trouble. If you run into something solid, you're done. You steer by sliding your finger up and down the right or left edge of the screen -- I prefer the left, but it's your call.

So you have to zip through the streets, avoiding burned out cars and (if you want) running over zombies. You get points for taking out zombies, but they slow you down. That's a problem because the faster undead will be coming up from behind. You can either shoot them or just steer them into cars as they chase after you with single-minded hunger. You'll want to watch your ammo, though. You have unlimited reloads, but it takes time. If a boss zombie shows up while you're empty, things will get ugly.

This is a free-to-play title, and you know what that means. You can spend a few bucks to get ahead early, or just grind for a bit and level up. As you gain experience and cash, you'll get access to more gear and locations. However, it's not actually a bad setup. There is only one type of currency in the game, so you don't have to pay real money for everything worth having.

Visually, Dead Ahead is more fun in practice than it might appear in screenshots. It has a pixel art look, but the animations are very polished. It's not just retro looking because that's easier, it seems to be intentionally replicating a classic look with a more modern game engine. I get the same vibe from Dead Ahead that I do from Star Command, which is a good thing. This game is definitely worth checking out.

Savant - Ascent

If you are easily frustrated, you might want to move along -- Savant - Ascent is not messing around. This is an action shooter with simple controls and a steep learning curve. Savant is trying to reclaim his tower in this game, and to do so he has to climb to the top of it. You can't take your eyes off this game while you're playing it or you're as good as dead.

Savant - Ascent is very easy to get into. All you have to do is aim with the thumbstick in the lower right to fire, and use the dodge button to move your character between two different pre-defined locations -- then just kill everything. Along the way, you will unlock more powers by picking up pieces of golden CDs. Why CDs? They unlock new bits of the soundtrack as well. The new powers will add a few buttons to the screen, but most of the game is still shooting and dodging.

You can only take three hits before it's lights out, but some item drops can refill your life or make you temporarily invulnerable. If you die, you'll start back at the last level you reached, which are fairly long. I had to play the first one five or six times to beat it.

The main danger is that the floating enemies will swoop in from an unexpected angle and do damage while you're busily shooting a different baddie. The game warns you of incoming threats with a red arrow at the edge of the screen. If you see that, you'll need to either dodge, or redirect your fire. It might take a little time to get used to.

Visually, Savant is really neat. It has an interesting mix of detailed static backgrounds and flashy lighting effects. While the graphics are nice, the soundtrack is even better. It has a sort of dubstep feel, but even if you're not into that the tracks just work really well with the gameplay. I find myself playing it just for the tunes sometimes.

There isn't a huge amount of content in the game just yet, though the developer says more levels and powers are coming. As it stands now, you can burn through the game in about 5 minutes if you get really good at it. The game feels a little meatier than it might actually be because it takes time to power through the very challenging gameplay. It's definitely worth $1.99 -- I can't stop playing it in my head. The ending will also make you chuckle.