It's a new year and a new batch of apps in the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where we tell you all about the best new and newly updated stuff happening on Android. Just click the links to head right to Google Play and pick up these beauties for yourself.
This week your appointments get prettier, the cave beckons, and there is a lot of screaming.
Google added a scrollable calendar widget to Android way back in the big 4.0 update to Ice Cream Sandwich. At the time, it was better than all the other calendar widgets in Google play because almost nothing supported the new scrolling behavior. It continued to be a good option for a while, but Google hasn't done much to improve it since then. A new app called Event Flow Calendar Widget offers numerous themes and features that make it a fine replacement for the stock widget, and you can try it out for free.
You add Event Flow to the home screen like you would any other widget, but the configuration options are extensive. There are both Agenda and Month view widgets -- the Agenda version is more or less the same layout as the stock widget.
You get the basic stuff that even Google's own widget can do, for example displaying only a few of the calendars synced to your device and resizing on the home screen. However, it also gives you the choice of four different themes (two in the free version). The Agenda widget is very clean looking and the themes let you integrate it into your home screen aesthetic.
One feature I find quite handy is the built in weather info. Next to each day you'll get a small forecast icon with high and low temperature. The font colors, size, and spacing are also configurable. Though, I'd like to be able to justify text more to the left to fit better on a narrow widget.
The month view is more useful if you don't have a ton of content on your calendars and can devote an entire screen to the widget. It highlights the current day and shows appointments with colored blocks. Tapping on a day opens it in your chosen calendar app. The settings button at the top of the app lets you make changes to the UI and settings at any time without removing and re-adding the widget.
Even with the free options, Event Flow is a capable replacement for the stock calendar widgets included on most Android devices. It only costs $1.50 to unlock all the good stuff, though.
It isn't often that you come across a game that is clever in both its gameplay and story, but The Cave from Double Fine Productions is definitely in that group. It will have you chuckling right from the character selection screen, but it's not just about the laughs -- The Cave is a great platforming-puzzler too.
In this title, you get to choose three characters from a ragtag band of seven unlikely adventurers to descend into the mysterious cave. Each of the characters has a special power which will come in handy as you progress through the bizarre environments in The Cave. You have options like the monk with his mental powers, a knight with the power of invulnerability, and the scientist who can use her science-y prowess to operate machinery.
Throughout the experience, you'll meet plenty of unusual folks that help you along your way, and also listen to the pleasing baritone of your narrator -- who happens to be the cave itself. Yes, it's a talking cave, but you are admonished on the title screen not to laugh. This is serious business. The Cave contains things you wouldn't usually find in a cave, like an amusement park, a castle, and a gift shop. Okay, the last one isn't all that unusual, but the people running it certainly are.
Each puzzle can be completed with the characters you have chosen to play, but the challenge is figuring out how you can use all three to work things out. You can switch between characters by tapping on the avatars in the lower left corner at any time. If you walk too far with one character, the others will automatically catch up, but otherwise they stay where you leave them.
The controls in The Cave are very simple -- the character avatars are the only on-screen controls. To move around, just tap where you want to go or press and hold to continue moving in that direction. To jump, tap above your character at the approximate angle you want to leap. The controls are a little inexact, but it isn't usually a problem. Even if something does go wrong, you don't actually die in The Cave (our narrator informs us he can't let anyone die for insurance reasons). Instead, you are revived nearby to try again. Using objects is as simple as tapping on them, and your special power is accessed by long-pressing on the avatar in the corner of the screen.
I don't have any particular issue with the controls in The Cave, but I can see how the fuzziness could be troublesome. I also tested this game on the Nvidia Shield, and it has full native controller support, which is wonderful. Some people are reporting issues with the game failing to load, but I didn't have issues on the Shield or the 2013 Nexus 7.
This is a 2D side-scroller, and it has a very cool art style with lovely backgrounds and subtle lighting effects. There is a bit of aliasing, but it's not very noticeable. The Cave is very detailed, and the environments (even the parts that look like a cave) aren't repetitive. There is about 1GB of game date, so maybe that's not a surprise.
The Cave has very high production value from the gameplay to the narration. It's absolutely worth the $4.99 asking price, but make sure to test it out on your device right away.
Yes, the name of this game is "AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!" For the sake of brevity, let's just call it Aaaaa for now, okay? The title of this game pretty accurately describes the content, believe it or not. Aaaaa is a game where you are placed in freefall with an array of obstacles in your path and only a tiny platform to catch you at the end of the level. That's acceptably scream-worthy.
In each of the 47 levels you are dangled over an impressive obstacle course of beams, towers, and other things able to smash you to bits. You want to not get smashed, though. You do that by tilting the device to guide yourself around everything and collect the point power ups along the way. You can't just hang out around the edge of the level and fall gracefully downward, though. You only get points by taking the hard way.
Falling close to buildings earns you Kisses, which are worth 1000 points. Staying close to something over time is worth a Hug, which gets you even more points at the end of the level. The more points you have, the more stars you are rated at. Aaaaa then awards Teeth based on your star rating (still following me?). Teeth are the currency in Aaaaa, which you use to unlock more levels. When you reach a certain point, you can unlock extra skills to show off to protesters or spraypaint buildings for more points.
The game's visuals are spot on for the the style of gameplay. The towers and platforms are easy to pick out against the backdrops, but the style of each level is different. Some are in orbit around Earth and others seem to be hovering over a giant lava pit or a digital wormhole. The lighting effects and textures are fun and keep things varied on the way down. The tilt controls are also absolutely perfect. The responsiveness is there and the gradual movement as you increase the tilt really adds to the sense of speed.
You'll have to part with $3.99 for Aaaaa, which I'll grant seems like a lot for a fairly simple game. It's a blast, though.