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Google Play App Roundup: Talon, Tank Riders 2, and 12Hours

By Ryan Whitwam

Tweets, tanks, and time.

Another week, another batch of notable apps and games. Not everything in Google Play is worth your time, but this is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what actually is worth investigation. Just hit the links to go right to the Play Store.

This week we've got a new Twitter client, a game with exploding tanks, and a handy little widget.

Talon

Twitter clients have been a touchy subject for developers ever since Twitter moved to the new API with the 100,000 user limit. That hasn't stopped Klinker Apps from making Talon, a new Twitter client that has a metric ton of features out of the gate. The general vibe you'll get from Talon is that of the now banished Falcon Pro, and that's a good thing.

The default theme in Talon is dark gray, but there are also white and black themes. Additionally, there is a theming engine that you can use to import new themes made by other developers. There is an action bar up top and a hamburger menu on the left for navigating to all parts of the app. You can also just swipe between the various columns. There are picture and link timelines in addition to the usual main timeline, mentions, and DMs. If you don't want those extra ones, they can be disabled in the settings. That's a theme you'll see a lot in Talon -- don't like something? It can be changed.

One of the particularly interesting things about this client is that it uses the transparent navigation and status bars on Android 4.4 devices. So your navigation bar at the bottom is always transparent, but the status and action bars are there when you are scrolling down -- they hide when you scroll up. That might seem backward, but that's actually the direction you usually read twitter -- from oldest to newest. There is still some uncertainty in the dev community about how the transparent status bar should work. Some devs like to have the color of the action bar extend up to the top, but others (like Talon) simply have the content slide under the clear gradient bar. I prefer the first way, myself, but Talon's approach is still good.

I quite like that there is a tablet UI in Talon already, though it disables the transparent status bar because of the persistent left-side navigation panel. All the tweeting and replying works as expected, and Talon has a neat little floating window for most of these functions. However, the browser is also in this floating window, which I feel is unnecessary. You can disable this, though.

Talon's default notification style is a live push system with a persistent notification item. If you need really fast notifications, I can see this being awesome. Otherwise it's wasted space. Luckily, there are conventional pull notifications as well, and a quick update after release vastly expanded the options here. The one remaining omission from Talon is URL shortening. The developer is aware of its absence, but it hasn't made it into a build yet.

Lastly, Talon has a wonderful scrollable home screen widget. So many apps miss this crucial element, but not Talon. It's absolutely worth the $1.99 asking price. I'd hurry before it runs out of tokens, though.

Tank Riders 2

The original Tank Riders was a popular title, and the sequel is off to a good start as well. This is a simple little shooter that, as the name might tell you, is all about tanks and riding in them.

This is a top-down isometric 3D shooter where you are pitted against an assortment of tanks and other weapon emplacements. There are two different control schemes in Tank Riders 2. The default setup uses dual thumbsticks, with the left for steering and the right for firing your weapons. The other has a single thumbstick for driving and then you tap in the direction you want to fire. If you have a wireless controller or an Nvidia Shield, you'll find there is full controller support for the gameplay, but not the menus (drat).

There are 50 missions, most of which require you to take out all the enemy units to advance. However, sometimes you can reach the level exit without killing everything in sight, not that you should avoid it. Tank Riders 2 even has a few levels set up as wave attacks to keep things a little more varied too. The developer promises more levels soon.

The game has an enjoyable run-and-gun feel. You have to keep moving and be aware of where projectiles and bombs are about to hit. Dying in Tank Riders 2 isn't the end of the world, but it's not ideal either. You start the game with 5 lives, but if you get blown up too often, you'll run out and won't be able to play any more levels. Every 20 minutes, the game awards you another life, so it's not hard to keep going if you're a competent player. If you just can't hack it, a $0.99 in-app purchase gets you more lives instantly.

Visually, there's nothing to really complain about in Tank Riders 2. The textures are on the simple side, but it's a very exaggerated cartoony game -- your character's head is nearly as big as the tank, for example.There are six different environments and every level map is unique. Tank Riders 2 also has some lighting effects to add at least a little flair.

For a free-to-play game, Tank Riders 2 isn't obnoxious about the upsell, and it's pretty enjoyable. The controller support is nice too. Overall, it's something you should check out.

12Hours

Life can get busy, right? Well, 12Hours is here to put your day in perspective in possibly the most Android-y way possible. 12Hours is a simple clock widget that plugs into your Google Calendar data to display the day's appointments as color-coded wedges -- it's like a pie chart of your schedule.

12Hours comes with a few different sizes and styles of clock. Just place the one you want on the home screen and the app will ask which calendars you want included. It will assign colors to each one randomly, or it can pull the matching colors from your Google settings. Each event on your calendar gets it own colored wedge to help you visualize your schedule. It's called 12Hours because, as a 12 hour clock, it only has the events for your current 12-hour period.

Tapping on the clock opens your Calendar app, and an experimental feature lets you launch the Clock app by tapping in the center of the larger clocks. That's about all the functionality you get out of it. This is an app that focuses on doing a single thing and doing it well.

As for the appearance, the intensity of the colors on your clock can be tweaked from the 12Hours settings app. This is also where you can edit the calendars shown and (eventually) play with other features as they are added. 12Hours is completely free and really cool.