Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.
This week we've got a new travel companion, a game with zombies, and a big update to an old favorite.
Most major airlines have their own apps these days, but I can't think of a single one that's any good. There's something about the way big companies develop apps that far too often leads to terrible design. So if you want to actually reduce the stress you experience at an already tense trip to the airport, third-party apps are your best bet for keeping on top of things. A new arrival in Google Play, App in the Air, might be what you're looking for.
This app comes over from iOS, but the developers have avoided my ire by making this app native to Android. The main interface is based around three tabs for the departure location, current status, and destination. The origin and destination tabs are interesting additions to the usual flight tracking genre that give you weather information and tips for security, luggage, internet access and more.
The flight tracking tab changes based on the status of your currently selected flight. There is a vertical scroll with times for check-in, boarding, take-off, and landing. As each of those deadlines passes, they drop off the list. You can also tap to toggle between the actual time and a countdown timer. This tab also alerts you to any changes in flight status like delays or cancellations.
You can keep track of multiple flights and add new ones from the navigation panel on the left. Adding a new flight can be done in a few ways. If you use TripIt to manage flight reservations, you can log in through App in the Air. Otherwise, you can search by flight number or with the departure/arrival locations and date. Facebook logins are supported, but there's actually a reason to use it in this app. If you log in, App in the Air can backup your flight data online and sync to other devices.
You get all this stuff for free, and there are no ads. App in the Air includes an in-app purchase for push notifications of flight status updates. You can subscribe for $29.99/yr, or just $2.99 for a month or five flights for $3.99.
Zombies are a bit played out, at least the conventional sort of undead. However, Minigore 2 takes the whole zombie thing to the extreme by turning all sorts of critters into undead monster. All you have to protect yourself is a giant arsenal of weapons. Okay, that's actually pretty good. It's wall-to-wall zombie slaughter in Minigore 2, and it's more entertaining than I expected.
This is an isometric top-down shooter with an indeterminate goal. There is no story mode or anything like that -- you are just unleashed on the battlefield to survive as long as you can with scores of zombie and zombie-like creatures spawning all around. There are boss zombies and
Killing the baddies gets you coins, which can be used to unlock more weapons and improve the ones you already have. The in-game shop also offers more levels, characters, and one-time power ups. One really cool feature is that Minigore 2 saves your place in each world so you can jump between them and pick up where you left off.
As you scuttle around the map, new weapons will randomly drop. Each one has a limited amount of ammo (or stamina in the case of melee weapons). When it's gone, you either have to find another one or make do with the default battleaxe, which will only get you so far. One of the cool things about Minigore 2 is that there are a ton of weapon drops. You'll find everything from machine guns, to swords, to explosive sheep launchers.
The default control scheme is super-simple -- a little too simple for my tastes. You have a thumbstick on the left of the screen to move around and an attack button on the right. The game automatically aims for you whenever the button is pressed. It's not the sort of game you need to be deadly accurate with where you shoot, but I still prefer to turn auto-aim off in the settings. That gets you a second thumbstick for traditional run-and-gun gameplay.
The graphics are very clean and the game doesn't lag at all even with a ton of zombies on the screen. Minigore 2 has a distinctive visual style with block-shaped character models and dynamic lighting effects. It looks really solid.
Minigore 2 is free -- just free, not free-to-play. Every 15 minutes or so the game pauses and shows you an ad. It usually only delays you a few seconds, but sometimes it's several minutes. You can tap on the ad to bypass the wait and then back out to get to the game immediately. It's annoying, sure, but I'd wager many people would prefer this to in-app purchases.
Before there was Photoshop Touch, there was Photoshop Express. Adobe's quick and easy photo manipulation tool on mobile devices didn't get a lot of love over the last few years, mostly because it was overshadowed by other apps that were easier to use and more feature complete. Well, now Adobe has finally gotten its act together and updated Photoshop Express. Version 2.0 is a complete revamp with an updated UI and new features.
The opening splash screen in Photoshop Express is just three large icons for taking a picture, opening from the Gallery, and opening a file in Adobe Revel. Whichever one you choose, the image will be pulled up in the editing interface. I like that it goes into lights-out mode with the dimmed buttons and minimal statusbar icons too -- photo editing is serious business.
Along the bottom are four different tool categories and a persistent toolbar at the top. There are about two dozen different filters that aren't quite as crazy as Instagram, but you also get (I think) nicer looking pics with them. Photoshop Express also includes all the usual editing tweaks like crop, rotate, and so on. I like that this set of tools includes cropping constraints for different picture ratios (4x6, 8x10, etc) as well as your device's resolution (so you can make a wallpaper).
The levels of contrast, temperature, shadows, and more can all be changed in the third tool tab. There is an auto setting for each one, or you can use the auto-fix button in the persistent toolbar at the top. I'm reasonably impressed with the tweaks this app manages all on its own. It's better than most other apps I've used. The last tab is for red eye reduction and it works fine.
When you're done, you have to share the picture back to the Gallery to save it, or you can put it in Revel. Speaking of Revel, it's Adobe's consumer-level photo sharing and storage service. The free service includes 50 photo and video imports per month. A $5.99 subscription gives you unlimited usage. I find it odd this entire app and service is distinct from Creative Cloud, but that's just how Adobe decided to segment its products.
For a free app, the new Photoshop Express is fabulous. It's easily the match of most other photo editing apps.