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Google Play App Roundup: Type Machine, Colin McRae Rally, and Pathogen

By Ryan Whitwam

Words, cars, and cells.

The time has come for yet another Google Play App Roundup. This is where you can come every week to find out what's new and cool on Android. Just click the links to head right to Google Play.

This time we've got a system utility you'll love, a different kind of racer, and a strategy game sure to frustrate you in a good way.

Type Machine

How often have you typed out a bunch of text only to have the app or website throw an error and eat all your words? Well, there is a new app that will make sure that never happens again. Type Machine makes a backup of everything you type into your device, but it does so in a secure fashion. The presentation and feature set is also killer.

Installing this app requires a quick trip to the accessibility settings where you can enable Type Machine. This is how it makes a copy of the text you enter. Almost everything you type will be dumped into the Type Machine app and organized by the app it came from. You can open Type Machine and use the navigation pane to select the app and see all the text you've entered. The only thing this app won't slurp up by default is passwords.

When reviewing a snippet of text, Type Machine presents you with a timeline at the bottom of the screen. You can scrub through to see the entire text entry process. So if you deleted something and reworded, the app still has the text that didn't make it into the final version -- you simply have to rewind to a time when it existed. Any text in Type Machine can be copied and used elsewhere.

Now, you're probably thinking this sounds crazy. Why would you trust an app to keep all your text entries? The first thing to know -- Type Machine doesn't have the internet access permission, so it couldn't send your text anywhere even if it wanted to. You are also able to blacklist apps in the settings to prevent Type Machine from monitoring them. Everything it saves is deleted once per day by default, but you can turn that up to 7 days, or disable the auto-delete completely. Finally, there is a PIN lock function that keeps any unauthorized party from getting at your words.

Type Machine has a very clean Android-style layout and it scales correctly to phones and tablets. There was a similar app some years ago that did the same basic thing, though with fewer features. It was abandoned by the developer, but it was never this slick or useful.

After checking out Type Machine, I immediately put it on all my devices. This is a must-have at only $1.99.

Colin McRae Rally

The Colin McRae franchise is well-known among racing fans, but this isn't the same kind of experience you're used to getting on mobile devices. Rally racing doesn't involve packs of cars pushing the speedometer to obscene levels. In Colin McRae Rally you're racing the clock in a point-to-point sprint across various types of terrain. It requires a different approach, but it's rewarding once you get the hang of it.

You have your choice of a few different rally cars in Colin McRae Rally like the Ford Focus and Subaru Impreza. Each car behaves a little differently, and more importantly, the way you drive alters the car's performance dramatically. Each rally is made up of multiple sections, and you get to repair your car after every other run. If you spin out around corners, run into things, and rev the engine too aggressively, your vehicle takes more damage. There is only a limited amount of time to make repairs, so you might have to decide which system is most worth fixing.

Controls come in accelerometer and on-screen varieties. I'm usually a fan of tilt controls in racing titles, but the on-screen buttons lend themselves well to the precision nature of Colin McRae Rally. This is one of the few racing titles where it makes sense to have a separate accelerator and brake, because you can't just careen around hairpin turns on gravel.

At the top of the screen is a display of how you're doing in comparison to your opponent's time. In each multi-part rally, you want to have the best overall time. So you can have a bad run and still make up for it in the next race. The other thing about rally racing on display here is the lack of a minimap. Instead you have a co-driver who tells you what's coming up next -- turns crests, jumps, and so on. Icons also pop up on the screen so you can plan ahead.

The graphics in Colin McRae Rally are overall very good. The cars are detailed and the environments look great in most places. Parts of the backdrop sometimes look a little flat, which you'll notice if you slow down or slip off the track into a wooded area. However, the physics in Colin McRae Rally feel extremely authentic, which is a nice change of pace. The only performance-related issue I'm seeing is some fairly long level load times--as much as a minute or two.

If you're into games like Asphalt or Need for Speed, this might not be the title for you. However, there's a lot to like about Colin McRae Rally. It is also completely devoid of in-app purchases. You pay $4.99 and it's all yours.

Pathogen

If you've ever felt like games are getting too easy, Pathogen is something you might want to take a look at. This is a strategy puzzler with aggressive AI and an interesting twist on an established gameplay trope. It is your task to take over the game board with your blue cells, but the way you go about it requires a lot of planning.

At your disposal are three types of cells plus a virus. Each cell type (A, B, and C) recharges at different rates between one and eight turns. The A cells are the weakest and easiest for your enemies to take over. The B and C cells are more potent, but won't be available every turn.

You expand your colony by placing a cell on one of equal or less er level. This causes a chain reaction of divisions to propagate outward, the strength of which depends on the level of the cell. Expanding also levels up each of the affected cells by one. If this sounds confusing, well, it is, but you'll get the hang of it after a little practice.

The trick is that you can propagate this change not only through your cells, but through any adjoining cells of the same or lesser level that belong to the enemy. For this reason, it's very important that you watch where the enemy's colony contacts yours. One carefully planned move can wipe you out.

The ultimate goal is to control the majority of the board and leave the other color cells with no moves to take it back. The best way to do this is build up a group of C-level cells and convert them into a cell wall by applying another C cell.The enemy cannot take these spots back, however, there's the virus to watch out for. If your enemies deploy that, all your careful work could be for naught. This is all just a basic overview of the gameplay -- the deep strategy is really engaging, even on the easier settings.

The graphics are solid, but nothing to write home about. There is a neat animation when you expand your colony, but that can be disabled if you want more strategy and less pretty stuff. The only issue I'm seeing is a bit of cropping of the gameboard on some devices like the Nexus 7. It's still playable, and the developers are aware of the issue. Just be aware of that before you drop $2.99 on Pathogen.