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Google Play App Roundup: Blimps, Smash Hit, and Out There

By Ryan Whitwam

Calls, glass, and space.

A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

This week we make calls easier, smash stuff, and explore out there.

Blimps

Trends are shifting away from communicating via phone calls, but there are still times you need to use your phone as a phone. Android makes it easy to get something else done while you're stuck on the phone, but controlling the call is still a bit of a pain. Blimps makes it a little more convenient by placing floating controls on your screen.

Blimps is always running in the background, but it only comes to life when you start a call. You get a small call end and speakerphone button. Each one is its own separate unit and you can move them around the screen to wherever you want. They'll stay on top of whatever you're doing so you can manage the call easily. It's certainly a lot better than hopping back to the dialer of messing around in the notification shade.

This app has another neat trick too -- when the proximity sensor is triggered, the buttons quickly disappear to prevent accidental touches. It's really slick. The entire experience of using Blimp is the same way. The buttons respond immediately upon tapping and work exactly as intended.

Blimp is still very new, so the options are a bit sparse. If you only want one or the other button, there are toggles for them in the settings. You can also disable the app completely, but I don't see any need. It runs well and doesn't seem to affect battery drain at all.

The developer says more features are coming, but what we have now is free. I wouldn't be surprised if in-app purchases are implemented later for whatever comes next. You should definitely check it out, but be aware some OEM skins might interfere with how Blimps works.

Smash Hit

You may know Mediocre as the people who brought us such cfassic games as Sprinkle and Granny Smith. The newest title out of this studio is Smash Hit, and it's ridiculously addictive. All you have to do is break everything and don't crash. It's actually more challenging that you'd expect.

The basic concept is not dissimilar from an on-rails shooter. You coast forward at a constant rate as various barriers show up in your path. Everything you can run into is, conveniently, made out of glass. Simply tap to hurl a ball in that direction and smash whatever is in your way. We're not just talking about walls here -- there are giant fans, hammers, and all sorts of other contraptions made out of breakable glass. Take a hit and you lose 10 balls -- lose them all and it's game over.

So clearly, there's plenty of stuff to smash, but you have to watch your projectile levels. Luckily, there are cone and diamond shaped crystals scattered about that provide a few more balls when they are broken. You want to hit every one of these if possible, but not just for the ammo refill. After 10 straight crystals -- without missing any or taking a hit -- your attack is upgraded to fire off two balls with each tap. This effectively doubles your destructive power and really helps with some of those more durable sheets of glass. If you can make it 10 more, that's a triple attack, and so on.

You can download Smash Hit for free, but maybe you're concerned about that in-app purchase tag? The only purchase in this title is the full version for $1.99. What does that get you? Well, Smash Hit is broken up into checkpoints, each one fairly long. Without the full version, running out of balls sends you back to the beginning of the game -- i.e. no checkpoints are saved. After you buy, all the checkpoints are saved and you get cloud sync of progress through Google Play Games.

I quite like how the checkpoints are set up, You can start off at any of them you like with the amount of ammo you had when you last reached it. So if you get yourself in a good position, it's much easier to keep it going. If not, you can go back one checkpoint and try to finish with better results.

This game is optimized for Tegra graphics, but it runs fine on other devices. It defaulted to medium graphics on the Nexus 7, but it runs fine cranked up to high. The vibe of each section is a little different, from the types of barriers to the color scheme. Most of the backdrop is solid and a little bit foggy by design. It makes these spaces feel expansive, as objects come into view. The glass has very cool reflectivity and breakage physics as well. I rather wish there was a mode where you could just break stuff without worrying about ammo.

Smash Hit is incredibly fun, and it gets quite challenging as time goes on. It keeps coming up with more and more diabolical ways to smack you around. You should at least try out the free version.

Out There

Adventure doesn't have to mean lots of fighting. In the case of the new choose-your-own-adventure game Out There, you'll find no combat at all. This sci-fi title employs numerous dangers and challenging gameplay to keep you interested, and it does a darn good job.

The background of Out There, which is set in the 22nd century, follows a somewhat dystopian theme. Humanity has yet to leave the solar system, but resources are running low. The protagonist was on his way to a moon in the outer solar system. When he wakes up from stasis, he's nowhere near his destination -- he's out there. In deep space and alone.

Your goal is to survive as you follow a series of mysterious clues, hopping from one star to the next. Each action in Out There consumes oxygen, hull integrity, or fuel -- sometimes all three. You'll have to mine the planets you come across to resupply, but its easy to miscalculate and get in trouble. You might even have to dismantle parts of your ship to salvage the resources to keep going.

The choose-your-own-adventure aspect comes into play through a series of tough choices that follow many of your jumps. Sometimes this can lead to caches of resources, or you could end up taking damage or wasting fuel. It's the same when you find a new ship -- sometimes it has advanced equipment, but the stats could require some compromises. It is extremely easy to die in Out There -- it's brutal. The upshot is that it's easy to get into a new game. Sometimes you have great luck and surpass your best run in no time.

The graphics and sound in Out There are great. The visuals look like a hand-drawn rendering has come to life. It's a distinct look and the animations are very smooth. The text boxes also have a comic book vibe. It all hangs together quite well. The music is atmospheric and helps draw you in. It might be a little repetitive, but it fits so well.

Out There has wonderful gameplay and writing. It's definitely worth the $3.99 asking price.