Google Play App Roundup: Today Calendar, The Walking Dead, and Wind-up Knight 2

By Ryan Whitwam

Calendars, zombies, and knights.

A new week has dawned, and there are new smartphones hitting the streets. You want to have the latest and greatest apps for your new purchase, right? That's what we bring in the weekly Google Play App Roundup -- all the content that's fit for your Android device. Just lick the links to head right to the Play Store.

This week we've got a new calendar, a game with zombies, and a fabulous platformer.

Today Calendar

Your phone comes with some version of the Android calendar app, whether it's a custom solution from the OEM with Google's account back end added, or the Play Store version of the Google app. Today Calendar is freshly out of beta and could give all those other solutions a run for their money. However, you're going to have to part with a little of YOUR money to find out.

Today Calendar is based on the AOSP calendar app, but has some UI tweaks and additional features built-in. The interface has been cleaned up in this app when compared to the stock app. The gray-on-gray UI is gone, replaced instead with accented whites and a blue action bar. It's interesting that this app now looks a little more like a modern Android app than Google's own calendar app.

There are still weekly and agenda views, and they haven't changed much beyond some performance and UI optimizations. The month view is where all the really cool things are happening in Today Calendar. Rather than have a stretched-out month-long calendar taking up the entire screen, Today Calendar integrates an agenda with the calendar. The developer calls this the All-In-One view, which pretty much explains it. You can tap on any day from the calendar in the top half of the screen to see the agenda for that day in the bottom half. It's really the best of both worlds, and much more useful than other views. You can also swipe to move between days in the All-In-One view.

The app itself is great, but that's only part of what you get with Today Calendar. Buying this app also gives you the Today Widgets, which are available as a separate purchase as well. These are highly-configurable, scroallable calendar widgets -- both month and agenda view -- with multiple themes and options. Settings for these widgets are available when you place them, or from within the Today Calendar app.

Today Calendar will run you $2.99, but it's definitely something you should consider as a replacement for your current calendar app. Even if you end up not liking the app, the widgets can be used independently and linked with a shortcut to the stock app.

The Walking Dead

You've probably heard things about The Walking Dead game plenty of times -- friend of Tested Gary Whitta was involved in the writing. This game hit the PC and iOS some time ago, but when it came to Android, it was only on the Amazon Appstore. Well, now it's finally in Google Play, which is much more convenient than Amazon. This game tells an engrossing story set in the same world as the comic book and TV show of the same name.

You play the role of Lee Everett, a man who was on his way to prison when the dead started walking the Earth. After barely surviving the crash that freed him from custody, you are immediately put in the position of making life and death decisions. Not only do your choices affect the story, but they control which characters live and die.

Much of the game unfolds as an elaborate cutscene, but don't let that put you off. The frame around the edge of the screen tells you when it's on autopilot, and when you get to interact with the world. Your conversations with people affect how they view you and what part of the story plays out next, but you can also walk around and check out things in the environment. It has a puzzle aspect as you search for clues to advancing the story and saving as many of your fellow survivors as you can.

The writing and voice acting in The Walking Dead is among the best I've ever come across in a game -- especially one I can play on a mobile device. The way people act and the dialog is very believable and free of cringy phrases. Add to that the carefully designed graphics, and you've got something that can evoke emotions at every turn.

The graphics have an interesting style -- it's like a comic book, but more detailed than straight cel shading. There are heavy lines defining shapes, but there's a bit of texture to the character models and environment. The detail of faces is done just right to let them "act" along with the voices. It also supports immersive mode on Android 4.4.

The first episode of The Walking Dead is free to play, but after that you have to pay $4.99 for each additional episode. There are five total, each one with a few hours of gameplay. There is also a season pass with all episodes for $14.99. This game is absolutely worth your time to try out.

Wind-up Knight 2

The original Wind-up Knight was a great little game, and the sequel is trying to improve on it without changing that winning formula too much. You are still in control of a tiny clockwork knight, hopping and slashing his way through a variety of environments. There are a few new things going on, but you'll be able to get into it quickly if you've played the original.

Wind-up Knight 2 is a 2D side scrolling platformer. Your character runs at a constant pace across the screen, and you must use the action buttons to avoid danger and make it to the end of each level. There are four buttons that control everything, with two positioned toward each lower corner of the screen.

Off to the bottom right are the attack and jump buttons, which you can probably figure out the need for. Opposite that are the shield and roll buttons. The shield is used to block objects falling on the knight from above, and the roll gets him safely under low obstacles. The first few times you have to combine all these skills it feels a little overwhelming -- how can you possibly tap the buttons fast enough? The trick that makes Wind-up Knight 2 funs and challenging is that you can have more than one button pressed at a time. You have to watch what's coming up and be ready for it. Maybe you have to jump a large chasm, but something's going to fall on you as soon as you land -- better mash the shield button while in the middle of your jump.

In addition to the regular levels with all the obstacles to avoid, there is a tournament mode where you can earn cool prizes. The map is very challenging and changes on a daily basis. It costs tickets to compete, which you earn by playing the game. The coins awarded in each stage can also go toward buying better gear, some of which gives you special powers.

Wind-up Knight 2 looks like a cleaned-up version of the original, which is very good. The funky style was one of the great things about the first game, and now it's prettier. There are beanstalks, rivers of fire, and… what is that? A chicken dragon? No matter, the edges are free of aliasing and performance is flawless.

One of the notable things about the original Wind-up Knight was its early use of the Android in-app purchase mechanism. However, the developers didn't implement it in the most consistent way. The full version unlock in that game was treated as a consumable purchase and wouldn't sync to other devices. That's no longer the case in Wind-up Knight 2 -- $3.99 unlocks the full game, plus some additional goodies. If you wait more than 48 hours after installing, you have to pay the non-sale price of $8.99, or so says the popup. However, the full game is available on all your devices, and progress even syncs through Google Play Games--yay!