There are a ton of great apps and games in Google Play, and they're not just going to download themselves. Are they? If they are, we have something of a mystery to solve. In the meantime, let's see what's cooking in the Play Store with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. Just click the links to head right to the Play Store page and check out the apps for yourself.
This week we've got a new stock camera app, a game with spider men, and a space shooter with marshmallow men.
Google's camera revamp didn't come soon enough to help the Nexus 5 at launch, but now Mountain View's camera app has been updated and launched in the Play Store. That means you can install it on any device, but Nexus and Google Play Edition devices will benefit the most. This app removes some of the more advanced features that had little use and adds afew new things along with a spiffy new interface,
The first thing to address is the capture button, which is pretty big now. This is good as it's easy to press, but some seem like a poor use of space. However, this big button solves a major issues with Nexus device cameras. The Nexus 5 takes 4:3 images (as do most other devices in the line) at 8MP. The old camera app filled the viewfinder, but it's a 16:9 screen. Thus, the top and bottom of the frame were cut off in the preview. This made it very hard to frame a shot well. With this update, the camera viewfinder now has a true 4:3 ratio. On devices that do take 16:9 images, the button is semi-transparent so you can still see the whole frame.
The settings are now off to the left and can be brought up with a swipe. This is where all the main capture modes are found, and also links to the main app settings (not very easy to find there, Google). You have stills, video, Photosphere, panorama, and lens blur. Yes, the lens blur option is new -- apparently that's the hot new thing for a camera to do.
The lens blur effect in the Google Camera is a bit awkward, but the results are pretty good. All you have to do is snap a picture and slowly pan the phone upward, keeping it pointed at the subject. After that you can tap on areas of the photo to focus and apply lens blur behind that point. It's not as easy to capture, but still does what it says. There is also a bit of rendering time for each image and they are scaled down to about 2000 pixels tall.
The image quality will vary depending on your device, but I'm seeing a modest improvement on the Nexus 5. The Galaxy S5 doesn't seem to like the focus system in the Google Camera, though. You can still take HDR shots in the still camera and Photospheres are now much higher resolution. Unfortunately, some settings like white manual white balance are not included at this time.
The Google Camera is free and it's worth checking out to see if it does better on your device than the included solution. Of course, anyone running a stock device or an AOSP-based ROM should get on this ASAP.
Everyone's favorite web slinger is headed back to theaters soon, and you can get reacquainted with Spidey right now with the new Amazing Spider-Man 2 game on Android. This is a Gameloft title that relies on the open world gameplay, which is really the best way to do a Spider-Man game.
After a short tutorial, you are turned loose in Manhattan to foil crimes and figure out what New York's supervillains are up to this time. Getting around is very easy and fun in this game. Simply press the jump button and hold it in the air to web sling. Release at the end of each swing to launch yourself forward and keep at it. Your direction is controlled with the thumbstick on the left.
That thumbstick is also used to move when on the ground or climbing a building. It usually works fine, but sometimes the camera gets stuck at an odd angle and makes it tough to see where you're going. The action buttons appear when you get into a fight and consist of melee attacks, web attacks, and a counter button. Make proper use of these and you'll get explosive combos and lots of experience points.
Your radar shows you where events are happening around the city. The red ones are just one-off skirmishes with thugs, and the blue ones are missions. Most missions consist of short fights with more powerful enemies or a quick chase sequence. The money you are awarded can be used to buy power ups and new abilities as you go along. You can also buy more coins for money, or even entirely new suits. The in-app purchases feel mostly superfluous here, so you shouldn't be pushed too hard in that direction.
Visually, this is a killer game. Open world games can go very wring in mobile devices if the draw distances are too small or the texture resolution stinks. Amazing Spider-Man 2 avoids these pitfalls and still keeps the frame rates high on most newer devices. The 2013 Nexus 7 gets a little bit bogged down during some busy scenes, but the Nexus 5 is flawless.
For $4.99, you get a very high-quality title in Amazing Spider-Man 2. It is a big game and uses a lot of RAM, so be aware you can't reliably multitask while playing. You have to sit down and get into this game.
In stark contrast to the last game on this list, Hopeless: Space Shooting is the epitome of casual gaming on the go. You are in control of a handful of frightened little marshmallow creatures huddling together in a pool of light. Emerging from the darkness are wave after wave of giant carnivorous monsters.
The blobs are equipped with laser blasters, but the monsters have the advantage of numbers. For each one you blast in two, there are ten more lurking in the dark. Each time you fail to stop a monster from getting close, it will drag one marshmallow blob off into the dark to eat. You'll play each round of Hopeless: Space Shooting until all your little blobs are eaten, which can sometimes happen very fast. You begin with just one blob, but he's joined by others.
All it takes is a tap to fire off a laser blast. Most of the monsters can be killed by one laser bolt, but sometimes you encounter more powerful ones that need additional blasting. Luckily, you can tap on more than one location and have your blobs fire off in that direction. Of course, it's not just monsters coming out of the dark -- more blobs will also flow in to join your last stand. You'll have to avoid shooting them.
The waves can get very frantic as multiple monsters swarm you all at once, but you will unlock more weapons and abilities as time goes on. The better guns will be necessary as you get into the more difficult waves, but extras like the early warning system will be vital as well. There isn't a ton of extra content right now, but the developers promise the next update will expand the selection quite a bit.
You can unlock everything in the game by reaching various score targets, but cash money also does the trick. This is probably the most user-friendly to use IAPs for content unlocks. It's like a shortcut if you want to skip the grind.
The graphics in Hopeless: Space Shooting are not super-detailed, but they're still incredibly fun. The cute little marshmallow blobs are so contrasting with the shaggy beasts emerging from the shadows. The cartoony vibe really works well with the bright lighting effects.
Hopeless: Space Shooting will cost you $0.99 up front, which isn't a bad price. It's a bit limited right now, but I find this game perfect for killing a few minutes while out and about. It really grabs your attention for the few minutes it takes to play a round. After that, it's back in your pocket and you go about your business.