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Google Play App Roundup: Versus, Bridge Constructor Medieval, and Flashout 2

By Ryan Whitwam

Comparisons, building, and racing.

What's a new week without some apps to help you get it started? Not just any apps, though. You want the kind of cool stuff that we bring you every week in there Google Play App Roundup. Just click thy the links to hear right to Google Play.

This week we compare similar things, build some bridges, and win the rave at all costs.

Versus

Making choices is hard, right? Versus is a service that indexes a ton of products (and other stuff) so you can easily compare them. The website isn't the most attractive or intuitive, especially on a mobile device, but the new Android app is more usable. Just type something in, and compare it to a similar product.

This is a straightforward experience based on simple swipe navigation. When you open the app, you're prompted to search for something -- almost any technology product, but you can also input a city, university, and a few other things you might not expect. The app loads up a cool interface with big high-resolution images of the products side-by-side.

All the specifics are off to the sides, so drag to the right to see the strong points of that product, and slide the other way for the other. The way the app centers the images gives it a neat look as you scroll through the reasons -- there's just half the product image visible at any time.

The reasons are all crowdsourced and upvoted based on accuracy and helpfulness. If you scroll way down to the bottom, you're going to see some foolish stuff, but most of the highly-ranked reasons are valid. For example, if you're comparing the Nexus 5 to the LG G2, the app tells you the Nexus 5's advantages include that it's slightly lighter, less expensive, and gets updates from Google. The LG G2, on the other hand, has a bigger battery, higher resolution camera, and has a much higher screen-to-bezel ratio.

Versus gives you direct comparisons of how each product is better than the other, but also some reasons that may overlap. I've found Versus to be good for comparing anything where the spec lists are relevant. So, phones, tablets, cameras, CPUs, smart watches, and so on. When the decision is to be made on more subtle grounds, Versus isn't quite as useful. It also lets you compare things that don't have much in common. You can still compare a Nexus 5 and the Xbox One, but I don't know why you would.

If you want to vote on reasons or add your own, you'll need a Facebook account. Yeah, it's a bummer, but that looks like the backbone of the web version as well. It's still usable without logging in, though.

Bridge Constructor Medieval

It's hard to come up with excuses to have you building bridges over and over -- I mean, who's knocking all these bridges down? Bridge Constructor Medieval manages to make the backstory a little more believable than the last game in this series, and it also bring some new game mechanics to the table.

You are, apparently, the king's personal architect, and it's your duty to get men and materials where they need to go. It's not as easy as you might think. There's a war on, and that means someone's going to be trying to knock down many of your bridges while you're trying to complete the mission. So, not only do you need to come up with a design that can bear the weight, but one that can protect the troops from catapult attacks.

There are five different materials at your disposal -- wood, logs, stone, ropes, and roofs. Each one has a different cost, and you'll have a budget for each mission. Sometimes there is also a bonus objective that requires you to stay under an even lower budget -- you have to get creative to complete those.

Placing items on the screen to build your bridge is reasonably intuitive. Simply select the material and drag a line where you want to place it. It will take a little trial and error to figure out how to link materials up and what can be placed where. For example, stone has to be anchored at a yellow marker on the ground and no other material can cross it. When you're ready to test your creation, just hit play.

The simulation for each level will play out the same each time you start it. This allows you to see where your bridge is failing and fix it before hitting play again. If that last catapult strike is knocking a particular support loose and causing the bridge to tumble down, redesign that segment and give it another shot. The physics in Bridge Constructor Medieval are solid and easy to grasp. The graphics are fine for this game, but it's not anything amazing.

You can pick up Bridge Constructor Medieval for just $1.99, but be aware there are some in-app purchases. These are essentially hints and cheats to boost your construction budget. There's really no reason to use them if you want to enjoy the challenge. It's safe to buy this one.

Flashout 2

If racing games have become a little boring, then maybe Flashout 2 can help. It's a futuristic racing experience that throws some neat weapons in the mix. And really, what gaming experience can't be improved with shooting stuff? I would venture to say none.

In Flashout 2 you're racing some rocket-powered hovercraft-things -- whatever they are, they can go very fast. As for how you go fast, you don't have direct control over that. When the race starts, you take off at maximum acceleration. That only gets you so far, though. Along the track are pads that will accelerate your ship, eventually pushing you to top speed.

Not only do you need to go faster than your opponents, you need to have more firepower. Scattered across the track are bonuses that grant you weapons and boosts. The buttons for activating these are arrayed on the side of the screen. There are machine guns, mines, rockets, and shields to protect your craft. The game is pretty forgiving with the aiming system -- you just need to get close enough and keep the target somewhat steady to get the red lock-on icon.

Steering is handled with buttons, virtual thumbsticks, or accelerometer controls. There's supposed to be controller support, but it was far too sluggish on the Shield. Presumably this is just a bug, because accelerometer and on-screen controls are fine on other devices.

Leveraging this rolling combat deal, Flashout 2 includes more than standard races. Most of the time you're trying to get over the finish line first, but other levels might require you to just take out the most other racers to win. If you're shot down (or crash) at any time, you'll respawn on the track, but all your speed is lost. In addition to the usual career mode, Flashout 2 has online multiplayer, which might help to extend its life a bit, but I'm not seeing too many players online yet.

Flashout 2 has solid visuals with tons of lighting effects, motion blur, and very detailed environments. The game automatically sets the quality when you start, but you can change it in the settings. The developers are keen on saying the game has next-gen graphics, but that requires a pretty loose interpretation of "next-gen." While you're playing it looks great, though the screenshots do show some aliasing. Don't get me wrong -- Flashout 2 looks good, just not amazing.

At $1.99, Flashout 2 is a good purchase. There are additional in-app purchases for more in-game currency that allows upgrading of your ship, as well as buying new ones. It's a pretty tame use of IAPs, so don't fret about that aspect.