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Google Play App Roundup: Udacity, Wave Wave, and Eliss Infinity

By Ryan Whitwam

Code with planetary lines.

Google I/O is over for this year, so it's back to the usual Android concerns for the time being, like finding the best new apps. You wouldn't want to miss anything, which is why the Google Play App Roundup exists. This is where you can find the best in new Android apps and games. Hit the links to load up the Play Store directly.

This week there's a new way to learn to code, a game that you will love/hate, and an abstract puzzler.

Udacity

The Android version of Udacity has been a long time coming. The freemium technology education service has a website that anyone can use, but having access to course materials on the go is a big part of actually getting through it all. Udacity on Android offers courses like Intro to Java, Applied Cryptography, and Android development (which is fitting). Best of all, you can take any course for free.

The app is laid out as a series of scrollable rows in each course category. There are a few dozen courses with more being added on a regular basis. Oddly, there isn't a search function that I could find, but there isn't enough content that it's a must-have, I suppose. You'll have to create a free Udacity account (which can be done entirely in the app) to add a course to your roster. You can always access that with the button in the upper right corner.

This is the first release of Udacity on Android, and the developers have said up front that there are a few features missing that will be added in short order. For example, the videos that make up the courses are only available when you have an internet connection. Offline caching will be added soon, though. Some of the lessons also consist of quizzes about what you've learned about in the video lessons up to that point. This is another feature not currently working on Android. If you want to do the quizzes,. you'll need to use a browser. Although, the programming courses require the use of desktop software anyway. It's not the end of the world, and the devs are planning to clean this stuff up.

The videos themselves are well-made with plenty of examples and almost excessively gentle instructors with disembodied hands. The basic courses won't take more than an hour or so to get through if you're just watching the videos. It's a lot more when you incorporate the projects associated with each course. The advanced classes contain several months of coursework.

You can do all of this for free, but if you need one-on-one help from instructors, in-depth reviews of your work, or a certificate at the end of your training, you have to pay the subscription fee. Most of the intro courses don't have this option, but the more valuable advanced ones do, and it's a bit spendy. Many of them are $150 per month and are expected to take 2-3 months to complete.

Despite a few missing features, Udacity looks like a cool way to learn a new skill on your Android device. I like that all the classes are available for free, and focusing on this one area of education ensures a high quality experience.

Wave Wave

Here we have the latest in a long line of games that will make you hate yourself just a little bit. If you've ever subjected yourself to Super Hexagon, you know the feeling I'm talking about. Wave Wave has a single control input. If only your fingers would tap at the right time, everything would be fine, but no. This game seriously angries up the blood.

All you have to do is press and hold on the screen to control the line traversing the psychedelic triangular world. When your finger is on the screen, it rises at a 45-degree angle. Let go and it falls at the same angle. Your goal is to avoid running into the triangular barriers placed randomly in your path, but you always have to stay toward the middle of the screen or you're disqualified for running into the barriers at the top and bottom.

Because you need to keep it more or less down the middle, you're always touching and letting go, but each time a barrier does present itself, you need to instantly work out the right time to start your climb or fall to avoid it. If this sounds easy, I have two additional factors to tell you about. First, the game is really fast. Second, the orientation, perspective, and scale of the course can change at any moment. Wave Wave really is a jerkface.

If you'll forgive the reference, it really has a Flappy Bird sort of vibe where you focus intently to make it just a little farther, only to screw up at the last moment. The anger wells up inside, your chest burns, and your fists clench and shake, ready to hurl the phone across the room… but first one more round.

The standard gameplay mode is random and comes in three different difficulty levels. The only goal is to see how long you can make it, but performing a difficult rapid zigzag maneuver can push you into bonus mode where you time is boosted. More often than not, trying to get into bonus mode will screw up your rhythm and cause you to die, but that's all part of the calculation.

The entire visual experience of Wave Wave feels frantic and fast. The simple triangular backdrops work for the gameplay style, and the way everything smoothly flips and morphs as you're playing is both enchanting and infuriating. I almost don't want to recommend Wave Wave because I hate it a little inside, but it is a good game. It's only $1.99, so give it a look.

Eliss Infinity

The screenshots and demo video of Eliss Infinity in Google Play tell you almost nothing about what it is or how it works. In fact, even the game itself is impenetrable when you first start playing. There are retro-style icon on the screen, some of which make sense, but it might take a few tries to even get a game started. When you do, the experience that greets you is equally incomprehensible at the start, but after a few interactions it starts to make a kind of amazing sense.

The goal in Eliss Infinity is to clear a certain number of retro planetoids from the screen to complete the level. The way you do that is to merge matching ones or pull them apart with multitouch gestures so they fit in the strange cosmic rifts that appear. The size range for what seals the rift is fairly narrow, but you want to get as much mass in each one as possible. Each one of these rifts is color-coded as well. When two planetoids of different colors touch, you lose some life. Let that go on for too long, and it's game over.

Eliss Infinity stresses the importance of interacting with multiple touch points at the same time. In fact, it recommends setting your device on a flat surface so all of your fingers are free to manage planets. each one has its own momentum as you fling it around, and that can be a problem as more and more planets spawn from the aether. In general, you'll want to bundle them up into bigger units, then split off what you need to clear a rift. That makes it easier to keep different colors from interacting.

Just when you think you've mastered keeping all those balls in the air, the game throws you a curveball. Suddenly spatial anomalies with start drifting through that change gravity and start dragging your planets around. Some may also inflict damage on your life bar if they come in contact with any color planet.

This one simple concept somehow becomes completely engaging across 25 levels of action-puzzling. If that's not enough, there's an infinite mode that lets you clear planets endlessly. The sandbox mode is there just for playing around with the physics. You will eventually figure out which button leads to each mode. It's definitely worth the $2.99 buy-in with no in-app purchases.