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Google Play App Roundup: Cyanogen Gallery, 99 Bricks Wizard Academy, and Blek

By Ryan Whitwam

Pics, blocks, and lines.

It's time to make your phone better not through hard work and determination, but by installing some apps. That's a lot easier. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we find the best new and newly updated stuff on Android. Hit the links to open the Play Store.

This week we've got a new gallery app, the anti-Tetris, and a game all about lines.

Cyanogen Gallery

Usually apps that start with "Cyanogen" have to do with installing a custom ROM, but not so with the new Cyanogen Gallery app. Well, it's not entirely new. This app was first posted when the OnePlus One began shipping and was exclusive to that phone, but it was recently expanded to all Android devices running 4.2 or higher. Considering some devices don't even have the stock Gallery app included anymore, this could be a worthy replacement.

The layout of the Cyanogen Gallery app is nothing groundbreaking -- the slide-out nav bar on the left gives you access to an album view, all media, and moments. The moments view is essentially a cleaned up month-by-month layout, which is what the app defaults to. Moments also get split up by location, if you have geotags on your images. Below the view modes are your services, but that's a little misleading. After installing the app you have "internal" in that list, but you can also add cloud services like Google+, Facebook, and Dropbox.

Once you've dropped more sources into Cyanogen Gallery, you can choose between them, then set your view. it's a nice way to handle your images if you've got a lot of duplicates on various services (ex. if you're using an auto-backup tool). When you open any of the photo groups (however you've decided to sort them) there will be a slideshow button up at the top, which is a nice touch. There's also Chromecast support backed into the app for throwing your images up on a bigger screen.

Cyanogen Gallery seems to perform very well, even with big files. The cloud images take a moment to populate in the thumbnail view, but the full resolution version loads quickly when you tap. The only thing I'm really missing is a built-in image editor. A lot of gallery apps have some simple tools to crop or brighten a picture, but Cyanogen Gallery directs you to other installed apps when you choose Edit from the menu.

Overall this is a solid replacement for the stock gallery app on most devices. I'm not sure it will become my go-to, but it's worth checking out.

99 Bricks Wizard Academy

I know this looks like yet another boring Tetris clone, but 99 Blocks Wizard Academy does something interesting with the whole falling tetromino thing. Rather than clearing bricks by completing lines, you're using the blocks to build the tallest and most stable structure you can -- it's kind of the opposite of Tetris.

As a young wizard in training, you need a tower to call your own. After all, what kind of lame wizard doesn't have a tower? So the blocks will fall down in the normal Tetris fashion, and you have to arrange them to reach great heights without collapse. Dragging left and right moves the blocks, tapping rotates, and dragging down drops them. Sound easy? Not so much, actually.

In Tetris, when a block lands, it is locked into place and nothing will dislodge it. In 99 Bricks, the blocks are held in place only by gravity, which means poor placement will weaken your structure over time, and make it harder to place more blocks without toppling the whole thing. In fact, you're not even bound to the usual single block-wide snap points when placing things. The lanes are divided in half so you have finer control over how you arrange the blocks to compensate for leaning or strange alignment.

In addition to simply placing blocks, you have access to spells that can help you along (again, you're a wizard). The lightning strike disintegrates the last block you placed so you can undo a mistake, and the stone power makes the next block you drop stick in place permanently. Each time you advance by completing challenges, the game rewards you with a new spell.

The higher your tower gets, the faster the blocks rain down. You also have to contend with other wizards, who apparently are all jerks. Here you are trying to build a tower, and they start messing with your blocks, making them move faster or grow to be gigantic. It's rude. Well, whatever happens, you can drop up to three blocks off the tower before it's game over. At the end you get to place a top on your partially collapsed tower and get some coins for your trouble.

99 Bricks has very clean, bright cel shaded graphics. The colors really pop and the animations are funny. I'm also impressed with the dialog, which comes off as just the right kind of quirky and weird.

This game is completely free, and there are no in-app purchases. What? How? It was $2.99 on iOS, but the developers decided to go with ads only in the Android version. The ads show up after each round in a popup, which you can dismiss instantly. There is also a small banner ad in the store. It's really not bad for a really enjoyable game.

Blek

The newly arrived Blek is a puzzle game with a simple concept that quickly becomes maddeningly addictive. All you have to do is draw a gesture on the screen that intersects all the colored dots without hitting any of the black ones. Oh, if only it were as simple as it sounds.

Blek starts you off with very simple puzzles to teach you the mechanics of the game, but the difficulty ramps up quickly. You have to draw a line that loops around or zigzags -- whatever it needs to do -- such that it hits all the colored dots before it goes off the screen or hits a black dot. Here's the catch: you can't just draw a line through all the dots. Instead, you draw the line, and it continues across the screen, repeating the pattern you created over and over until it falls off the edge.

This game will seriously exercise your visual spatial skills as you attempt to project where your line will end up and what it's going to run into. All the levels follow the same basic prescription, but each one is fascinating. You're not going to solve any of these on your first try. The fun comes in experimenting and thinking about the problem from different angles. Things do get a bit easier to grasp when you realize the pattern of black dots can usually be used as a guide for hitting your target.

My favorite thing about Blek is that there is no single correct answer to any puzzle. As long as your line collects all the pieces, you get to advance. There are certainly more simple way much of the time, but sometimes you just happen upon a ridiculously complicated solution, and it's a little bit magical.

The experience is stripped down, but that doesn't matter -- Blek gets its point across without a bunch of high-resolution textures or advanced physics. It's just you and that line, and it works beautifully. Blek is $2.99 in Google Play, and you should buy it.