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Google Play App Roundup: TapPath, Duet, and Afterlight

By Ryan Whitwam

Links, blocks, and pics.

A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

This week there's a new way to manage links, a killer rhythm game, and an app for making pretty pictures.

TapPath

The "complete action with" dialog in Android isn't perfect, but it's a problem several apps are trying to fix. The recently featured Better Open With is one way, but noted developer Chris Lacy is giving it a shot now as well. TapPath lets you send web links to different apps based on the number of times you tap it, which is pretty cool.

Like most of these solutions, you need to set TapPath as the default handler for web links. Once that's done, you can open the TapPath app and choose your tap settings. It recognizes single, double, and triple taps. Simply set each one to a different app. So for example, I have a single tap set to open Chrome Beta, a double-tap for Link Bubble, and triple-tap for the share menu.

TapPath can save you a lot of time when dealing with web links, but it's not perfect. If you are in an app that allows double-tap zooming, you have to be fairly precise with your taps. If you miss the link (in Gmail for example), the app will zoom instead of triggering Tap Path. Otherwise, TapPath should work as expected in any app system-wide. The app isn't just for browsers, though. You can set a different number of taps for anything from Pocket to Push Bullet.

A small toast notification will pop up to tell you which tap sequence was recognized, just as confirmation everything is working as expected. TapPath works very well overall. It will occasionally see a single-tap for a double or triple, but there is a setting for the tap delay, which can be lengthened if you're having issues.

TapPath will cost you a buck in the Play Store. It's at least worth checking out.

Duet

I don't usually like mobile games that are punishingly difficult (Wayward Souls being a notable exception). However, there's something about the new rhythm-based arcade game Duet. This title came to Android as part of the current Humble Mobile Bundle, and now it's also in the Play Store as a free trial with in-app upgrade.

You've probably played similar games that didn't have staying power, but Duet has stumbled upon a particularly engaging style of gameplay. So here's the deal--you are in control of two floating orbs attached to a ring at the bottom of the screen. By pressing on the left and right sides of the screen, you can cause the ring to rotate, taking the orbs along with it. all you need to do is spin the ring so neither of the orbs run into the blocks falling down from the top of the screen. Yeah, I say that like it's easy. It is not.

The first few levels do a good job of explaining the mechanics and include some tips on recognizing patterns in the game. For example, there are a number of places where the pattern of falling blocks allows you to just press and hold one side and the orbs will dip into the empty spaces for a few seconds. You just need to know when to stop and change direction. There are also blocks that rotate themselves, so you need to learn how to immediately recognize which way you'll have to spin to sync up with it.

What's fascinating about Duet is the way your brain adapts to it over time. You stop thinking in terms of clockwise and counterclockwise rotations, and begin to just think about moving the orbs--you get into the zone. In fact, I've found that becoming aware of the actual game mechanics during a particularly intense section of the game is a surefire way to die. The game even leaves a little splatter of paint matching the color of the orb that impacts a block. It's a nice way to remind you of your failure the next time you try to beat the level.

There are about 40 levels in the main campaign, each of them about 20 seconds long. Does that sound like not very much gameplay? Well, you're wrong. Some of these levels will take dozens of runs before you get it right. It is both infuriating and hugely enjoyable. The sense of accomplishment when you finally spin your way through a seemingly incomprehensible torrent of obstacles is wonderful. There are also numerous challenges, and an epilogue campaign with a few dozen more levels.

The visuals in Duet are clean and minimalist. They really have to be so you can concentrate on the gameplay. The lines are smooth and the subtle background animations are nice. The music is really the key making this game feel engrossing. The soundtrack is absolutely amazing. it shifts between gentle ambient tracks and more urgent electronic beats.

If you get Duet from the Play Store, it'll run you $3 via an in-app purchase. You can still play the campaign with ads if you don't want to pay for it, but you should. Duet is great.

Afterlight

Sometimes it can be hard to know exactly why a particular app gets noticed when at first glance there are other apps capable of the same things. Afterlight has been on iOS for a while now, and it has done quite well despite being a $0.99 photo editor app in a sea of free editing apps. I don't know if I'd say Afterlight is special, but it's certainly pretty good at what it does.

Like most editing apps, Afterlight allows you to choose existing images from the gallery or take a new one in the app. The Aferlight camera interface is okay, but you're probably going to want to use the real camera app so as to get the best results. The app gives you a chance to review the imported image at full size before loading up the editing interface, which is a nice touch.

The tools in Afterlight are extensive with sliders for brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, exposure, color temperature, and more. it even ventures into more esoteric values like highlights and midtones. Basically, it has at least as many general image tweaks as any other app I've seen. There are also tools for cropping and rotating for good measure. All the adjustments and filters are available in a bar at the bottom that pops open a list of functions. The only complaint here is that the buttons are unlabeled and it's not always clear what each icon means.

Like any good image editing app these days, Afterlight comes with a plethora of filters, almost all of which are included in the initial purchase. I'm not much for filters, but these do seem nicer than almost all the other ones you'd find in other apps. It's about on par with VSCO Cam in that department. There are five filters out of the dozens that you can only unlock by Liking Afterlight on Facebook, but technically you just have to tap the link then back out.

In addition to the filters there are frames, vignettes, and film effects. I can't even pretend to understand the light leak film stuff, but they are present. Instant film effects are in Afterlight too, which I understand even less, so I'm not bothered that you have to pay another $0.99 to unlock those.

Afterlight is a little light on sharing targets after saving pics, though. You can save to the gallery, as well as sed to Facebook, Instagram, and a few other services. One last thing I really appreciate about Afterlight is that you can flip a switch in the settings to have the full resolution image exported at the end. Otherwise the large option defaults to 2048 pixels wide at the largest. You still get smaller options if you're just going to Instagram it.