Google Play App Roundup: Power Button Flashlight, Day of the Vikings, and Air Control 2

By Ryan Whitwam

Bright viking flight.

Apps move quickly on Android. No sooner have you found an app you can get cozy with, a better alternative has come along. We're here to make sure you're ahead of the curve--that you're always on the bleeding edge. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is for. Just click on the links to head to Google Play and get the best new apps and games for your device.

This week there's light, a game about vikings, and an airport in need of control.

Power Button Flashlight

This app actually came out a few weeks ago, but I haven't had a chance to get it into the roundup until now. It really deserves to be here, though. Oh, not because it's an entirely new idea or anything, but just because it's so darn convenient. This app lets you turn on the LED flash in your phone with three presses of the power button. This works even when the screen is off, and it doesn't require root access.

The app itself works as a regular flashlight app--you can open it and press the button to toggle the flash on. The headlining functionality doesn't require you have the app open at all. At any time you can triple tap the power button to activate the flash. This is part of the free feature set. To turn it back off, you need to buy the full version via a $0.99 in-app purchase. Well, you can turn it off from inside the app for free, but that rather defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Upgrading to the full version adds a few other interesting options like increasing the power button count to four when the screen is on. That way you don't end up with the screen in the off state when the flashlight is activated. As an aside, you'll probably want to get into the system security settings to set a timeout for the lock screen and disable instant locking with the power button.

I've found Power Button Flashlight to be quite reliable. It sometimes takes about a second to activate after the last press, but it still comes on. As long as all three presses happen within three seconds, you're good. Some devices with very soft buttons might be much faster to press, in which case you should change the lower limit cut off in the app to a quarter second.

Various phones have similar ways of activating the flashlight, and Lollipop has a toggle in the quick settings, but Power Button Flashlight is faster. It's not really worth using without the full version upgrade, but it's only a buck.

Day of the Vikings

In a lot of ways this is a standard 2D defense game, but Day of the Vikings from Adult Swim games does justice to the genre. Your castle and its defenses are all that stands between the princess and the viking hordes. It's going to take nimble fingers to keep up with all the attackers, but that's the fun.

In Day of the Vikings your castle is off to the right of the screen, and the vikings come in from the left. The level is actually slightly wider than one screen, but you can zoom in and out as needed. It makes more sense to stay zoomed all the way out most if the time, though. That lets you see vikings attackers earlier. If your weapons are sufficiently upgraded, you can thin their ranks long before they get into attack range.

Speaking of weapons, you've got two main systems at your disposal. Tapping on the screen fires an arrow, which will take out some of the weaker vikings, but only damages the stronger ones. You also have a catapult that you fire in the traditional Angry Birds fashion. At first you only get rocks in your catapult, but subsequent upgrades add some other goodies like exploding barrels and pigs (yes, pigs are surprisingly effective).

Each level has three objectives, each of which grants a star upon completion. You might need you do things like avoid taking damage, hit a certain accuracy mark, or pull off trick shots. Some games have a similar challenge system, but there's little to no reason to actually obtain the stars. In Day of the Vikings the stars are used to unlock future sets of levels. This gives you a reason to actually replay the levels in different ways and improves the overall experience.

The graphics are simple, but very clean and well-rendered. The developers did a good job of changing up the environment from one level to the next as well. Sometimes its afternoon in a lush field, while other levels take place in the dead of night with thick forests obscuring enemy movements.

This is a free-to-play game, but in the grand scheme of in-app purchases, Day of the Vikings isn't bad. There's only one type of currency used for upgrading your abilities, and you earn a fair amount from playing. You can also buy more with real money, but the IAPs top out at $20. There are ads that appear every now and then between levels, but they're not too annoying. Still, I wish there was a way to pay a few bucks to get rid of them.

Air Control 2

The original Air Control was one of the first games on Android that felt truly polished, but it's faded into the background in recent years. Mobile gaming has become much more complicated since then, but the new sequel to Air Control is probably worth a look. It comes in both free-to-play and paid variants too.

Each airport map in this game has a unique layout of runways, landing pads, and blimp docks. Your goal is to keep things ticking along as long as possible without a collision. It sounds easier than it is, believe it or not. Different planes need to land on different runways, and special vehicles like helicopters and blimps (obviously) have to go to their own landing zones. To complicate matters, each aircraft moves at a different speed, so you'll constantly have to reassign flight routes.

The way you do this is essentially the simplest type of interaction you can have with a game. When an aircraft appears on the screens, just tap and drag to create a course for it to follow. The beginning of each level will be slow, but you can speed up time to get more aircraft on the screen faster. The only goal is to avoid a crash, but you earn coins from each successful landing along the way. There's also a coin multiplier that goes up over time.

So what do you do with all those coins? They're used to unlock additional airports, only one of which is available at the beginning. You can also buy more coins in the free or paid version of the game, but you earn a good number while playing. The main difference between the free and paid version is the balance of the IAP economy and the ads in the free version.

I'm not going to claim Air Control 2 with its simple graphics and straightforward gameplay is breaking any new ground, but it is strangely addictive and enjoyable. It's very good at what it does, so give it a shot.