You spent a pretty penny on your Android device, and there is a robust app ecosystem to go along with it these days. It just wouldn't do to waste money on apps that are anything but the best, so we invented the Google Play App Roundup. This is where you can find out about all the best new and newly updated apps, and why they're the best. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store to pick up the app yourself.
This week Rovio is back, a better battery widget, and a real-time soudscape gets strategic.
Rovio has built its reputation on Angry Birds. Virtually every man, woman, and child has played an Angry Birds game at least once. It runs on almost every tablet, phone, browser, and set top box on the planet. That’s a mighty hard act to follow, but Rovio is giving it a shot with the release of a physics puzzler called Amazing Alex.
In the game, Alex is an inquisitive kid that likes to build contraptions out of everyday objects. Your task in each level is to take the various components provided and accomplish the task laid out. This is essentially a simplified version of Apparatus with a few more goals in each stage. Perhaps one level might require you get a balloon to float off the top of the screen. Another might want you to get a tennis ball into the laundry basket. You can never tell, and I like that about Amazing Alex.
The materials are displayed in a list down at the bottom of the screen. Just tap and drag the ones you want to use. Many items can be rotated by dragging along the circular arrows that pop up when you release the plank, or tube, or whatever it is. Keep in mind that you can’t move anything that is already on the screen when you start. When you’re happy with your arrangement, you hit the play button and let gravity go to work. Ideally, you should knock something into each of the three stars placed around the level in conjunction with accomplishing the task.
You have to think about the way various items will behave, and don’t get too caught up with what each item is supposed to be for. I think this is my favorite thing about Amazing Alex. The challenges seem to be much more fun when you get creative. Just because you have a pipe, doesn’t mean it needs to be used as one. Maybe bouncing a ball off the side of it, instead of through it, will work better.
Amazing Alex is a solid game visually. Like many games, it has an animated look to it. The edges are crisp and all the action is smooth. The physics seem mostly accurate as well. With all this said, there’s nothing really special about this game’s style. It looks a lot like Cut the Rope. I think the music is really a throwaway -- there’s nothing engaging about it. Actually, it’s a little annoying.
Amazing Alex might not be Angry Birds, but it’s a solid game. If it came from any other studio, I’d be more impressed, but Rovio has a lot to live up to. Still, for $0.99 Amazing Alex is a well-made game. A $2.99 HD version is also available, but I don’t know if it is really any different.
Battery Widget Reborn
I always have a battery widget of some sort on my home screen. Lately, that widget has been Battery Widget Reborn. Not only does it fit in great with the Holo UI, but it has a ton of great information. It’s also free, so you can’t go wrong there.
The widget is added just like any other widget, but don’t be disappointed that it shows up as a 1x1. It is a circular gauge done in an ICS blue. You can stretch it to take up more space and be easier to read. This is really handy for tablets in particular. It has to be a square grid size, but tablets have more spots anyway.
So the widget itself looks cool, but it’s got another trick up its sleeve. Tap on it, the main app opens up, and it’s great. The first tab has a big battery gauge, a link to the Android system battery usage screen, and power settings toggles. To the right is a battery history graph that’s a little more detailed than the stock Android one. It also has charge/discharge rates (delta 1%), as well as an estimated remaining life based on current usage.
The last two panels are for various settings, with the first being all about the notification icon. I disabled this, but if you want a continuous reminder of your battery charge percent, this is a good one. You can configure what information the notification itself shows including the cell temperature, time remaining, voltage, and more. The last settings page is fairly sparse. You can set airplane mode to come on automatically at night to save power, and switch from celcius to Farenheit.
This is possibly the best battery widget I’ve come across, and it’s free. The widget is still a beta, but I’ve had no problem. A paid version might show up later, but for now you should get it without reservation.
This is a game with narrow appeal, but not because there is anything wrong with it. On the contrary; it’s amazing. However, it’s only for Tegra-based tablets. Since so many people are suddenly rocking a Nexus 7 with a Tegra 3 chip, this game fits in perfectly. Auralux is a unique interstellar real time strategy (RTS) that will suck you right in.
The concept is simple. You start with control of one star, and each second that passes that star produces one unit. You use your units to claim other stars, capture enemy stars, and annihilate enemy units. Each level will have you taking on one or more enemy stars denoted by their color; you will always be blue, and the enemy might be red or green, for example.
You control your units by selecting a group, then tapping someplace in space, or more likely on a nearby star to send them off. If you tap on a star, all your units in orbit of it will be selected. If you want to get units from multiple stars, or just a subset of the ones orbiting a star, press and drag with one finger to produce an expanding selection circle. You can zoom and pan with two-fingered gestures too.
Some stars can be upgraded to produce more units as denoted by the number of rings around them. You do this by merging your existing units with the star. Just select some units, and tap on the star. They will be lost, but you get closer to an upgrade. This is essential in most levels to have sufficient units to take out the enemy’s positions.
The strategy in this game is slow paced, but very in-depth. You have to plan ahead and move your units where they’re going to be needed. If you see a swarm of enemies coming at you through deep space from an unexpected direction, it’s probably too late. Make no mistake; this game is serious business.
The music is a little quiet much of the time, but it picks up and falls into rhythm with the action when battles are going on. This is where the name of the game comes in. Each collision between units produces a chord, which is very cool. The closer you are zoomed to the action, the louder the music is.
The graphics are nice, but not Tegra-nice. I’m not sure why this is a Tegra-only game, but it does have some nice lighting effects and particle physics. From a distance, your units look like specs of glowing dust, and up close they're little shimmering stars. Auralux is free with in-app purchases for more maps. There are 4-5 maps that you can play for free, so there’s a fair amount of content. Check this out if you have a compatible tablet.
That's all for this week's Roundup. I hope these picks treat you well. Let me know if you find a great new app.