Google Play App Roundup: Screens, Ookujira, and Empty

By Ryan Whitwam

Empty whale screens.

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.

Screens

Android 7.0 added support for split-screen apps in the core of Android, meaning all those janky OEM implementations can go the way of the dodo. This also opens developers up to play around with the feature, and maybe even improve it. Screens is an attempt to do just that. It lets you create shortcuts that launch multi-window mode with a predetermined pair of apps.

Setup for Screens requires only one trip into the settings, and you don't need root or anything fancy like that. All this app needs it access to Accessibility controls. It's basically launching apps and triggering split-screen mode automatically.

To create shortcuts, just open the Screens interface and pick a name for your shortcut and the two apps you want to open. Note which one is on the top and which is on the top and which is on the bottom—that's the orientation they'll show up in when you launch the app. If you have a device in landscape mode, the "top" position is on the right side of the display.

The shortcut on your home screen can be moved around like any other, and launching is fast. You'll probably see the very basic Screens UI flash for a split second, then your chosen apps will appear. It's a good idea to make sure the apps you've chosen will actually open in split-screen. Some developers specifically disallow that because it breaks something. However, the apps don't have to be running in the background to launch in split-screen via Screens.

The app is free and it definitely does what it claims to without trouble. I'd still like to see a few more niceties added. For example, a way to edit previously created shortcuts or custom icon support. Sprucing up the app's interface might be a smart too. Still, it could be a really useful app for anyone who uses the feature on Nougat.

Ookujira

Question: what's a creature that emerges from the sea to knock down buildings in Japan? Okay, Godzilla, yes, but also a giant whale called Ookujira. Technically, he's not out to destroy the city, he's trying to stop the aliens that are invading. The end result is kind of the same, though.

Ookujira is an endless runner, sort of. You're not really running, which should not surprise you as whales don't have legs (although they do have vestigial hips, but that's a story for another day). You get around in Ookujira by jumping from building to building. Your run comes to an end when you land on the ground with a disturbing wet slap.

Tapping on the screen jumps, and the longer you press, the higher you jump. You can jump again twice while in the air, but you'd better hope that there's a building under you when you come down. Again, wet slap, game over. There's also a slam button at the bottom of the screen. It recharges every few seconds, allowing you to rocket straight downward and knock down a building or take out enemies. Although, the developer really needs to hide the nav bar properly or move that button someplace else. They're far too close together.

Speaking of, your enemies in this game are a series of alien ships hovering around the city. Taking them out increases your score, which grants stars. The more stars you get, the more new cities you unlock.

Ookujira is randomly generates, so the layout of the city is different every time you play. It does tend to get harder the longer you play, though. There will be more gaps between buildings, making it more likely you'll end up in a bad spot. The in-game currency you earn can be used to buy power-ups that make you move faster, make it easier to knock down buildings, or save you from splattering on the ground a few times. You can also buy in-game currency for a few bucks, but that's optional. There are also upgraded whales that can be purchased.

Ookujira is a fun game, and it's great to play in short bursts. The bright colors and clean lines lend themselves well to the quick style of gameplay. I also like that it's not heavy-handed with the in-app purchases. It's a worthy download.

Empty

If you're going to empty out a real room, you've got to lug things around and work out the geometry of fitting things through the doorway. In Empty, all you have to do is match up some colors by spinning the room around.

Your goal in each puzzle room is to get rid of everything except the walls, which you do by getting each object in the room to overlap with something of the same color. The only control is tapping and dragging, but there's no limit to what direction and how far you can spin the room around. Sometimes you'll use a wall with a matching color to clear an object, but other times it's another object in the room.

Things start to get crazy when multi-colored objects are introduced. These objects have a glowing color as the non-dominant "ingredient." You don't have to match that color, but whatever you use to clear the object will be painted with this glowing color. That's often the key to clearing other objects in the room. However, not all paths lead to success. You might color a wall such that you can never get a particular object cleared. It takes careful planning and even some fancy rotation to avoid clearing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Empty naturally has very simple graphics, but it's cool how recognizable the spaces and objects are even without any detail or outlines. Something might obviously be a couch or a refrigerator just from the general shape. And the colors. I love the funky, clashing colorways used in this game. It's such a fun look.

Empty is a free game with optional donations to the developer. I suppose it shows this is a free title, not that it's particularly bad at anything. The gameplay is good, but there are some missing features like a way to load up previous levels. It's just continue and start over. Some achievements might be nice too. Still, you can't complain too much fro free.