Google Play App Roundup: Stringify, Road Not Taken, and War Commander: Rogue Assault

By Ryan Whitwam

Automated road warfare.

Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

Stringify

Many of us have ended up with various smart internet-connected things. Cameras, lights, and of course our smartphones. There are a number of services that tie these things together, but Stringify is a new take on this with a more visual and potentially powerful approach. Simply link up your services and start playing around.

If you've used something like IFTTT or Tasker, you'll be able to figure out Stringify pretty fast. It's sort of a combination of those two (although it can actually plug into IFTTT as well). Stringify uses "flows" to control your devices and services. You can use one of the flows from the starter pack to get familiar with the process, but ideally you will want to create new flows based on the things you have.

I've been playing around with Stringify and my Arlo home security cameras. In a few minutes I was able to create flows to arm and disarm the cameras based on my location and manually trigger a video recording when I tap a special Stringify button. One thing that really sets Stringify apart from services like IFTTT is that it can have multiple triggers and actions, and they're pretty easy to follow with the flowchart setup process. IFTTT by comparison only allows a single trigger and action. You can even plug into IFTTT to integrate recipes within your flows.

To create flows, you pick the services you want to use, and drop them on the provided grid of circles. There are plenty of built-in triggers like time, location, and so on. The ones needing configuration have gear icons to let you know. After all your icons are set up, you can drag between them to create the flow. I've found Stringify to be very reliable, but there are still some bugs. A few services are also unsupported in the Android client. Not surprising as this is a beta app. If you choose to use a button trigger in Stringify, you can access those from the app's control center. Although, I've had trouble getting the home screen widget version working.

Despite the issues with this early build, Stringify is something you should keep an eye on. It could potentially be a very powerful automation app.

Road Not Taken

The latest title from developer Spry Fox has been in testing for some time. It appeared as an unreleased beta a few months ago before being pulled entirely. Now, it's back in its complete form and ready for your turn-based adventuring. Your goal in Road Not Taken is to save the children of your village when they get lost in winter storms. The adults of this particular village seem to be terrible parents, because this happens every single winter.

Road Not Taken is interesting not only because of the cute design and lovely visuals. It's also a title that brings elements from many different genres together. It's part adventure, part RPG, and part puzzler. Each season in the game, some number of children will get lost out picking berries, you must venture out to collect them and return them to their parents. You do this with your magic staff, which allows you to pick up and move things, as well as hurl them across the level.

Each "room" in Road Not Taken is a grid of squares, and for the most part, only one object or character can inhabit a square at a time. You move by swiping in any direction, but sometimes you'll need to pick things up (a tap) and throw them out of your way (tap again). Most objects (and people) you throw will travel in a straight line until they hit something else. Opening the path from one room to the next often means lining up certain objects to unlock the way. This is the puzzling aspect of the game.

The most important stat in Road Not Taken is your energy. It takes energy to move in certain areas, but it always costs energy to move while lifting something. You'll often need to do this to get something into position to hurl it where you need it. Likewise, sometimes you just need to get something out of your way.

Road Not Taken starts off fairly simply, but it quickly introduces new objects and characters. For example, you might come across a duplication potion, which can make more copies of something you need to line up to unlock a path. Great, except I accidentally used it on a goat, which then went around eating all the plants I needed to unlock the way. There are ways to get yourself stuck, but you can always transport back to the start and try another way around. Road Not Taken has so, so many things to discover for having very straightforward gameplay.

You can progress through a season if you rescue half of the children, but getting all of them gets you the best rewards and sets you up well for the following year when the irresponsible parents of the village inevitably lose their kids again. Road Not Taken is played over the course of 15 such years, and the levels are randomly generated every time. It's also roguelike in some ways. When you run out of energy, it's game over and a new adventurer will have to take over.

Road Not Taken has a classic Zelda vibe for me. The top-down view and grid system works well, and the 2D sprite designs are great. Gameplay is very smooth too.I have noticed one odd bug on the Pixel C—the colored filter layer doesn't reach all the way to the edge of the screen on the right side. There's no issue on other devices, though.

Road Not Taken will cost you $4.99, but it's completely free of in-app purchases. It's absolutely worth checking out.

War Commander: Rogue Assault

Plenty of games have tried to recreate the success of Clash of Clans, which has led to strategy games on mobile being extremely simplified and tuned to rake in cash via in-app purchases. In a word: lame. War Commander: Rogue Assault aims to make strategy games fun again by making them more strategic and less obnoxious with the IAPs.

If you've played any of the games aping CoC, you'll understand the basic mechanics of War Commander: Rogue Assault. You have a base, which houses all your production buildings and stores your resources. It's important to build defenses so you can try to fend off attacks from other players who want your precious resources. Early on, you're probably going to lose these battles (which take place without your explicit participation). Eventually, you can build up a defense that gives you a fighting chance.

When you go on the offensive, there's a story campaign and a PvP component to the game. Both of them grant you resources and XP points to upgrade your base, build new vehicles, and expand your industrial capacity. This is all pretty standard for the mobile strategy genre.

Where War Commander starts to set itself apart is with the combat. Your units don't just run around as dictated by the AI. You can actually tell them where to go and what to attack. You can even shut off the AI completely and map out every move. In Clash of Clans and similar titles your units just run around attacking whatever is nearby, and you can sometimes move them to a specific location with special abilities. It's not very strategic. In War Commander, you can move your troops around to maximize their effectiveness by targeting the biggest threats, not just what's closest.

Another much appreciated change here is the lack of timers. You don't have to wait some arbitrary amount of time to build units or structures. You can even rearrange buildings in your base without spending resources. This makes the game feel much less oppressive and antagonistic. You also have complete control over the units you decide to bring into battle. If you lose them, no problem. They can be rebuilt cheaply, and again, there's no long timer with an IAP buy-out.

The graphics in War Commander: Rogue Assault are top notch for games of its type. The top-down isometric view gives you a good view of the battlefield, and the level of detail is great. The textures and unit designs are very crisp, and the animations are smooth. Even zoomed in things look pretty nice for the most part. My only complaints: some of the particle effects are slightly blurry up close, and units sometimes bunch up and clip through each other.

This game is free, and you'll probably end up wanting to drop a couple dollars on it. However, the system is much less annoying as other strategy games.