Google Play App Roundup: Shortcutter, Avalanche, and Gravity Galaxy

By Ryan Whitwam

Avalanche gravity shortcuts.

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.

Shortcutter

Google's included quick settings tiles are pretty robust these days, and some OEMs even add a few more for good measure. They don't have everything, though. That's where Nougat's new quick settings tile API comes in. Shortcutter is one of a new breed of apps that add additional tiles to the quick settings. This app has a lot of features in the free version, and there are some goodies exclusively for rooted users.

After installing Shortcutter, you'll need to open the app to run through a quick setup process. The app needs access to modify your settings and change the do not disturb features. It only takes a few seconds and the app is very clear about what you have to do. The only settings in the app to be modified are the custom URL and app shortcuts. There's only one of each in the free version, but the upgraded premium app (a $2.99 ad-on) increases that the four of each.

Adding Shortcutter tiles to the quick settings works just like managing the stock tiles. Open the editing panel and long-press to drag in the new tiles. If you're not rooted, you get a reasonable selection of tiles (in addition to the aforementioned custom URL and app shortcuts). There's next alarm, screen timeout, ring mode, haptic feedback, camera launcher, and more. With root, you get tiles for things like Reboot, ADB, ambient display, and network mode.

It's quite robust for a free app. One thing I would like to see added is a way to disable Shortcutter toggles you don't intend to use. The list of tiles in the quick settings edit panel can be a little unwieldy, especially if you install a few tile managers.

Avalanche

There are a number of takes on the classic PC game SkiFree on Android, but none of them are very good. Avalanche isn't a clone of SkiFree, but it's done in the same spirit. Rather than evading that blasted yeti, you're trying to outrun an avalanche. Of course, so is everyone else on this particular mountain.

Avalanche is an endless runner-type of game, but there's a lot of "ending" if you get my drift. You probably won't survive very long because there's a lot to run into even if you avoid the onslaught of snow behind you. Simply going straight won't get you going fast enough, so you need to weave back and forth on the slopes to gain speed. You do that by tapping and dragging on the screen to turn left and right. Be careful; swipe too aggressively and you'll end up slowing down as you turn wide.

The path down the mountain is crowded with other skiers, which gives you a glimpse at many of the almost-copyright-infringing sprites in the game. That's not Iron man, that's the Red Knight. Sure it is. Knocking another skier off their feet gets you a bonus, but running into a tree or a pole gets you an immediate game over. Don't do that.

Visually, this is a good mix of retro style and a more modern 3D look. Imagine Skifree with voxel characters and some lighting effects. That's Avalanche. The design of the characters is fun despite the cheeky rip-offs of popular characters. Along the way down the slopes, there will be coins to pick up. These will allow you to (eventually) unlock more characters. The unlock tiers right now seem rather high. Avalanche is not as free with the bonus coins as games like Crossy Road. This game is still in testing technically, so hopefully that changes. There are also no in-app purchases right now. I suspect that'll change too.

Gravity Galaxy

Gravity is a harsh mistress—make a slight miscalculation when playing Gravity Galaxy, and you'll surely go spiraling out into the void, never to be heard from again. Well, until you press the retry button. You'll do that a lot.

Gravity Galaxy is an arcade-style game of timing with super-simple controls. You start each level on a small rotating planet. Your craft can launch upward in a straight line, but some lazy engineer apparently forgot to equip you with maneuvering thrusters. You have to rely entirely upon gravity and the rotation of planets to get to the end of the level, which is a blue-green Earth-like planet. To do that, just tap.

Tapping the screen launches your ship in a straight line. The nearby planets have translucent halos around them to indicate the size and strength of the gravitational field. You can use that to slingshot around them, or just aim for a landing and let the rotation of the planet point you in a new direction. You can also press and hold to get a dotted line that changes as planets and other objects move around, allowing you to perfectly time your launch.

There are three stars in each level, and collecting all three is optional. Reaching the end of the level is all that's needed to move on. However, the stars are needed to unlock more areas of the game. Skip too many and you'll have to go back and mop up to unlock more stages. Getting all the stars sometimes requires some death-defying spins around stars, through wormholes, and quick stops at exploding planets.

Gravity Galaxy is a low-poly game, which is very popular these days. Although, it goes a bit further than just "low-poly." The visuals are primitive and geometric with bright colors and cool particle effects.

You can play the entire game free, but there are some annoyances if you do. There are lives, which you use each time you restart a level. They regenerate, but you can (and should) pay $0.99 to get unlimited lives. There's also a $1.99 IAP to disable the ads that pop up in between many of the levels. These are both permanent upgrades and are totally worth it. There are also a series of unnecessary but fun power-ups you can buy.

The simple controls, slick gameplay, and reasonable IAP scheme combine to create a game I truly enjoy. It was hard to stop playing Gravity Galaxy to actually write about it.