Google Play App Roundup: Focus Timer Reborn, Mushroom 11, and Hardway

By Ryan Whitwam

Mushroom road work.

A new week has dawned, but you can ease the transition with some new apps and games. You've come to the right place, too. This is the Google Play App Roundup, the weekly feature where we tell you what's new and cool in Google Play.Just hit the links to zoom right to the Play Store.

Focus Timer Reborn

Making time to get work done is not always easy. In fact, your phone can sometimes be a tempting distraction that keeps you from digging in and making some progress. With Focus Timer Reborn, it might be quite the opposite. This app helps you split up your time for more efficient work.

Focus Timer Reborn is based on the idea that you can be more productive if you use a series of short break and slightly longer work periods. The app defaults to using 25 minute periods of focused work, short 5-minute breaks, and longer 25 minute breaks. This is based loosely on the pomodoro method. The app includes options to set goals, configurable lengths of time, and stats to help you do this. The customization lets you use whatever version of work timers you like. Some people prefer the a 52-minute session of work followed by a 17-minute break.

The main screen in Focus Timer Reborn is the timer, which makes sense for an app that's supposed to help you get work done. Just tap the start button and get to it. You can also choose a short or longer break from this screen. Again, these lengths of time can be changed in the app's settings. There's also a handy notification available when the timer is running. It includes the remaining time and a stop button.

All your work periods are automatically logged in the Log tab, accessible at the bottom of the UI. This is a scrollable week view showing all the work blocks you entered. If for some reason you forget to start the app, you can manually enter a block of time in the log. The far right tab is for tracking goals. The default setting for each day is 8 blocks of focused work per day.

Focus Timer Reborn is also available online, and it syncs with the app. The app supports Google login. Thus, you can start a session on one device and pick it up on another, as long as you log into the app and web with the same account. Focus Timer Reborn is a solid app if you want to give a time management scheme a shot. It's free and there are no ads.

Mushroom 11

Even in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, there is hope for life. Your goal is to guide this new spongy lifeform across the landscape as it collects the DNA of other critters, and does battle with the hostile ones. Mushroom 11 is a puzzle-platformer, but it's easy to forget that. All you're doing is surviving.

I don't really know what the lifeform in Mushroom 11 is—I suppose some sort of fungus? It doesn't behave like any current, non-radioactive fungus, though. It's not quite solid and not quite liquid. When you're not interacting with it, the blob is completely solid. T can tumble down a hill or remain locked into place on a wall. When you press the screen, you can erase part of the creature. It grows back on the other side immediately. This is how you move around, but encouraging it to grow in a certain direction.

The control scheme is unusual. It's definitely one of those "easy to learn, tough to master" deals. The blob moves away from your finger, but there are some interesting quirks. For example, you're removing volume to encourage it to move, but it always grows back to occupy the same total space. It can be split up, though. Parts of the blob can fall off or squirm down different tubes in the ground. Lost volume always grows back on the largest contiguous piece of the blob. This allows for some interesting game mechanics. Maybe you need to hit a button off in some strange place, but there's an acid pit that will destroy the blob if you roll over that way. Just split off a little mini blob and let it hit the switch and get destroyed. The main blob grows back to compensate.

It's not all platforming and puzzles, though. Each stage ends with a boss battle or sorts. It's really just a hostile creature that you must defeat in order to move onward. The way you do this varies, but it's always a clever use of your abilities. In one battle you have to turn into a ramp to launch rolling explosive orbs back at the creature.

The levels are varied and beautiful in an eerie sort of way. There's a destroyed skyline visible in the background, but many of the environments are still lovely thanks to the interesting hand drawn aesthetic. Mushroom 11 also features ambient music The Future Sound of London.

This game is $4.99 and has no in-app purchases. It's absolutely worth the investment.

Hardway

The endless runner genre is certainly nothing new, but I don't think I've seen it done in quite the way Hardway does. It's an endless driving game played top-down with a series of bridges. It's free-to-play without being annoying about it, and the visuals are cool. We're off to a good start, but the developer did copy and paste the description from its iOS release, which does not necessarily fill me with confidence.

You're basically connecting a series of islands in Hardway. Your vehicle starts driving down the road, and you'd better have a bridge ready by the time it gets to the end. You do this by long-pressing the screen, which causes a bridge of the appropriate length to swing across the next island in an arc. Releasing the screen drops the bridge. If it doesn't lead to the next island, your car is going to crash. You don't want that.

There are sometimes obstacles or bonuses on these islands that affect where you want your bridge to end, and you can control the placement a bit more accurately in this case. The left and right halves of the screen are separate buttons that will make the bridge section rotate in clockwise and counterclockwise directions. So, you can sweep back a little if you miss your preferred spot or spin the right way to avoid running into an obstacle.

The game is played in a top-down view and takes place in portrait mode. That makes it easy to play on a phone with one hand. Great for a quick casual game. The assortment of cars and trucks available are unlocked in a method similar to Crossy Road—you earn coins and spend them at a price machine that unlocks a new random vehicle. Each one has quests that will unlock bonuses when completed.

There are multiple worlds to unlock in Hardway, all of which have the same vector-style art. It actually reminds me a bit of Google's old material landscapes.

Hardway is not a deep game, but it's great to kill a little time. The in-app purchases are not obnoxious, and the occasional video ads can be dismissed. If you want to get rid of the ads forever, it's $0.99. I just hope the devs fix that description.