Google Play App Roundup: Mobile Witness, Penarium, and Neon Chrome

By Ryan Whitwam

Sinister chrome recording.

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.

Mobile Witness

There may be times when you'd like to have some sort of digital record to back up your own words. Evidence, you might say. That's where Mobile Witness comes in. This app can record location data, audio, or video even if your phone is asleep.

The setup process is a bit more laborious than you think, but there's a good reason for that. Mobile Witness needs a few permissions and settings tweaks, and it takes you through each of them individually. Most apps just throw up the system permissions one after the next, so I appreciate the explanation of each permission. The app needs to access your location, microphone, and camera to work. Additionally, Mobile Witness asks to be exempted from Doze Mode. This is what allows it to continue recording when the app is not in the foreground or your phone is asleep.

The app has three tabs across the top for location, audio, and video. You can visit any of them to start a new data collection. You can also have it record data at regular intervals. And of course, everything the app does is silent—no shutter sounds to give you away. I've done some testing, and the app does indeed continue to record when it is closed or when the screen is turned off.

Collecting this information is of little use when your phone might be taken away or damaged, so Mobile Witness includes a number of cloud backup solutions. It has built-in support for Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and OneDrive on the third-party side. Plus custom settings for a personal server. Recordings are uploaded to your preferred cloud as you take them, so you'll have the data even if you don't have your phone. However, I've noticed the video files are a bit on the large side; a few hundred megabytes for a 1 minute video.

I suppose you need to live with a certain amount of paranoia to feel like you need Mobile Witness, but it's good at what it does. It's completely free, but you can donate to the developer or upgrade to a "premium" version of the app that includes a few experimental features.

Penarium

The latest game from the developers behind the classic Worms franchise is a considerably more fast-paced experience. Penarium follows the adventure of one "Willy," who has found himself competing in a "sinister circus arena." It's essentially an arena-style platformer with the difficulty turned up to maximum.

There are two different game modes in Penarium, a campaign and the arena. The campaign mode sends you leaping around the 2D arena to collect a certain number of barrels as traps around the level attempt to kill you. Arena mode is similar, but you just keep on collecting barrels for as long as possible. Additionally, arena mode is different each time you play.

The controls are extremely simple—all you need to do is run (arrows on the left) and jump (button on the right). The buttons are responsive and a good size. However, they are a little too far away from the edge of the screen to be comfortable on a larger tablet. Penarium is quite cozy on a phone, though.

I appreciate the variety of traps and weapons that Penarium uses to blast you to bits. There are giant rolling balls, missiles, spinning blades, and machine guns. You will die in Penarium quite a lot, but each level only takes about a minute to play if you succeed. So, you're not losing much time when you die. This game will really put your platforming skills to the test with all the traps. Plus, the environment loops, so you can walk off one side of the screen and appear on the other. That allows for a lot of interesting gameplay mechanics.

There are several different areas of the game to unlock in campaign mode, then you can play around in the arena. Coins picked up while playing arena mode can be used to buy power ups for the arena. All the areas have a similar retro "pixel-art-deco" vibe, but the level of detail and animations are very modern. I personally really like the muted color palette.

Penarium clocks in at $1.99 in the Play Store, and that's all you'll pay. There are no in-app purchases. It's a great platformer for your phone.

Neon Chrome

Neon Chrome is the latest game from 10tons, the developer of Crimsonland, one of my favorite shooters on Android. This game too is a top-down shooter, but the production values have been pumped up with a story, plenty of player upgrades, better graphics, and more. You still have a ton of guns for shooting stuff, though.

The game has a standard dual-stick control system. Use the left stick to move around the level, and aim/fire with the right one. The game defaults to using auto-aim, but you can turn that off if you want a bit more control over where your shots go. You don't have to worry about running out of ammo, but you do need to reload occasionally. In addition to the sticks, there's an optional reload button, an action button, and a special weapon button. Those are all over near the right thumbstick.

Neon Chrome is described by the developers as a "roguelite" game—it's not as unforgiving as a roguelike where all your progress is lost upon death, but it's still fairly difficult and only has occasional checkpoints after boss battles. It's also a bit roguelike in the use of procedurally generated levels. You can play the same section of the game over and over without having the same experience. The way you play the game also varies based on the character you choose from three available options. That too is different each time you play.

Like Crimsonland, there are many, many weapons to discover in Neon Chrome. There are different classes of weapons with different strengths, rates of fire, and clip sizes. When you come across a better one, you can swap out your current one. There are also bonus perks that can be added to your character, but those only last for your current game. Credits are earned while playing, and those are used to permanently improve your skills. So, even if you don't make it to a boss checkpoint, you can make some progress with upgrades that will help you do better next time.

Visually, Neon Chrome really does look like you'd expect a game called "Neon Chrome" to look. The walls are glowing with color, and the lighting effects are extreme. I also like than many of the walls are destructible. You can turn a series of corridors into a big empty space pretty fast. It's a taxing game, but it runs smoothly on all the high-end devices I've tested it on. A mid-range phone might be sluggish during particular intense scenes.

Neon Chrome is not a cheap game at $9.99, which is the same Crimsonland costs. You really do get what you pay for, though. Neon Chrome is extremely well-designed to offer infinite replayability and a good sense or player progress alongside roguelike elements.