Google Play App Roundup: Socratic, Battle Bay, and Desert Island Fishing

By Ryan Whitwam

It's like Tinder for fish.

There's no reason you wouldn't want the best apps on your Android device, but the Google Play Store makes that hard sometimes. Don't worry, though. That's what the weekly app roundup here on Tested is all about. This is where you can go to find out what the best apps are, and why they're the best. Click on the app name to go right to the Play Store web site to grab the app for yourself.

Socratic

School is just getting out for most kids, but there's a new app in the Play Store that could be of great use once classes are in session again. Socratic is an app that snaps photos of homework questions, then offers up answers from a variety of sources. This app has been in beta testing for a while, but now it's available to everyone.

Socratic is essentially about saving time. You could look up the answer to most questions with some Google searching, but this app makes it easy—you don't even have to type anything. And really, typing mathematical expressions is annoying. After opening Socratic for the first time, it will ask to be granted camera access, which is necessary for scanning in questions.

Just point the viewfinder at the question and tap the capture button. Don't worry about the framing; after capturing the image you have a chance to drag the border to crop out anything that isn't part of the question.

Socratic is supposed to work for math, science, English, and history questions. I've found it to be most accurate with math, which should give you answers for anything up through advanced algebra. The answer interface is displayed as a series of cards that scroll left to right across the screen. The first card will offer a definitive answer, if one is available. In the case of math problems, it shows you the solution step by step. Scrolling over to other cards includes additional background information from the web, as well as videos.

I've found Socratic to be excellent at reading the text. It gets the right input virtually every time, even if it sometimes doesn't have an answer. Math is the best right now, as long as you don't throw anything too heavy at it. Basic scientific and history queries are solid too, as long as they're formatted as a standard question.

Socratic has a lot of potential in this first release. The developers plan to add more advanced math skills later this summer as well.

Battle Bay

Rovio is known for the Angry Birds franchise… and not much else. Several of the company's games have been unrelated to that series, but they haven't done well. Now, Rovio is trying another non-bird game called Battle Bay. This is a fairly standard MOBA-style game that takes place on the water with dueling boats.

You begin Battle Bay with a basic ship and complement of weapons. The game runs you through a quick training battle to teach you how to control your ship, which is very straightforward. There's a thumbstick on the left to move and a button on the right to fire your weapons. Turret direction and the direction your ship is moving are two separate things. Simply swipe across the screen to spin the turret around. The targeting locks onto whichever enemy unit is closest, and you can tap the target button to remain locked on that ship. If you have more than one weapon on your ship, there's a selector along the right side of the screen.

The 5v5 matches in Battle Bay are usually just a few minutes long, and there are a number of different arenas to fight in. In order to be successful, you need to play to the strengths of your vessel. Some are faster, others can pack more of a punch. Customizing your ship and crew, and upgrading the weapons can give you a definitive edge.

One of the coolest parts of Battle Bay is the variety of weapons. There are regular canons, of course, but also mortars, railguns, napalm launches, and more. Each weapon can be upgrades with spare parts, which you get from breaking down unwanted gear and winning matches. Annoyingly, there are several in-app currencies that are used for different things. Then there are pearls, the premium currency that can only be acquired with money or completing certain quests. These are used to unlock better weapons and speed up crew training.

I'm a bit torn on how Rovio is handling matchmaking. Battle Bay is new, so there aren't a ton of players. However, the game appears to run bots to fill out the roster. That allows you to play even when there aren't a lot of humans around your skill level, but it also means you sometimes end up in matches mostly with bots.

The graphics are very well done in Battle Bay with clean, 3D sprites and smooth animations. The waves are especially cool as they roll past. The textures are interesting and very clear. I also appreciate that the waves make a difference in the gameplay. If you fire a projectile while your target is in a trough, it'll probably hit the wave instead.

Battle Bay is a free-to-play game, so prepare yourself for some grinding or a few small purchases. It's not too annoying with the upsell, though. It's worth checking out.

Desert Island Fishing

Sure, you could go fishing in real life, but fishing in a video game means you don't have to go outside at all. Desert Island Fishing is a casual game that won't even eat up too much of your time. Just a tap here and there, and you're on the hunt for the big one. This game is still technically a beta, but it's available to everyone.

You take control of several small pixelated people in Desert Island Fishing, all of whom begin with a basic fishing rod and nothing particularly attractive to fish. To play, just drag up to set your depth, then decide which fish or fish-like thing to go after. The game gives you three options with a silhouette for things you haven't caught before. You swipe left to pass on something, and right to catch it. Yes, it's like Tinder for fish.

The capture process is basically two mini games. You have to time a tap for each hook icon that slides toward the middle of the screen. Easy fish only have one, but others might have three or four. The better your timing, the easier the next phase is. The line tension meter on the right tells you whether to reel in faster or slower. Tapping speeds up, so just make sure you keep the indicator in the green section. Again, the more rare fish are harder to catch.

So what do you do with the fish and whatnot? One option is to sell them immediately for cash. That money can then be used to upgrade your rod, buy new bait, and better hooks. Eventually, you'll end up catching more difficult fish, which are worth more money. You can also keep fish, then trade in specific collections of them to level up your characters and unlock new areas.

There are a total of seven islands (not all of them deserts) where you can fish. Each one has different things to catch too.

Desert Island Fishing is a very simple game, but it's also a nice little diversion. The controls are easy to operate with one hand, and the portrait orientation is idea for a casual phone game. It's free to try, but there are some in-app purchases for premium upgrades. They max out at $10, though.