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.
You interact with your home screen more than any other app, but some devices ship with rather annoying launchers. You can swap them for a better launcher, but which one? There are so many options, including the new Flick Launcher. It's still in beta, but Flick looks and feels like a good stand-in for the Pixel Launcher with more customization.
Out of the box, Flick Launcher is designed to look like the Pixel Launcher. It's possible to get a similar look by customizing other launchers, but this one goes for the pure stock look right away. That means you have a vertically scrolling app drawer that is opened with a swipe. It even has the predicted apps and search bar at the top. Launcher shortcuts are present as well, so you can long-press an icon to get quick actions. Developers have to add support for this, but a lot of apps are already on board.
This launcher is very snappy, much like the Pixel Launcher it's emulating. You don't get that Google "pill" search widget, but there is a custom rounded search box that jives with the launcher's style better than Google's rectangular one.
Flick Launcher has two features that set it apart from many other launchers. One if swipe gestures, which some third-party launchers have but no stock ones. You can set one and two-finger swipe gestures to launch apps or change settings. Then you have password and fingerprint locking of, well, everything. Flick Launcher lets you lock any apps from being launched unless a password or valid fingerprint is entered. If you have the pro upgrade ($1.99), you can also create folders that cannot be opened without the right biometrics or password.
There are plenty of other standard launcher features like support for icons packs, custom grid sizes, icon sizes, unread counts, and more. You don't get as many features in Flick Launcher as something like Nova, but this is a much newer app. It's off to a good start as it currently stands, and most of the features are available for free. There are no ads or "suggested apps" lurking around there either.
The last Injustice game was a huge hit on Android, and the second one has been hotly anticipated for months. Now it's finally here, and you can jump in and start battling with your favorite DC characters for free. That's nice, but it's also possibly the thing that will keep many of you away. Despite the amazing popularity of this series, it's a game that uses every trick in the book to push in-app purchases.
Injustice 2 is a stripped down 2D fighting game, which shares some features with the full console version. Instead of the complex controls you get with the full game, Injustice 2 relies entirely upon taps and swipes to control your characters. All of them control the same way, too. The only differences are the special attacks and how much damage they can do.
Tapping on the screen is a regular attack. Swiping toward the enemy is a lunge attack. If you swipe up, that's a jump attack. Then there's swiping down, which is a crouch attack. Lastly, you can swipe back to retreat, then quickly tap for a ranged attack. String these together however you wish to build up energy for special attacks.
The special attacks vary by character, and are accessible as buttons along the bottom of the screen. Each one has a cooldown, and each time you use one you also drain your accumulated energy. If you fight long enough without doing that, you can activate your character's super move, which is an elaborate animated attack that will almost certainly take out the enemy you're currently fighting.
Injustice 2's story is told in various cutscenes between battles, but those are usually very much the same throughout the game. You have a team of three heroes and have to take out three characters on the other side. You have the option of switching between your characters at any time, which can give you an advantage if you're using a character that's strong against the enemy (all characters have "types" in Injustice 2).
The visuals are probably the best part of Injustice 2. Sometimes the controls seem a bit clunky, but I think that's because it's prioritizing the animations. If your character isn't in a position to attack again, you can't until they've "reset." The textures are highly detailed, and the lines are very smooth. You can tell a lot of work went into the character models, too.
If you want to unlock more characters, you have to win battles and complete quests to collect hero shards. When you have enough for a specific character, you can unlock them. Of course, additional shards are available in exchange for premium currency, which you can buy for cash. This additional abstraction in unlocking heroes is annoying, but you'll be too busy being annoyed at the energy system to notice. This is one of those games that limits how much you can play without using premium currency. This is not good, but it's incredibly common these days.
Injustice 2 is not without its problems. I don't much care for the in-app purchases, and the controls could be more responsive. However, it's really pretty and it'll be a huge game.
Spaceplan is not your standard mobile game. In many ways it's the polar opposite of Injustice 2. The graphics are intentionally low-res, there are no in-app purchases, and the gameplay is distinctive, to say the least. However, it all adds up to something that is a joy to play.
This game opens with you waking up in a spaceship orbiting an unknown planet. Your craft doesn't have much in the way of power, but you can generate a few precious watts by pressing the "kinetigen" button. Each press get you closer to rebooting your systems, and you'll end up pressing that button a lot. Spaceplan has a "clicker" game aspect, but it's more enjoyable than you'd expect.
After getting booted up, you can begin manufacturing items and improving your ship. You'll eventually get a visual on the planet, which is red and lifeless. The ultimate goal is to figure out where you are and how to get home. I won't ruin the surprise for you, but the writing (an output from the ship's computer) is done very well and with a good sense of humor.
Your ship has solar panels, which can be repaired for a trickle of continuous power (unless you're on the dark side of the planet). For some reason, all the power sources at your disposal are potato-based. You can build some potato batteries on the ship, then some potato generators that you launch onto the planet below. Eventually, you'll be able to create potato satellites and other nifty devices. Most of these appear as white specs on the planet or in orbit of it. It sort of helps you visualize your progress.
The energy you generate each second increases as you add power generators, but there are also ways to improve them. And then there are all the new technologies to be deployed in pursuit of the main story. All this requires power, but you don't have to hit your kinetigen all day. Just go do something else, and your potatoes keep working in Spaceplan for a set amount of time (which can be upgraded). You'll come back later to plenty of juice.
The simple UI really fits with the feel of the game. You're adrift in space, without any creature comforts like human companionship or high-resolution textures. I really appreciate that Spaceplan has both phone and tablet UIs. You get all your info panels spread out on a tablet, but the phone is more modal with the kinetigen and visual output in the main interface. Spaceplan is $2.99 in the Play Store, and you should get it.