Google Play App Roundup: Camera Roll, A Planet of Mine, and Virtua Tennis Challenge

By Ryan Whitwam

Planetary tennis gallery.

We're really getting spoiled these days. There are great Android apps coming out all the time, but it can still be hard to find them amid all the clutter. The Google Play App Roundup is all about clearing the junk out of the way so you can find the best apps. Just click on the app name to go straight to the Google Play Store and pick up the app yourself.

Camera Roll

Every phone comes with a gallery app of some sort, but they're usually quite barebones and some are downright ugly. There are several good alternatives in the Play Store, including the new Camera Roll app. The name will probably appeal to recent iOS converts, but it's more than just a name. This is a capable and configurable gallery app.

The app opens with each folder on your device containing photos displayed as a large rectangle with a thumbnail image. This is only the default, though. There are several different layouts including small cards, large cards, and scrollable horizontal blocks. The dark theme can also be flipped over to light or completely black, if you so desire.

When you open a folder, Camera Roll starts showing off with some slick animations. The photo grid slides up from the bottom, and the images start as black and white. They re-saturate in about one second as you scroll. It's a neat effect. Tapping on individual photos also offers up a cool zooming animation. When you go back, the photo zooms back out into its place in the grid. Again, so slick.

Unfortunately, there's no built-in editing for Camera Roll. I'd like to have at least seen some support for cropping. However, tapping the edit button does bring up compatible apps like Snapseed. The info button hides a few interesting surprised, though. Tap this when viewing a photo to get all the EXIF information, along with the ability to edit. At the top, you also have a bar of the most common color swatches from the image. Tapping on any of them copies the hex code. I don't know how useful this is, but I really like it.

Should you have files that aren't showing up in the app, there's a toggle to show hidden files. Additionally, there's a file browser in the overflow menu. Launch that and you can navigate to any folder on the device to view images.

Camera Roll is free and has no ads. Give it a shot if your current gallery app is getting old.

A Planet of Mine

Exploring new worlds is tough in A Planet of Mine, a new strategy game on Android. The game starts out very simple, but in the space of a few minutes you could end up with a complex, interconnected global economy. Then, you have to take it interplanetary. You better hurry, though. You aren't the only species on the hunt for new planets.

In each game of A Planet of Mine, you pick from one of multiple races. There are chicken people, fox people, rino people, and more. Each one has a different perk that can help you along. The starting planet, and indeed all the planets, are represented as a spinning 2D wheel. Each of the 24 segments has a terrain type, which controls what you can build there. Your population needs someplace to live, first off. Then you need to have a stable supply of food. In this game, that's red berries. If you expand too fast and run out of food. Your inhabitants will start dropping dead. If everyone dies, that's game over.

Even though your people arrive on the planet via spaceship, your civilization starts with very little technology. You can chop down trees, mine the surface for rock, oil, and other resources, and build wells for water. Certain structures can generate ascension points, which level up your civilization and unlock more structures. You also have to generate science points to discover new technologies.

So how does all that fit together? For example, you can chop down trees, use a press to make them into paper, and use a workbench to make the books into paper, and use a research lab to turn books into science points. None of your buildings will do anything unless you have the inhabitants to run them, so you always have to keep the most basic levels running smoothly.

All your resources are shown in a grid at the top of the screen. The rotation of the planet represents time, and you can speed up the rotation to speed up time as well—just tap and drag. This is pretty clever. When you have gotten the necessary resources collected, you can add some inhabitants to your ship and fly to a nearby planet. You need to move with purpose here, because other races are also looking to colonize these planets. You can end up in conflicts that kill your inhabitants, which again, is a bad thing.

A Planet of Mine has a flattened voxel style with bright colors and simple sprites. It's easy to see what's going on from a glance. I also appreciate how different various planets and terrain types look. It's by no means a graphically intense game, that means it should play well on lots of phones. It's also entirely in portrait mode, and you can play with simple taps and swipes—great for casual play.

Virtua Tennis Challenge

You might recall a few weeks ago when Sega launched its new "Sega Forever" collection. The idea is the bring classic games to mobile with a free, ad-supported design. It started with a handful of games, and a promise to keep adding new titles. The first one to be added is Virtua Tennis Challenge.

This title might sound familiar in the realm of mobile, and that's because it's not technically new. This game was released back in 2012 as a paid game, and then left to languish. That version was pulled from the Play Store a while back, and now the Sega Forever version is available. This game is based on the console Virtua Tennis games, but with more mobile flavor.

I will say upfront that this game has a completely useless tutorial. It doesn't explain almost any of the controls, so you're better off tapping that question mark button at the bottom of the menu to read through everything. The default control scheme (and probably the one you will want to use) is based on swipes. The timing is also important, though.

Playing Virtua Tennis will take some getting used to on a touchscreen. Basically, you tap and drag to move your character around. As long as you're close to where the ball lands, you'll be able to return it. To pull off a good return, you need to swipe in advance. The earlier you do it, the more powerful your return will be. Your swipes can also adjust where on the court you are aiming. Swipe all the way up, and you'll aim for the backcourt. Stop halfway up, and it'll go just over the net. It becomes a very strategic sort of game once you get the hang of it. A separate gamepad is also supported.

The mechanics of tennis are well-known enough that I won't go into detail here. Suffice it to say the scoring system in Virtua Tennis Challenge is realistic. You can play tournaments or quick games. There's also a local Bluetooth multiplayer system. No online, though.

Visually, this game hasn't changed much from the original release. It looks quite nice for a mobile game during gameplay. Although the character models are a little blocky up close in the replays. The animations are all very smooth, though. Lines are also clean and free of jaggies. Note, the black bars in the images are because of the Galaxy S8's taller screen ratio, not the game itself.

Since this is a Sega Forever game, it's free with ads. They pop up every few sets, and can usually be dismissed right away. If you want to pay $1.99, they'll go away forever. That also includes offline play, which isn't supported in the free version.