Google Play App Roundup: Caffeine, Subdivision Infinity, and Touchdowners

By Ryan Whitwam

Caffeinated space ball.

You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That's what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a simple app; so simple in fact there's very little "app" to it. However, it solves a problem I've long had with Android and requires zero setup. With just a few taps, you can keep your screen on for a predetermined length of time using Caffeine. Sound good? It's free, too.

Caffeine plugs into Android 7.0's customizable quick settings, so you need to be using a phone or tablet running Nougat or higher. That's still far from everyone, but we're getting to the point that even super-cheap phones like the Moto E4 are shipping with current software. All phones have to support the custom quick settings API, so Caffeine will work with anything on the right versions.

To use Caffeine, just open your quick settings and tap the edit button. On some phones (eg. Samsung), that option might be hidden under a menu icon. You should have the Caffeine icon in your list of unused toggles. Long-press and drag it up to a suitable position and close the editing interface.

Tapping on the Caffeine icon in quick settings instantly overrides the screen timeout setting with a five, ten, or thirty-minute timer. Another tap also flips it over to unlimited mode, so be careful you don't accidentally leave that one activated. Caffeine saves you from digging into the setting when you want to extend the screen-on time temporarily. Maybe you're reading something long, or you have a live feed of some sort running. This way, you don't have to constantly touch the screen to keep the phone awake.

The icon helpfully counts down so you know when the screen timeout will return to normal. After you've closed the quick settings, going back and tapping Caffeine will disable the timeout. So, cycling through the various timers has to be done all at once when activating it.

Caffeine Is a clever app that I've already used quite a few times. It's something I play to install on all my devices.

Subdivision Infinity

I feel like there have been a number of space combat games lately, all of which have leaned a bit too heavily on in-app purchases. Subdivision Infinity is still a free-to-play title, but it's much less oppressive, and the gameplay is solid. Plus. space battles. Who can be against space battles?

Subdivision Infinity includes 40 missions in its story mode, along with some side missions that don't progress the story. It's not a particularly rich tale, but the writing is competent, and the missions are straightforward: take your ship to a new location, take out the enemy, and head home for some upgrading.

The controls are easier than some other space combat games I've played. It's fully "arcade-style," so there's no independent control of roll or yaw. Just move left or right with the thumbstick to bank, and pitch up or down along the other axis. Note, this defaults to "look" controls, but inverting it in the settings makes it like flight controls ought to be in my opinion.

On the right side of the screen is your fire button. At first, your ship has just one weapon, but over time you can get multiple weapon hardpoints. Enemy targets are marked with a floating red circle. All you need to do is get your crosshairs in that circle, and your shots will hit. This subtle assistance from the game helps keep the game from being too tedious. The early missions only take a few minutes, but later ones can take several times longer. There are also some neat boss battles with capital ships.

The starting ship will get the job done, but you need to upgrade it and your weapons to continue surviving missions. Thankfully, there's only one real in-game currency. Most things you buy and upgrade require coins. You earn them in the game, but they're also for sale as IAPs. However, that's the only currency you can buy, which means no rare "premium" currency to ruin your fun.

The visuals in Subdivision Infinity are impressive to say the least. There are several different regions, which have distinctive looks. The space around you isn't just a backdrop, either. There are asteroids, space stations, and other ships with which you can interact. There's no visible aliasing on edges while playing and particles abound. The frame rate is stable on high-end phones, but you might have some trouble on a mid-ranger.

Subdivision Infinity is free, and I think it's worth checking out if you're down with a quick space shooter experience.

Touchdowners

When I first played Touchdowners, I laughed out loud because it was totally not what I was expecting. Rather than being some sort of basic football sim in 2D, it's more of an action game with wacky physics and remarkably engaging gameplay.

There are several game modes in Touchdowners, but the goal is always to score more touchdowns than the other team. See? It's just like real life. What's not so much like real life is the control mechanism for your team of three players. There are left and right arrows at the bottom of the screen. All three players will move in the direction you press by hopping and windmilling their arms. It's amusing to look at and leads to a lot of pileups on the field.

The ball sticks to whatever hand touched it last, so you've got to windmill over to the ball and make it to the other team's end zone without getting the ball stolen. One way to make that happen is to pass the ball, which is easier said than done. You have to get used to the strange physics to make sure your player is spinning its arms in the right direction, then throw the ball. You probably won't catch it right away, but you can get the ball in the right area of the field.

The gameplay is frantic and heavily dependent on luck. It can be frustrating at times, but there's so much back and forth on the field as one team, or the other is within a few pixels of scoring that it's never dull. In career mode, you have to take on successively more difficult teams by scoring three points before they can. Arcade mode lets you play sudden death games to see how many times in a row you can score. Then there's two player mode, which puts buttons on the screen for two players to compete. It's a little cramped, though.

Touchdowners has retro-inspired graphics, but I think it works. You can tell which team is which at a glance, and the design of the sprites is fun. In fact, it's the sprites that also form the basis of this game's monetization scheme. You earn coins from winning games, and those coins can unlock new teams. If you don't have enough coins, you can watch an ad to get more instantly. There are no in-app purchases yet, but I imagine there will be eventually.