Google Play App Roundup: Split-screen Creator, Data Wing, and Run-A-Whale

By Ryan Whitwam

Split-screen data whales.

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.

Split-screen Creator

Android 7.0 added support for split-screen apps, and it's relatively quick to get two apps up on the screen as long as you've had both of them open recently. If not, you have to launch them, and then go into split-screen mode. It can be a bit of a pain, but Split-screen Creator is here to help. This app lets you make shortcuts to instantly launch two apps in split-screen mode, even if they aren't running.

Split-screen Creator itself has very little interface. There's just a single page of settings and a page for settings up shortcuts. The app uses Android's widget system and accessibility controls to make its split-screen magic happen. As long as you enable accessibility from the app's settings, everything should work fine. It almost goes without saying, but you need to be running Android 7.0 or higher for Split-screen Creator to function.

To create a new split-screen shortcut, simply open your home screen widget menu and add Split-screen Creator's 1x1 widget. The settings page will appear, asking you to choose which apps you want the shortcut to launch. You can choose any installed app you want, but remember that not all of them work in split-screen mode. Additionally, Split-screen Creator warns that certain apps like Chrome and the Play Store don't like being launched in split-screen via the shortcut. However, I've tried both and they seem to work fine. The last step in setting up a shortcut it to pick a name.

When you tap on the shortcut, it will launch your chosen apps in split-screen mode. Sometimes you might need to reverse the order to ensure they open correctly, but I've seen very few issues in my testing. Be default, Split-screen Creator generates an icon composed of the two apps you've chosen. However, you can pick a custom icon via icon packs. That's a premium feature, though. It only costs $0.99 to unlock the full version, but there's not much else to it. There aren't any ads in the app, so you're mostly paying to support the developer of an app you (presumably) like.

Data Wing

At its heart, Data Wing is a simple 2D racing game, but it's dressed up in a fun technological package. You are a Data Wing, and your job is to deliver data to different areas of a computer system. These missions just happen to take the form of physics-fueled races in a stylish digital realm.

The controls are simple—just tap on the left to turn your craft left, and tap on the right to go right. This game has a realistic physics engine, so you won't immediately change direction when turning. Instead, you have momentum to figure in. Thus, you end up drifting around corners and hugging walls.

The gameplay as described above would be fun, but Data Wing throws a few more elements in the mix. For example, there are many levels you won't be able to beat in time just keeping to the middle of the course and avoiding walls. Sometimes you need a little boost, and you can get it by flying close to the wall without slamming into it. The exhaust from your vehicle bounces back and speeds you up. There are also levels that play around with the gravity, so wall boosting is essential to get things done.

The levels play out in one of several ways. There are simple time trials, "hot lap" runs, and traditional races against other Data Wings. The game also shows you past laps and attempts as glowing lines and ghost Data Wings, so you can see how you're improving (if at all). The writing in the game sets all this up surprisingly well. The Data Wing is a tool of Mother, a computer construct that works for the User. Mother tells you what to do, and you do it. The entire game is only a few hours long, but it's a very well-told story.

The Data Wing you control in this game is a classic arrow-shaped craft, the color of which shifts in each level. The environment changes color too, which keeps it feeling fresh through all 40+ levels. Data Wing has a very cool "abstract digital" look with bright colors, particles, lighting effects, and some scan lines thrown in to finish the vibe.

Data Wing is a completely free game with no in-app purchases or ads. There's no reason to skip this one—it's a great game with no catches.

Run-A-Whale

I don't usually pay endless runners much attention, and neither should you in general. However, Run-A-Whale deserves a little attention. This is an endless runner (well, endless swimmer) with click graphics and tight controls, but most importantly, it has no in-app purchases.

I think endless runners on mobile have earned a reputation as being boring because it's so easy to cram them full of in-app purchases. This ends up killing the experience and making the game tedious to play after a few minutes. Run-A-Whale doesn't have any of that because it's a traditional paid game. Drop $0.99 in the Play Store, and you're all set.

In Run-A-Whale, you are a pirate whose ship appears to have sunk for unknown reasons. Luckily, a nearby whale is offering to give you a lift. The catch being there are a ton of obstacles in the ocean to navigate. Actually, that might have something to do with the sinking of your ship, but I digress. Run into anything, and it's game over, but along the way you can complete quests to level up.

Every few levels, you'll get a boss battle. The gameplay isn't dramatically different—you still have to dodge objects in your path, but there are a lot more of them. While all of this is going on, there are coins to pick up. The coins unlock new hats for your pirate (which don't seem to do anything) and new whales with distinct features.

The controls are about as simple as it gets. Press on the screen to dive underwater and release to surface and leap through the air. You've got to time it right to jump over or swim under obstacles, but you also have to watch your oxygen. Pirates can't hold their breath forever, so staying underwater too long will kill you just as surely as running into a mine. There are also cannons that launch you into the sky, and the whale can glide for some reason. Swiping up and down lets you control the pitch and speed so you can fly through bunches of coins suspended in the air.

The graphics in Run-A-Whale are fantastic as well. It has a low-poly style but with a bit more detail than some games. You go through all sorts of areas like towns, volcanic eruptions, and storms. The animations are incredibly smooth, and there's a full day/night cycle. You can probably see a bit of aliasing in the screenshots, but it's not noticeable while playing.

The game is different each time you play, and there's a good sense of progress as you complete quests and battle bosses. It's not a deep game, but this is what an endless runner is supposed to be. It's just casual fun, and no hard sells.