Google Play App Roundup: Fenix 2, Iron Marines, and To:War

By Ryan Whitwam

Tweeting RTS towers.

Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

Fenix 2

Fenix 2 was my go-to Twitter client for a number of years, but there was some drama related to Twitter's third-party app limits in 2016. That was worked out eventually, but the developer has since embarked on a complete rewrite of the app. The result is Fenix 2, which has just launched after a few months in beta. This is a new app with a new listing, so you will have to buy it again, even if you already bought the first one. It's worth the price, though.

Twitter clients are pretty well fleshed out at this point, so I'm not going to tell you that Fenix 2 is breaking any new ground. However, it has all the features you could want in a Twitter client, and it looks great. Not that the old Fenix didn't look good, but it was adapted to material design after the fact. Fenix 2 was born into it. There are multiple light and dark themes with various accent colors, and you can set a schedule for switching from light to dark. The great design extends to the widget, which is scrollable and includes various themes.light and dark themes with various accent colors, and you can set a schedule for switching from light to dark. The great design extends to the widget, which is scrollable and includes various themes.

Like many Twitter apps, Fenix 2 uses multiple columns in the main UI to make all your tweets, replies, and other content available. You can change up the default arrangement, and even add new columns like saved searches and lists to feeds. The way you interact with tweets (eg. taps, swipes, and long-press) is configurable as well.

I'm particularly fond of the way Fenix 2 handles conversation views. Some apps make it hard to tell who a reply is directed at, but Fenix 2 has a clear "in reply to" header for each block of tweets. Replies to your tweets are delivered as the app updates in the background, and you can, of course, choose how often that happens. However, Fenix 2 also supports intercepting notifications from the official Twitter app. That app has special push notifications from the Twitter servers, so you can get faster pings via Fenix 2 if you have both installed.

Fenix 2 is priced at $1.99 in the Play Store, which is a fantastic price. A lot of comparable Twitter apps cost $5 or so. This is an excellent purchase if you're not feeling great about your current Twitter experience.

Iron Marines

Ironhide Games is famous among mobile gamers for creating the Kingdom Rush series. These tower defense games were exquisitely well-balanced and a ton of fun. They all had some elements of RTS along with the tower defense gameplay, and the newest game from the developer has a little tower defense in its RTS gameplay. It works out pretty well.

It's really tough to get an RTS working well on a mobile device as the lower precision of a touchscreen makes it difficult to micro-manage a large army or base. Some games get around this by simplifying the formula to the point it's no longer fun. Looking at you, Clash of Clans. Iron Marines makes the gameplay simple enough without destroying what makes RTS titles fun by limiting your units and keeping them in small groups, just like in the developer's tower defense games.

The gist of the story is that your colony has been invaded by an alien race called the Fell. They actually seem very Zerg-like, but I'll give the developers the benefit of the doubt there. Your goal varies from one mission to the next, but it usually involves taking command of Etherium mines, which serve as your base. Rather than managing a bunch of different buildings, your mine includes several defense turret platforms and a teleportation system for bringing in new units. There are several upgrades you can make to each base, though.

The graphics are almost exactly what we saw in the most recent Kingdom Rush installments, which is fine. It's a really tight style with cartoony proportions, bright colors, and clean lines. The animations are perfectly smooth and it's easy to follow what's happening on the screen. There's also a graphics adjustment in the settings if you feel like your phone isn't running the game well enough.

You begin missions with just one or two units available, plus your hero. Capturing command points on the map will add another unit to your cap. There are mechs and soldiers, the latter of which are managed in small groups of three soldiers. To move a unit around, just tap and drag to set a destination. If you've got several units you want to move as one, double-tap to highlight all units in an area. One thing you cannot control is the target your units attack. I find this a little vexing at times, but it's rare there are more than a few options on the screen at any time. The developers have worked to keep this game from being too overwhelming or hard to control.

Along with your basic attacks and base defense towers, there are temporary towers that can be dropped on the battlefield. Just like the special powers in Kingdom Rush, these recharge over time. Your hero unit has special attacks as well, and they can be upgraded as XP is gained.

Speaking of the heroes, there are several from which to choose. Three of them are unlocked from the start or via gameplay. However, you can pay a few dollars to unlock better heroes. There are also bundles of in-game currency that you can buy for money. Iron Marines is a paid game, and it's not a particularly cheap one. The $5 asking price gets you 16 campaign missions and a few bonus stages, with more campaigns on the way. I should stress the game is no tuned to push you toward spending money, but you can if you want.

To:War

Developer 111% has been a fixture in the roundup lately as the developer pumps out one new game after another. They're all free-to-play, but they're remarkably well balanced and fun regardless of that fact. You won't get deep gameplay in the latest To:War, but it's a good arcade-style shooter.

111% uses many of the same elements across different games, but it remixes them to feel fresh and interesting. For example, To:War has a passing resemblance to Aporia, but it doesn't have the Tetris vibe or reliance on shapes. Your goal is still to eliminate the creeps as they move in from the top of the screen, but you do so with towers. It has a bit of a Plants vs. Zombies vibe thanks to the lanes each monster stays in.

Most of your turrets are limited to a single lane, but some target multiple lanes. Many of them also have special abilities, like the lightning turret that arcs between nearby monsters, and the ice turret that temporarily freezes them. You have to unlock towers first, then add them to your arsenal before starting a level. Your energy slowly fills up as you place, and each turret uses a certain amount of it, and they only have a limited supply of ammo. Thus, you need to make the best use of each placement to take out the monsters. Otherwise, you won't have enough firepower to take them out. In addition to the regular creeps, there are boss creatures every few levels.

The graphics are simple, but that's true of all 111%'s games. The monsters are black shapes, usually with some colorful embellishment like horns or a zigzag line. Your turrets are immediately recognizable from each other based on the distinct designs. Everything looks clean and runs well, although I've had a handful of freezes after completing levels. That's a pretty frustrating time for a bug to pop up, but it's been rare.

You can pay money to get upgraded turrets without the grind, or just grab a sack on in-game currency and spend it how you please. This will certainly accelerate matters and make some of the boss battles easier, but I don't believe this game is badly balanced to push the IAPs. That's a problem with many free-to-play titles, but 111% has always been good about it.