Google Play App Roundup: Can't Talk, Gladiator Rising, and Flat Pack

By Ryan Whitwam

2D gladiator replies.

We're really getting spoiled these days. Great Android apps are 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.

Can't Talk

Sometimes it can seem like you only get calls and text messages when you can't pick up the phone. There's nothing to indicate to the person on the other end of the line what you're up to or why you can't answer the phone. That's where Can't Talk comes into play. This app runs in the background to automatically fire off a custom reply when you get a call or message.

Setting up Can't Talk can be a little intimidating because it does need a lot of access to your data. It can't work without plugging into the notification listener, but it links you to the right menu to grant that. You also have to allow permissions for calls, contacts, and messaging if you want all the features. None of this feels like overstepping, considering what the app does.

The functionality is split up into three groups for calls, SMS, and app messages. For calls and SMS, the app sends an SMS reply when active. In both cases, you can choose which contacts get auto-replies from Can't Talk. There's also a "rate limiter" option that controls how often replies will be sent to the same contact, which is a thoughtful bonus.

The app reply functionality is my favorite aspect of the app as most of my contacts have moved away from calls and traditional SMS. To get this working, you simply need to tell Can't Talk which apps you want it to reply to. Anything that uses standard Android notifications for messages should work, so Hangouts, Facebook, and more are supported.

When Can't Talk is running in the background, there's an ongoing notification to make sure you're aware. I'm not usually a fan of this behavior from a UX perspective, but it's necessary to keep apps from being killed by the system. And in this case, it makes a lot of sense. You don't want to accidentally leave your auto-responder running when you're no longer unavailable. The notification has a handy "disable" button so you can turn Can't Reply off. To get rid of the notification, just turn the main toggle in the app to the "off" position.

Can't Talk is completely free in the Play Store. It's technically in beta right now, so maybe it'll get in in-app upgrades at a later date. For now, there's no reason not to give it a shot.

Gladiator Rising

In Gladiator Rising, you (unsurprisingly) play the part of a gladiator. You fight through battle after battle of increasingly difficult opponents in an effort to gain your freedom, but this is a roguelike game. One loss, and it'll be game over. The fights are randomly generated, though, so you can give it another shot without replaying the same game twice.

You begin each round of Gladiator Rising with a bit of gold and some spec points to add to your character. There are three classes; warrior, mage, and rogue. The one you choose will determine how you should strategize, and there's a real emphasis on strategy. This is a turn-based game where a wrong decision can turn the tables against you.

You have several options in when it's your turn in the arena. There's the standard attack, defense buff, intimidate, and rest. You can also pick up special abilities that use magic points. In addition to magic, you also need to keep an eye on your stamina and health. Battles usually take two or three minutes to complete, at least if you're doing it right. Your equipment wears down over time, so even a victory can set you up for defeat if you just barely squeak by. In between battles you need to rest up, manage your inventory, and repair your gear. All of this takes money, which you earn by selling unneeded items dropped by your defeated opponents in the arena.

Make no mistake; Gladiator Rising is a difficult game. That said, it's balanced pretty well for something that still technically in beta. It'll probably take one short but disastrous run before you work out the basics, and then it's largely up to your skill in the arena. If you prepare well and make the right calls, you can even defeat an opponent without taking damage.

The graphics have a low-resolution retro look; I'd put it someplace between NES and SNES. There's enough detail to make all the gladiators look different. The sprites move more fluidly than they would in a game from that era, but the animations are very simple. The visuals are totally fine, but they're not the focus.

Gladiator Rising is free, and the only in-app purchase is a $0.99 item that removes ads. These only pop up occasionally, though. I gather the frequency of ads will increase when the game is complete.

Flat Pack

Have you ever wondered what it would be like for a 2D creature stuck in a 3D world? Well, wonder no longer now that Flat Pack is available on Android. This is the latest title from developer Nitrome, which has produced a number of fantastic games like Leap Day and Icebreaker. Flat Pack is part puzzler and part platformer, but it has a distinctive pseudo-3D design.

Like some other Nitrome games, this one can be played entirely with a single touch. You drag left or right to move and tap to jump/fly. You can tap multiple times to continue flying upward, and dragging left or right still works while you're in the air. That's the entire control scheme, and it can be a bit imprecise. That may be part of the point, though.dragging left or right still works while you're in the air. That's the entire control scheme, and it can be a bit imprecise. That may be part of the point, though.

Flat Pack takes place on the surface of various shapes. Since your character only exists in 2D, he can walk around the surface on the x and y-axes. The shape rotates as you walk, so you can't see what's around the next corner until you're almost there. This simulates the perspective of your 2D avatar. That's important because various traps and enemies are lurking around, and sometimes you can only progress by approaching them from a certain direction. But how can you, a simple 2D being, control the direction from which you approach? That's where Flat Pack gets a little trippy. If you walk around a corner, you can step into a different gravitational orientation. This is hard to grasp at first, but the first few levels are essentially a tutorial that gets you used to the rules of the game.

Your goal in each stage is to collect all the glowing edges to complete a hexagon shape displayed in the upper left corner of the screen. When you've got them all, a portal will open in some area of the level. Reach that, and it's on to the next stage.

There are around 30 levels so far, which you should be able to beat in a day or two. Some of them are quite challenging, not only because of the complex shapes but because you'll get taken out by traps and enemies. Luckily, you don't have to start completely over when that happens. You still have all your collected wedges, but you have to traverse the shape all over.

Flat Pack has a similar design to other Nitrome games, so we're talking retro pixel art and bright colors. The 2D-3D hybrid design is what saves it from being just another retro-styled game.

You can play Flat Pack for free, and there are no in-app currencies or micro-transactions. The only in-app purchase is a $0.99 item to remove ads. These only pop up every few deaths and can be dismissed immediately.