Google Play App Roundup: Network Speed, Karl2, and Raceway Heat

By Ryan Whitwam

Network ninja races.

I don't know if you could say there are too many apps out there, but there are certainly enough that it can be hard to find the ones worth your time. This is the problem that Google Play App Roundup is seeking to solve. Every week we tell you about the best new and newly updated apps in the Play Store. Just click the app name to head right to the Play Store and check things out for yourself.

Network Speed

Whether you're troubleshooting a problem or just showing off, there are times you want to know exactly how fast your phone's data connection is. There are a number of tools for finding that out, but few of them are as clean and easy to use as Network Speed. This app not only tracks data speeds across your phone, it offers a cool floating widget so you can obsess over data speeds non-stop.

This app needs usage access in order to track data usage across your device, but there's nothing unexpected about that. Grant the requested permissions and Network Speed will start tracking your up/down speeds and logging your bytes. It doesn't tell you which apps and services are using the data, but you get a breakdown of when data usage is happening.

The main screen has a chart that shows your speed history over the last few minutes. There's also a listing for your current speed, fastest speed, and network type. Below that are counters for how much data you've used in various intervals of time. Tapping on any of them opens the detailed view, which breaks down your data usage by day. You can use Network Speed to alert you to high data usage if you don't like the built-in Android tools as well.

My favorite part of the app is the floating data monitor widget. This display updates as often as you like (the default 1 second update is too fast) with up and down speeds. It appears up in the status bar, but you can move it elsewhere. In the middle of the status bar, it's mostly out of the way of other things, though. Several different looks and layout settings for the widget are available in the settings. It can also be configured to hide automatically in full-screen mode.

Network Speed uses a persistent notification to stay alive. By default, it has a status bar icon with your speed. If you want to use the much better widget, this is rather redundant. You can set the notification to low-priority instead, and it will be collapsed at the bottom of the shade. That should be good enough for most users.

Network Speed is free to use with ads, but a $0.99 gets rid of them.

Karl2

Another week, another game from 111%. This developer has really been pumping out the hits lately, most recently with Karl2. This is a sequel, so the gameplay is similar to the original Karl. The premise is simple—take out the bad guys before they take you out. To do so, you've got a sword and a bird's eye view of the battlefield.

In this game, you are a samurai who is apparently named Karl. Not a very samurai name, but okay. Karl is being accosted by ninjas who throw all sorts of weapons at him, but he's got one signature move that might save the day. Drag and release to send Karl sprinting forward to unleash a wide swipe of his sword. If you choose your angle and distance correctly, you can knock down projectiles and slice up your opponents.

The only control you have to worry about in Karl2 is dragging to set the direction and angle of your attack. It's like priming a slingshot, so you can see where you're going to end up without your finger being in the way. The further you slide, the more powerful your attack will be. You've got time to figure it out as nothing moves unless you are. However, it's important to gauge the motion of projectiles and make sure your path won't get you chopped into tiny bits.

Each level you beat adds coins to your pocket. These coins are exchanged for stat boosts or new swords and sword-like objects. Different weapons have different area of attack, which is important in the heat of battle as it determines how many objects and enemies you can hit at once. Some of the boss battles (every five levels) are pretty challenging, too.

Visually, Karl2 looks a lot like other 111% games. The graphics are simple, in this case with a lot of black space punctuated by flashes of color when you attack and when extra-powerful weapons are lobbed at you.

Karl2 is free to play, but there are ads that I'd consider rather obnoxious. A $4.99 in-app purchase removes the ads and gives you a permanent coin doubler. You can also spend money on packs of rare swords, but this is all entirely optional.

Raceway Heat

Modern racing games are fine, but maybe you grew up in the arcade era and you're looking for a little nostalgia. That's what Raceway Heat aims to deliver, and it's not one of those games crawling with in-app purchases. Plus, you can give it a shot for free.

The key to success in Raceway Heat is simple: Don't run into walls, stay low in the turns, and never brake. Well, don't brake very often would be more accurate. The controls will vary a bit depending on the car you're driving. Some have boost and others don't. Those that do will have a button for that next to the brake, but other cars just have the brake. You actually get two sets of the controls on the left and right, so you can use whichever is most convenient. Steering is handled by tilting your device left and right.

There's a lot of drifting in this game, which is the fastest way to get around turns. Just oversteer a bit, keep accelerating, and you'll be able to swing around the bend. Hitting the wall or other cars will slow you down, though. If you overshoot and run straight into the wall, you'll probably crash out and be reset in the middle of the track. The controls are touchy, and your first few races will be filled with mistakes. You'll get better, though.

There are both career and arcade modes. The arcade mode is just a single race on a track of your choice. There are 14 total tracks across a variety of environments. The career mode takes you through all of them, but you can only play a few tracks in the free version of the game. There are ads, too. If you want to upgrade to the full version, Raceway Heat costs a mere $1.99.