A new week has dawned, but you can ease the transition with some new apps and games. You've come to the right place, too. This is the Google Play App Roundup, the weekly feature where we tell you what's new and cool in Google Play. Just hit the links to zoom right to the Play Store.
Many of us have spare Android phones around collecting dust, but a new app from The Guardian and Edward Snowden could give those devices a new lease on life. Haven lets you leverage all the sensors in your phone to monitor your personal space, and unlike cloud-connected security cameras, you're completely in control.
Haven installs on any Android phone, using the microphone, cameras, and orientation sensors to detect changes. When you first open the app, it asks you to choose sensitivity levels for motion and sound. You can move the phone around and make noise to find a level that makes sense for your situation. For the camera, you can choose between front and rear.
You'll probably need a stand or mount of some sort to keep the camera pointed at a door or whatever else. The camera on a smartphone (usually) isn't nearly as wide angle as a security camera. However, maybe you want Haven to be more surreptitious. You can just set the phone on a desk where it will capture anyone who sits down or moves the phone out of the way.
Getting notifications is what makes haven truly interesting. You can set up the app to send SMS alerts, but that's only good if you have a SIM card in it and don't mind the insecure nature of text messages, A more secure option is to set up a Signal profile on the phone. This encrypted messaging service lets you push messages via WiFi to devices without anyone eavesdropping. There's also a Tor hidden service upload, if you want to check on the camera like that.
When you activate, Haven, you get a 30-second countdown before it's armed (this is configurable). I've set this app up on a few phones to test, and it seems very good at detecting sound and motion based on the calibration settings. The camera features work well enough, but there are a few bugs. Using the rear camera on some phones seems to produce a lot of alerts when nothing is actually moving. This doesn't happen as much when stationary objects are not close to the device. There's supposed to be an ambient light trigger as well, but I don't see it in the app.
Haven is still in beta, so these small bugs will hopefully be worked out. It's free and could perform an important service.
It's been years since Portal 2 came out, but the franchise still holds a special place in the hearts of many. We're not getting a new Portal game per se, but there's a new game with Portal things. It also has Bridge Constructor things, though. These two franchises merge in the new Bridge Constructor Portal.
If you've never played a Bridge Constructor game, the goal is to build a bridge from various materials that allows vehicles to pass from on end of the level to the other. Portal, on the other hand, is a first-person physics puzzler. What the developers did here is add elements of Portal to a bridge constructor scenario. You take on the role of Aperture Science's newest construction director. You have to get the Aperture Science test vehicles to the exit in each level, but there are pools of acid, portals, and other wacky things all over the levels.
The Bridge Constructor bits of the game have been simplified to make room for a more puzzle-oriented experience. You have just two building materials: structural beams and wires. The beams can also be used as road surfaces (just tap them to toggle). To build your bridges, start at an attachment point and drag. With careful use of beams and wires, you can help the vehicle along to the exit, but you also need to make use of the portals and other sciencey things. It's hard to build completely zoomed out, so make sure you get in close to tap the right spot.
Interestingly, you don't have to worry about the amount of money you spend on your creations. That was one of the main game mechanics in past Bridge Constructor games. You just have to build something that works. You have some help when it comes to understanding new machines and features as they are introduced—none other than GLaDOS. Yes, that murderous AI is back and more disquietingly insulting than ever. Not only is the writing spot-on, the voice is again done by Ellen McLain.
There are 60 levels in Bridge Constructor Portal. They all have the typical Aperture Science laboratory feel. It's lots of white, sterile surfaces and fancy (deadly) machinery. The levels often take a lot of trial and error to figure out, much like the Portal games. After getting a single test vehicle across, you can try a caravan to see if your designs hold up to repeated stress. So, there's plenty of gameplay here.
Bridge Constructor Portal costs $4.99, but that's the end of it. There are no add-on packs, gems, coins, or other in-app purchases to worry about. It's absolutely a good deal.
No, this is not the Google fitness tracker of the same name. Fit is the latest super-simple arcade title from developer Ketchapp. There are no complicated controls or wild puzzles here. In fact, Fit is about the simplest puzzle imaginable. You just fit the peg into a hole over and over. It's weirdly satisfying.
Like most of Ketchapp's games, all you need to do in Fit is tap, but of course, you have to do it at the right moment. You begin with a spinning object with an unusual shape. Below that is another object with a hole shaped exactly like it, but it's spinning in the opposite direction. The shape drops down toward the hole whenever you tap. Ideally, they lock together and form one larger shape. That only happens if you time your tap correctly, though.
After merging your shape into the larger one, you then take control of that shape, which will be different than the last one. Things progress onward in that manner until you can't keep up with the spinning shapes and miss. You can actually miss a few times early on as long as you immediately slot the shapes together, but later things are moving too fast and the whole thing grinds to a halt.
This is basically a game where you try to beat your high score, but there are a few unlockables. You get coins from playing, and those go toward more game themes. There are little people walking around on the shapes, so those guys look different. The color of the shapes and backgrounds also change.
Fit is free in the Play Store. A $1.99 in-app purchase removes the ads and doubles all your coins. I don't know if you'll play it enough to be annoyed by the ads, but it's a good time waster.