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.
Weather apps have always been a big part of the mobile application ecosystem, ever since the earliest days when we just had to decide if we hated Weatherbug or Weather Channel less. There are much better choice these days, and Klara the newest one. This is a forecast-focused weather app that uses a timeline interface, but it's not a knockoff of the popular Weather Timeline app.
Klara's main interface is laid out in a series of tabs across the top of the screen. The one on the left that Klara opens to first is the one you'll probably look at the most -- temperature and precipitation. The current conditions are on the far left of the timeline. You can tap and drag across the scale at the bottom to move the indicator. As you do, the data shown by the app changes to match the chosen time.
Across the top you have temperature and conditions (denoted by icons). In the middle is a graph of temperature forecasts. This is a nice way to visualize things, but I wish it was bound to some real scale on the Y-axis. It seems to use the lowest point on the graph as the bottom of the graph. Making the current conditions more easily accessible would be smart too. Precipitation is shown at the bottom as a series of blue bars. The taller they are, the more precipitation per hour.
The other three tabs are set up in a similar way, but they show different data (except for the condition icons, which are on all the screens). The next one over shows you wind speed and direction. Again, the present time is on the far left, then the next few days extend off to the right. The next tab is cloud cover, and the last one has pressure and humidity. This one has the most data, but it's of less use to most people.
In addition to the main UI as described above, there's an extended forecast screen with less detail that is accessible from the slide-out nav menu. There's a widget too, which is an essential feature of weather apps as far as I'm concerned. It's clean and shows the forecast data well. I just wish (again) current conditions were more easily discerned.
There are a few things that need to be improved in Klara, but it's a well-designed app and it's completely free right now.
As a lowly security guard, Steve (the protagonist in Exit Hero) is not used to dealing with emergency situations, but he's about to experience one. There's a zombie outbreak in the building, and only the building's security guard can save everyone. Can you be the hero the office needs?
Exit Hero is an action puzzler played in a top-down isometric view. Each level is populated with a few normal humans that need saving, and at least one zombie. All the humans remain stationary, waiting for you to come and lead them to safety. To do so, you swipe up, down, left, or right to run in that direction. You can change direction at any time with another swipe. You must pick up all the humans, who the trail behind you, but don't run into a zombie. That will lead to your immediate death (duh). A double swipe will speed you up, but there's only a limited amount of turbo in each level. There are even some weapons you can pick up to kill a zombie and shorten your path, thus saving time.
So, that goal by itself wouldn't be very fun, and indeed the first few levels are pretty simple. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that time is of the essence. Each floor has three rooms to clear, and there's timer at the top that counts down, reducing the number of keys you earn the longer it takes. The best you can do is three, and you need one to unlock the next floor. So if you get three, that's a net gain of two keys. The keys are used to unlock more characters if you don't like Steve. The time-based gameplay is quite enjoyable in this context. You're driven to go just a little faster and earn more keys, but even if you can't the whole game is playable.
I think the visual style of Exit Hero is one of the best reasons to play -- it's very cool. It's a different take on the low-poly look that seems to be everywhere lately. Steve and all the other characters are simply outlines with no features other than hair, hats, glasses, and so on. The colors are bright and contrast-y, and the game has a slight depth of field blurring effect in places.
Exit Hero is free to try, but there are ads in between levels, You can pay $5 to remove them, or buy keys to unlock more characters. Alternatively, don't buy anything. It's your call. The upgrades are all cosmetic.
Hex Defender is a tower defense game, yes, but there's a neat twist. Your towers are on a rotating platform in space, and the enemy comes at you from all sides. Only by rotating at the right time will you be able to get the right color-matched canons in position to fire and defend your precious cargo,
In each round of Hex Defender, you start with your six-sided barrier and a turret mount at each corner. You can tap on any of them to add a new laser, railgun, or missile launcher. Each must also be set as a specific color. There are six of them in the game, so the easiest way to play is to have one turret of each color. Enemies also come in six colors, and you can only attack them with the matching color turret.
Before each wave of enemies, the game lights up color-coded warning symbols to tell you which colors are coming from each direction. It's almost like a little game of Simon as you try to remember the pattern so you can rotate your rig proactively. Rotating is accomplished by swiping clockwise and counterclockwise outside the ring. It takes a split second for the hexagon to rotate as rockets fire up to move it. You really have to be aware of which turrets are pointed where, and what kind of range they have. I suspect this game will be nigh unplayable for anyone with colorblindness, though.
The different turrets have slightly different capabilities. For example, missiles can hit targets from greater distances and pack a punch, so you might not have to rotate them as far. However, they are also much slower to fire and can be overwhelmed by large groups of enemies. You'll need a mix of turrets to keep the enemy at bay, but each one can be upgraded three times.
The enemy ships will eventually destroy one or more of your barriers, allowing them access to the "The Crystal of Life" in the middle. When its hit points are gone, it's game over. You can rotate the missing sections out of the way when possible to keep the invaders out, but sometimes you have no choice but to expose the crystal to attack in order to get the right turret in range. It's a neat game mechanic for sure. When you've built up enough cash, you can pay to have all barriers restored, but each time you do this is becomes more expensive. You'll eventually lose, but the fun is in seeing how far you'll get.
Hex Defender has neat neon graphics. It's not terribly detailed, but the style is consistent and well done. It reminds me a bit of all those old Hexage games. If you like dubstep, there's plenty of that too. Hex Defender is only about $1, and it's definitely a good time.