Google Play App Roundup: Contextual App Folder, Jade Empire, and Hopeless 3

By Ryan Whitwam

Contextual monster fighting.

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.

Contextual App Folder

As you install more apps and games, your app drawer will increasingly become a pain to navigate. You can add shortcuts to your home screen, but eventually you end up with the same problem—too many things and not enough space. Contextual App Folder can help with a simple folder that changes its contents based on triggers like time, location, and connected devices.

To start, Contextual App Folder comes with a "Default" folder and one for "Headphones." All you get in default is a link to the Contextual App Folder settings. The Headphones folder will include any apps Contextual App Folder recognizes as audio or music-related. Default is the folder what appears on your home screen when no other of your contextual settings have been triggered. You can change the name of this folder, as well as what's in it. The same goes for the Headphones folder.

Those two are just the start. Contextual App Folder includes conditions for the time of day, location, various device status triggers like being on a phone call, getting a notification from certain apps, and charging. When you select a new condition to create a folder, you have to choose which apps you want included in it. The order of these apps can also be changed.

To use Contextual App Folder, just add it as a widget to the home screen. One thing I've always disliked about similar dynamic folder apps is that they don't look like folders. That's not the case with Contextual App Folder. It looks and acts like a regular folder on your home screen, but you can also tweak the style to use different colors, font sizes, and layouts.

As for the basic functionality, I'm very impressed with Contextual App Folder. The folder updates to the right context extremely fast—within a second or two of plugging in headphones, for example. This app is still in early access, but it seems really solid. It's free right now, although I imagine there will be an in-app upgrade option when it's officially released.

Jade Empire: Special Edition

If you're looking for a more expansive mobile gaming experience, Jade Empire: Special Edition might scratch that itch. This game was released on the original Xbox in 2005, eventually coming to PCs a few years later. Now, you can play this classic BioWare action-RPG on Android, and it's actually a pretty good port.

This game is part of the "Wuxia" genre, which is based on Chinese myths and set in a land that's vaguely like imperial-era China. Your character is an orphan raised by a martial arts teacher, who turns out to be the brother of the emperor. After his hiding place is found out, you must meet your destiny and set the world right.

The general style of the game is very reminiscent of early BioWare RPGs, but unlike KOTOR, Jade Empire's combat happens in real-time. There are multiple fighting styles in Jade Empire, some of which were added specifically for the special edition. You switch between them with the toggle on the left side of the screen. On the right are your action buttons including block, attack, area attack, and strong attack. Movement is handled with a virtual thumbstick that works anywhere on the screen. The second touch input is registered as the "look" thumbstick. In combat, swipes are used to dodge and leap. This is one of the more successful console control ports I've seen.

Your character's abilities are based on three stats: health, focus, and chi. Health is self-explanatory. Focus is drained when fighting with weapons or using the time-slowing focus mode (stamina, basically). Chi is used to heal and cast spells (this is like mana). These are all recharged by collecting power-ups dropped by vanquished enemies.

The visuals are a close match for other BioWare games of the era, including KOTOR. The dialog, story, and menus feel very similar to KOTOR too. I wish the map was a bit more helpful too. The areas you visit are open and rather large, but objects in the distance have a somewhat muddy quality. Aliasing is visible up-close as well. That said, it's better than a lot of 3D games on Android. The voice acting is a cut above the average Android title too.

The developers claim the main story line in Jade Empire is roughly 40 hours. I believe it. I haven't even come close to finishing it yet, and the story has already advanced considerably. There's a lot going on and a lot to explore. So yes, it's more expensive than other games on Android that have a few hours of gameplay at most. At $10, Jade Empire is the same as KOTOR on Android (when it's not on sale). That's $5 cheaper than the same title on Steam.

Hopeless 3: Dark Hollow Earth

The Hopeless series of games follows a group of frightened yellow blobs as they travel through a land crawling with monsters. It's a bad situation for the blobs to be in, so bad that you might call it hopeless. You can help save the blobs with some nimble tapping… and also maybe a little money.

Hopeless 3 is an on-the-rails arcade shooter. Your vehicle traverses the terrain from left to right, manned by blobs. Monsters come at you mostly from the right, but sometimes they circle around behind you as well. To attack the monsters, just tap and your blobs will fire off a round in that direction. The monsters early in the game will be easy to take out with a single shot, but later you'll have to be more precise.

The goal is to complete each level without taking too much damage from monsters, while also picking up all the blobs along the way. The blobs pop up in front of the car as you roll along, but you can't tell which upcoming objects are are blobs and which are monsters until right before you reach them. Shooting blobs loses you points too. Plus, they're so cuddly and blob-y. The monsters that pop up in front of you need to be taken out every time, so you often have to prioritize targets. Monsters flying through the air might not hit you, so taking time to shoot those when a monster in front of you is opening its gaping maw to take a bite is a bad idea. You will also come across objects that can be activated to change the path you take in the level or kill some of the monsters (eg. a boulder rolling down a hill).

The graphics are simple, but it has a fun style. The small yellow blobs (which look a lot like stock Android blob emoji) are surprisingly emotive and the monsters are basically giant mouths with teeth.

Every set of levels includes a new car, which can be upgraded to take more damage before giving out and exposing your blobs to the monsters. Likewise, you have weapons that can be unlocked and improved. The way you do that is by spending coins, which are earned from playing the game. There are also gems. You can only buy those with money, but it's not all bad. The gems are used to speed up weapon unlocks (otherwise they take a few minutes) and continue in a level after you lose.

There's also a life/energy system in Hopeless 3, but it's not bad. You have 15 lives, but they're only expended when you lose. If you complete the level, none are lost. They also regenerate completely after 15 minutes. So yes, Hopeless 3 is a free-to-play game with in-app purchases, but it's not a jerk about it. Hopeless 3 is a good, quick game to play when you have a few minutes to kill.