This week's selection includes online courses, language-learning, candy-guzzling monsters, internet-free chatting, floppy physics fighting, and a sneaky peek at new features for Xbox One's SmartGlass app before other people.
As ever, prices are correct at the time of writing, but may have changed by the time you read this. (Free + IAP) means in-app purchases are used within the app.
Coursera is one of the companies trying to shake up the world of online education: in its case, by providing more than 600 courses from universities around the world. It includes video lectures to stream or download, with clear indications on each course how long it lasts, and how much work you’ll need to do a week.
Continuing the educational theme, Lingua.ly trains its sights on language learning, getting you to type in words to see their translations in a variety of languages, then testing your knowledge with digital flashcards. I’ve found it a great refresher for my rusty French, but it looks as good for learning a new language.
Messaging app FireChat has been causing a stir on iOS since its recent release, and it’s made the jump to Android quickly too. It’s an app for text-chatting to people around you, even when you don’t have internet access. The downside, though, is that the iOS and Android versions can’t talk to one another – a big minus.
For now, you’ll need one of Samsung’s Android devices to use the new Businessweek app, which is offering a year’s free access to people signing up. You get a digitised version of the print magazine, with extra video, audio and interactive financial data on the public companies featured in articles.
There’s already a public version of Microsoft’s second-screen SmartGlass app for the Xbox One console, but this is different: a “public beta” that promises an “early peek” at new features coming soon. The caveat: not everything will work smoothly, this being pre-release software – but a prominent ‘Feedback’ button aims to ensure Microsoft hears about every bug quickly.
Book Creator has been a hit on Apple’s iPad as a way to quickly create ebooks on the device – particularly for teachers and parents. Now it’s available on Android too, with the same simple interface masking a deceptively-powerful editor. You can read books locally, or if you’re feeling ambitious, export them as ePub 3 files to sell on stores.
Gig Buddy is an intriguing idea for music fans in the UK: an app that aims to bring a bit more to gigging than simply buying a ticket then seeing a band. The promise here is of pre-sale tickets, exclusive videos, information about support bands and on-stage times, and a built-in music’n’merchandise store – as well as suggestions about where to eat, drink and stay around concerts.
It’s fair to say you’ll only be interested in this app if you’re interested in the music of former Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante. Bearing that in mind, though, this is a clever idea: he claims to have launched his new album into space on a satellite orbiting the earth. The app tracks its location and, when it’s over your region, makes Frusciante’s new album available to play in full.
Here’s the latest messaging app jostling for attention following Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp. Text-chat, photo-sharing (and doodling) and voice chat match rivals, with the address book used for contacts, WhatsApp-style. The promise of points – redeemable for bitcoin and Dogecoin among other rewards – may provide pause for thought about the app’s commercial motivations, though.
Another app with a fairly limited audience: in this case, people who own the Autographer lifelogging camera. The device is worn on your clothing and shoots photos throughout the day, and now it has an Android companion app to help you browse, tag and save them from your smartphone.
Addictive puzzle game Cut the Rope has spawned spin-offs before, but this is the full sequel. As before, it sees you snipping ropes (amid other interactions) to manipulate sweets into the mouth of cheery monster Om Nom. New characters and gameplay features mean it’s not just more of the same.
Beat ‘em ups are one of the genres still finding their feet (and hands…) on smartphones and tablets. Flop Fu is an engaging example of a fighting game built for touchscreens though: built around rag-doll physics and comic animation, it’ll raise a smile, with a mixture of solo and multiplayer modes to hold your attention.
I’m a sucker for a traditional turn-based RPG, so Heroes of Atlan immediately appealed – although just how mainstream it is here in the West remains to be seen. You create a party of heroes, set off on quests, level up with items and team up with (or battle against) other players. Intimidating depth, but a treat if this is your bag.
Yet another Flappy Bird clone, you might think. But this one is a port of a game by Adam ‘Atomic’ Saltsman, who previously made Canabalt. He made the original as part of the global “Flappy Jam” celebrating the original Flappy Bird’s fleeting success. “Features: Flapping. Spikes.” as the App Store listing puts it. But with the visual aesthetic of Canabalt too.
If Heroes of Atlan is a bit too hardcore for your RPG tastes, Widget RPG is at the other end of the spectrum: a charming widget-based game that promises to “transform mindless taps on widget to actions in a fantasy world”. A keen sense of humour, neat pixel-art graphics and very moreish gameplay make it a treat.
This week’s new genre is “procedurally generated detective murder-mystery” courtesy of Noir Syndrome, which promises a new hard-boiled case to solve every time you play. Your job is to wander around collecting clues, grilling suspects and completing challenges. Like a pixel-art Cluedo, and fun with it.
Social casino games are big business on mobile, even without real-money payouts. This one comes from publisher Gamevil: a slot-machine game that up to six people can play together over the network, collaborating to win jackpots while playing bonus games to boost their scores. It’s colourful and polished.
Solitaire meets golf, as you may have worked out from the title. The combination sounds ridiculous, but actually works well as you play your way round courses using your solitaire skills alone. Well, I say “alone” – power-ups are a key part of the gameplay and yes, in-app purchases are part of that structure too.
Pitched as a blend of classic racing games and 1970s horror flicks, Dead End sees you racing along an infinite track splatting zombies as you go, with car upgrades and online high-score tables aiming to prolong the rush. It’s good fun, with visuals that’ll provide a warm glow to anyone who grew up with an 8-bit computer.
Another intriguing genre-mash here: Chilie is part “interactive cartoon” and part brain-training game, based on a cartoon Chinese girl named Chilie. With graphics that look hand-painted, you explore her world, watching animations then solving sums to progress through the story.
A special 21st entry this week: If you’re at all interested in Android gaming, you should jump on any new Humble Bundle. The specialises in packaging together (often-indie) games letting you choose how much to pay, and how it should be divided between developers and charities. This latest bundle includes Knights of Pen & Paper +1 Edition, Kingdom Rush, Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror, Bridge Constructor, Type:Rider and Ravensword: Shadowlands across Android and PC. It’s excellent value.
Those are our picks, but what have you been enjoying on Android this week? Post your recommendations (or feedback on these) in the comments section.
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