by Stuart Dredge
It’s time for roundup of new Android apps This week’s is certainly a cracking selection, showing the innovation that’s happening on Android at the moment.
A warning about prices, especially on games: if you see (free) it often means freemium, as in in-app purchases.
Heroes of Order & Chaos (free)
Gameloft’s Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA – a genre you’ll be hearing more about on smartphones and tablets in 2013) game sees you forming gangs for fantasy battling, in a world based on the company’s existing World of Warcraft-like Order & Chaos Online game. Expect heroes, monsters and upgrades a-plenty.
Finger Hoola (£0.69)
Finger Hoola is a different kind of game entirely: one that sees you tracing shapes on-screen hula hoop-style to the strains of ambient music. As much a way to relax for a few minutes out of sight of your inbox as a game, it’s very good indeed.
Top Gear SSR (free)
Top Gear Stunt School Revolution has been a hit on iOS, and now it’s available on Android too. It’s a driving game based (loosely) on the BBC series, meaning the emphasis is on eye-popping stunts, often with a dash of the surreal.
Photo-sharing app Snapseed’s developer Nik Software was acquired by Google earlier this year, making this (sort of) Google’s in-house rival to Instagram. By which I mean taking and sharing photos while applying visual filters and borders, with a strong tie-in to the Google+ social network.
Candy Crush Saga (free)
King.com’s Candy Crush Saga has been a huge hit on Facebook, and recently made the leap to iOS. Now it’s on Android too, albeit in beta – so don’t be surprised if you spot the odd bug. The gameplay sees you matching sweets over more than 100 levels, with social features high in the mix to compare your efforts to your friends.
Clay Jam (free)
In what’s already looking like another good month for Android gaming, Clay Jam is the latest title from Zynga, through its publishing deal with developer Fat Pebble. It’s a claymation-style action game that sees you rolling and bouncing the hero down a series of hills. The visuals make it stand out from the crowd, but the gameplay delivers on this promise too.
Zenonia 5 (free)
Gamevil’s Zenonia has become one of the biggest and best mobile-only RPG franchises over the last couple of years, with this fifth iteration deserving to win even more fans round. It has a huge world to explore, more monsters than you can shake a stick/sword/spell at, and global player-versus-player match-ups for a social spin.
23snaps - Family Photo Book (free)
More photo-sharing, but this time with a focus on families. It’s an app designed to help parents share snaps of their kids with family and close friends, as an alternative to slapping them up on Facebook (although, if you’re on top of your group settings, it’s possible there too). This beta app works very well though, with its value as much about browsing back through the photos later, as the actual sharing at the time.
Falcon Pro for Twitter (£0.64)
“The Ultimate Twitter Experience on Android”? That’s quite a claim, but Falcon Pro does have the features to convince power users to give it a try as an alternative to the official Twitter Android app. Tuned for the Android OS, it’s smooth to use, with some nifty features including in-app preview of links to the Google Play store.
PSY Gangnam Style LWP and Tone (£1.49)
Normally, I wouldn’t look twice at a Gangnam Style live wallpaper on Android, assuming it to be an unlicensed ripoff. But no, this one’s official, launched by music startup Bandsintown with the Korean star’s blessing. It features the elevator scene from 2012’s most viral music video, as well as turning your homescreen into “a multicoloured disco floor with PSY performing his trademark dance moves” whenever a text message or Gmail notification arrives. Yes, that sounds horrifying, but this will probably be popular nonetheless.
Slice Keyboard (£3.11)
There are a number of popular keyboard replacement apps on Android, so Slice Keyboard faces ferocious competition. But it’s an interesting approach to the challenge of touchscreen typing: a blank “home row” to place your fingers on, determining where other keys appear.
The original version of Splice is one of the best puzzle games money can buy on the iPad, so its move to Android is big, exciting news for anyone with a Google-powered tablet. The game sees you manipulating microbial cells to create shapes (or “splices”) over more than 75 levels. Brain-bending, but brilliant.
McAfee SafeKey (free)
Something more serious here: a tool from security firm McAfee to help you remember your passwords for various sites. It requires a licence to use the McAfee All Access Security service, mind.
This is another game from Korean publisher Gamevil, promising “defence gaming on a whole different level”. So yes, tower defence – a crowded genre on Android already – but with RPG-style levelling up and skills for your characters to give the action a twist.
Bulkypix’s point-and-click adventure – that should be swipe-and-tap really – is one of the best-looking games released for Android this year, as you investigate a series of murders in New York. It’s rich and immersive, and feels like it’s been designed for touchscreen tablet play, rather than being in thrall to the PC roots of the genre.
A third photo-sharing app this week, this has more of a cloud storage focus: “Snap a photo with one device and have it available immediately across all your devices,” as the Google Play listing puts it. Looks like the kind of app Yahoo! should have turned Flickr into long ago.
Jewel Quest Heritage (£1.87)
Bejeweled may be the premier match-three-gems puzzle game franchise in 2012, but Jewel Quest is another veteran of the genre. This latest version offers more than 175 boards of jewels to clear and three modes of play.
Squeebles Spelling Test (£1.49)
KeyStageFun’s Squeebles apps have been putting a friendly face on education for young children across iOS and Android. This latest app focuses on spelling – you may have guessed this from the title – with a series of tests, and a storyline wrapped around them about rescuing colourful animals. There are no in-app purchases, ads or internet links, to reassure parents.