This summer has been something of a letdown here in Blighty. But while the sun played fast and loose with our mood, the Android Market has been churning out some truly high-quality apps to brighten things up. Here are ten we enjoyed the most.
1. Glow Hockey 2
Glow Hockey 2 is a hugely addictive air hockey game that takes the easy-to-play but hard-to-master formula of table hockey and brings it right to your Android smartie.
Playing is simply a matter of touching the paddle and sliding it in the direction you want to hit the puck, with the objective being to score the set number of goals before your opponent.
The Quick Play mode serves as the single player setting. This comes in four difficulty options suitable for players of any age or skill level. There is also local two-player multiplayer using the same device. The gameplay is super smooth, enhanced by the realistic physics. And it's no less impressive in the looks department, thanks to the bright neon visuals that give it an authentic arcade-y appeal. Be sure to pick up this gem.
This charming puzzler casts you as a raindrop falling freely through a never-ending sky. Your goal is to drop as far as possible while avoiding red, toxic raindrops along the way, which as you can probably imagine, are bad.
To achieve this, you must tilt the device sideways to change the raindrop’s direction. However, it’s not always possible to clear a group of toxic raindrops huddled together. Tackling this quandary is a matter of tapping the screen, which will cause your blue raindrop to shoot out smaller raindrops to clear the way.
However, you only have a limited quantity of water so you have to be on the lookout for other blue raindrops for replenishment. There are also special yellow raindrops, which give you unlimited droplets for a brief amount of time, and snowflakes, which will freeze your raindrop, allowing it to drop unharmed temporarily.
The game ends if your raindrop loses all its water or comes into contact with a few too many toxic raindrops, so how far you can get really boils down to your concentration.
If you like endless platformers but want something a little refreshing to pass the time, this has got your name on it.
3. Fieldrunners HD
Fieldrunners is a hugely popular tower defense game. As is the case with most examples of the genre, the objective is to prevent waves of enemies getting past your defenses, namely powerful towers that blast out various projectile and energy weapons at oncoming ‘fieldrunners’.
There are three gameplay modes to tackle: Classic, Extended and Endless. Classic and Extended task you with defending each map for 100 rounds, which to say the least, is no mean feat. Endless, on the other hand, is a non-stop mode that challenges you to survive attacks for as long as possible.
There are eight towers in total, each with a unique firepower, such as missiles or laser, and each with varying degrees of range and effectiveness. These can be upgraded in real-time to become faster and more lethal using the in-game currency. This means there is a fair deal of strategy involved in the purchasing and upgrading of towers as well as placing them in the right areas to create and effective line of defense.
All modes come in three difficulties: easy, medium and hard – so even if you’re just getting started, there’s a steady learning curve to get use to the pace of the gameplay.
If you enjoyed Robo Defense or Plants vs. Zombies, this is a must-have addition to your collection.
4. City Story
City Story is a simulation title that places you in charge of creating your own city and helping it grow and sustain itself as a living, breathing megapolis.
There are over 150 types of buildings, businesses, parks and facilities to choose from. How you plan them is entirely up to you and can have a positive or negative impact on the economy, living conditions and so on. You can also place landmarks such as the Statue of Libery, Eiffel Tower and Empire State building to announce your conurbation’s status as a world city.
Gameplay is super easy and relentless, with everything happening in real-time. If you’re busy, the game will automatically notify you when contracts you’ve placed are ready.
It’s free to play, although you can download additional resources to truly customise and expand your city, your way.
5. Cut the Rope
A mysterious parcel has arrived at your doorstep. You open it and find inside a strange, frog-looking creature named Om Nom with a note that says: ‘please feed with candy’.
Unfortunately, the only candy around happens to be dangling on pieces of ropes. Your job is to cut said ropes (hence the name) in such a manner that the sweetie falls directly into the wide-open gob of your hungry new friend.
Sound simple? Think again, because as you progress to later stages you’ll be dealing with numerous obstacles and multiple ropes, each swinging in a different direction, requiring precise timing on your part.
And in case you were wondering, there are 175 levels in total, so there’s plenty here to keep you occupied for some time. Simply put, if you need a respite from flinging raging birds at pigs, Cut the Rope is what you seek.
6. Music Unlimited
Music Unlimited is Sony’s answer to the likes of Spotify and Grooveshark, bringing you unlimited access to over seven million songs.
The Android app allows you to access that and more even on the move, making music truly portable anywhere you go.
You can create your own personalised channels (a bit like playlists, if you will), to listen to what you like, when you like, with unfettered access to the entire MU library over 3G and Wi-Fi. You can also sync your existing collection easily with your computer or PlayStation 3.
It’s a really great tool to discover new music and you can always find something new and refreshing to listen to thanks to new albums and artists being added every day.
Of course, you’ll need a premium subscription to listen on-the-go, but take it from us it’s worth every penny. And if you’re still not sure, there’s a 30-day free trial to try before you buy.
Price: Free (subscription required)
Google+ is the official app for Google’s brand new social networking service of the same name. For the uninitiated, it works pretty much the same way as Facebook except with an arguably cleaner, nicer interface.
The Android app allows you to experience all the great features of the service that have been optimised for using while you're on the hoof. These include Circles, a new way to organise your friends/contacts and decide what you want to share with them, and Huddle, a group-messaging service that allows you to communicate with multiple chums at the same time.
There’s also Stream, which is the news feed equivalent of Facebook where you can see updates from your circles. Of course, you can post your own updates, message other users, upload images, videos and comment on content uploaded by others.
If you managed to get an invite, you simply have to give it try. After all, 20 million others have done so already.
Path is a closed personal network that focuses on sharing your daily activities with only those you really care about.
Unlike Facebook or Twitter where you can befriend or follow hundreds even thousands of people but only really know or care about a fraction of them, Path restricts your friends list to only 50. This, at least artificially, creates a more personal environment where you only share content with your closest friends and family while you continue to use Facebook for all other friends and acquaintances.
And the great thing is that you can use your existing Facebook account to log in and still share the occasional ‘moments’ - a fancier way of saying updates or posts – with your Facebook friends if you so choose to.
You can share photos, videos, places, and even emotions you’re feeling. A chat feature is on board so you can communicate with a friend in real-time. Moments can be tagged with people, places and things. And while when using Facebook you have no idea if something you posted was even seen by others, in Path you can see exactly who viewed something you shared and vice-versa.
If you have a lot of friends on Facebook but want a more personal network that is just for you and a special few, Path is definitely the way to go.
9. Dragon, Fly!
Dragon, Fly! for all intents and purposes is a near identical clone of a game you may have seen or played on the iPhone called Tiny Wings. The difference is that here, instead of controlling a little birdie that can’t fly, you play as a newly hatched dragon pup, who also can’t fly.
Fortunately, the gameplay takes place in a landscape filled with vertiginous, curving hills and valleys, making it easy for our dragon to embark on its first adventure by sliding along them and using the momentum to take off into the sky. Your job is to tap the screen at the right time to make the pup flap its wings as hard as it can to maintain enough momentum to keep going.
The game ends only when mama dragon catches up to you and takes you back home.
While we don’t typically endorse copycats, in this case we can’t help but make an exception. This is because Tiny Wings is not available on Android and is unlikely to be anytime soon as its one-man developer has admitted he simply doesn’t have the time. Naturally, the success of the iPhone version means a few opportunist devs are trying to ‘fill the void’ and this the best effort we’ve seen yet.
The colourful visuals retain Tiny Wings’ cute charm and the game runs as smooth as butter. It’s free, too, so grab it without a moment’s thought.
10. MX VideoPlayer
MX VideoPlayer is a universal video player that will play virtually every video format known to man. Or at least those that still exist and are frequently used in media such as .3gp, .avi, .divx ..flv .mkv .mp4 .mpeg .mov .vob .wmv and xvid, and many more.
The interface is simple and unobtrusive. To rewind or forward, you can simply swipe your finger horizontally on the screen. You can also scroll subtitles you’ve missed by sliding over it. Videos can be easily accessed via camera gallery, movies folder or SD card and you can delete and rename files in a snap.
A wide selection of subtitle files are also supported, including .srt, .ssa, .ass, .sub, .smi, .mps, .txt, .psb and Matroska subtitle track for mkv. You can even customise the text style of subtitles if you’re used a particular font size or colour. Better still, multiple audio tracks are compatible, too, which means you’re more than covered for your foreign flicks needs.
If you regularly transfer movies and videos to your Android to watch on the go, this is simply a must-have companion to take with you.
Besides, it’s free to download and we love free stuff here at uSwitch. Don’t you?