Big-Bang-Racing-Game

Big Bang Racing from TrapLight shouldn’t be missed

Big Bang Racing from TrapLight shouldn’t be missed

Trials racing games were all the rage a few years ago. They are still somewhat popular, but their arrival in the Play Store has diminished a bit. If you enjoy those types of games, then you should check out Big Bang Racing from TrapLight. The game is fun, has plenty of content, challenges and cute and engaging graphics. The controls are spot on too, which helps with these types of games. Though the game has been out for a few weeks, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of your attention.

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Big Bang Racing

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Trials type games have to strike a very fine balance. They can’t be too hard, or players will give up playing the game. If they are too easy, people will quickly lose interest. Big Bang Racing strikes the right balance with excellent gameplay, a wide-array of tracks, online racing and simple to use and well-implemented game controls. It also doesn’t hurt that the main character is a cute little alien, that unfortunately, due to some of the obstacles on the courses, meets his timely end in a multitude of ways. You can share replays of his demise with your friends too.

“Outrun players around the world in action packed races, or collect treasures from puzzling adventure tracks. Create and share your own levels, upgrade your rides, and customize your characters with the swaggiest hats in the galaxy.” – Traplight Ltd.

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Big Bang Racing

There is an amazing trials racing game that never made it to Android. Bike Baron, which was released on iOS in 2011 by Qwiboo and Mountain Sheep was excellent. I am still hoping one day it will come to Android. Nevertheless, Bike Baron had tons of tracks and plenty of users because of the quality of the game, and the game’s ability to have its players make their own tracks. Big Bang Racing has the same quality of gameplay and also the ability to create tracks. The track editor is pretty easy to use too. Currently, there are over 20,000 tracks. Not only can you create and race on other peoples tracks, you can also rate how much you like the tracks. In the era of social gaming, it is not surprising that you can add a thumbs up or down, on something that someone else has created for your enjoyment. I have come across some really neat tracks that are enjoyable, and others that are brutally difficult. Much like the game Mekorama, having an active social community surrounding the game, greatly extends the life of the game.

Within the game you have two different vehicles that you will control. You will either control a dirtbike or something akin to a dune buggy. Each of the vehicles are fully upgradeable. Upgrades become available when you win your races, or when you unlock adventure chests. As with most free to play games, the chests are unlocked after a period of time has expired, or you can do so using coins/gems. Once unlocked, various parts of your vehicle can be upgraded. It also costs coins to install the upgrades. During my time playing the game, the free-to-play structure did not feel forced. You can enjoy playing the game without the pressure of feeling like you have to spend your personal cash.

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Big Bang Racing

The game is easily set up for you to enjoy, which means simple controls. The on screen buttons include arrows on the right side of the screen for controlling your vehicle left and right, and two additional arrows on the left side of your screen that control your vehicle’s rotation while in the air. Being able to deftly control your vehicle will mean the difference between winning and losing races, as well as not being electrified by obstacles or crushed by other elements on the course. The controls work extremely well and enhance the gameplay quite a bit. You never feel like you have to fight the controls to make your vehicle do what you want.

There is an element of adventure to the game as well. While you are playing the campaign portion of the game, you will encounter courses that require you to find three different pieces of a map. Once you have found all the pieces of the map on a level, you are able to unlock a chest. As mentioned before, the chests allow you to upgrade your vehicle and more. Typically when a chest is unlocked you will acquire gold coins, nitro, cards for upgrades such as steering wheels, turbo chargers, brakes, etc. Other key pieces in the chests include elements for building your tracks like exploding barrels, treadmills, elevators, trees and fences. While you are playing the game and amassing all of these different parts, it is fun to be able to go into the track editor to see what you can put together and create. Think of it as Minecraft for racing.

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Think of it as Minecraft for racing

Big Bang Racing Features:

Drive in tens of thousands of player created levels Ride with two cool vehicles – Dirtbike and Offroad car Collect upgrades, treasures and fun new items Create and share your own tracks Race against real players from all over the world Team up, beat other teams in Weekly Seasons and get awesome prizes Climb the ranks in global and local leaderboards Customize your character with cool hats There is a lot to love about Big Bang Racing, from user-generated content to upgrading your vehicles to some really amazing courses. As a matter of fact, one course still sticks out in my mind as being brilliant. You had to find the three different map pieces, but all of the pieces were buried in the soil. The course was multi-tiered. You had to use your off road buggy to dig in the soil to find the map pieces. Watching the soil deform and placing your vehicle just right to fall from a precipice above to catch the piece of the map on the way down is still memorable. Seeing what other players come up with for courses is just part of the fun.

If games like this appeal to you, or creating levels for other gamers is your cup of tea, then by all means download Big Bang Racing. Plus, if you still miss not having Bike Baron on your mobile device, Big Bang Racing will go a long way in making you feel better, about having a game that is just as enjoyable.

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Become A Piano Pro With Flowkey On The App Store

Become a Piano Pro with flowkey

There are tons of Android apps and games available that will help you learn a new skill or hobby. While most of them won’t replace in-person instruction, it’s still a fantastic way to learn at home or on the go.

flowkey: Learn Piano is an incredible music app that teaches you how to play piano using a real piano or keyboard. The app provides real-time feedback without the cumbersome use of cords or expensive software.

Concept and Functionality

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flowkey is the perfect combination

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flowkey: Learn Piano, by Flowkey, certainly isn’t the first app of its kind, but it is definitely one of the most successful. The developers have created a wonderful feature-rich environment that encourages users to press on and practice their skills. Unlike most teaching apps, flowkey’s musical repertoire expands far beyond classic titles like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. You can learn and practice popular songs by artists like Jason Mraz and Bob Dylan. This is awesome for people who want to learn how to play songs they already know and love.

When it comes to navigation, flowkey is the perfect combination of functionality and visual appeal. You can easily find everything you’re looking for in just a few taps.

As I mentioned above, the coolest thing about flowkey is the fact that you can play along with an instrument you already own. Essentially is like having an instructor right next to you, providing instantaneous feedback and tips on how to improve your technique.

Features

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Become a Piano Pro with flowkey

flowkey is packed with many features that truly make it an outstanding educational app. For example, you can watch video tutorials and see sheet music right on the screen. You can also save your favorite songs for easy access, making it a breeze to keep practicing. There are many special features, as well, including the ability to slow songs down. This is perfect for mastering difficult chords because you can practice at your own pace.

Value

flowkey can be downloaded from Google Play for free, but there is a monthly subscription fee for the premium version of the app. As mentioned on the app’s store page, “A one-month subscription is $19.99, a three months’ subscription is $38.99 and a yearly subscription is $119.99.”

Overall, I don’t think the premium subscription is enough to deter serious users. According to Angie’s List, “On average, piano lessons can cost between $30 and $60 per hour.” It’s pretty easy to see how flowkey can pay for itself in no time at all. If you’re serious about learning how to play piano, we think flowkey is an app you simply can’t pass up. It is highly recommended and we encourage you to give it a try even if you don’t plan on taking advantage of the premium subscription.

Explore Before Departure with Preparture| Game Apps Review

Explore Before Departure with Preparture

Preparture is a travel app with jaw-dropping capability for all travelers. This incredible app helps users make the most of their time by offering them suggestions of things to do and places to see with any spare time before they need to leave the city. Developed by Preparture Inc., Preparture is a unique way to calculate what you can do with the time that you have before departing.

Explore Before Departure with Preparture

Explore Before Departure with Preparture

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Features Preparture has relatively simple features but the way they are packaged into this neat app easily make it one of the better travel apps available. It requires you to enter in your basic traveling info, such as how you’re departing (plane, train, car, etc.), where you’re departing from, when you’re departing, and what interests you have. Then Preparture calculates all of the surrounding places that fit into your interests and gives you a list of the places that you can visit within your time frame. You’ll get directions for each place from your current location and, even better, Preparture shows you just how much time you can spend at those places before you need to leave for the airport (or train station). Preparture also lets you view the places in a Map mode (just tap the map icon in the upper right corner when viewing results) which can provide an easier frame of reference for where places are.

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Preparture Android App While it does require a few permissions in order to work, such as accessing your phone (to call a business from within the app), accessing your location (to calculate distance and travel time), accessing your photos (to change your profile picture), and accessing your contacts (to share the app with your pals), we’re think it’s a fair trade. Preparture cuts down on the amount of time you need to research and find places on your own by providing you with the contact info for each place, which helps a great deal when you’re on a tight time schedule and can’t afford to spend that extra ten minutes searching around via your browser. Overall, we loved how Preparture calculates the time we can spend at each place before we need to head over to the airport (or wherever your point of departure is) and found it to be incredibly useful in places we were unfamiliar with.

Appearance and Layout This handy travel companion looks splendid with its friendly pastel cityscape background and easy-to-read font sizes, and it color-codes each category of place to visit, which makes it a breeze to find places that suit your interest. Preparture is laid out well, which makes navigating through the app fairly easy. The icon sizes for each business’s contact info are a bit smaller than we’d like, but besides that the app has a great layout and design. Overall, we enjoyed using Preparture for an upcoming trip we had, and we think that it looks great.

Value Preparture is free on the Google Play Store and is only a 15 MB download. There are banner ads along the bottom of the screen, but for a free app that takes away the headache of planning where to go and what to do before your afternoon flight, Preparture gets it done in style. Check it out for yourself and let us know what you think of it in the comments below.

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Modern Combat 5 Review–Game Androids Review

Modern Combat 5 Review: A Mobile Shooter Loaded With An Extended Magazine Of Caveats

Like a great many developers, Gameloft has resorted to rolling in-app purchases into most of its games. One notable exception to that de facto rule is the new installment of the Modern Combat series. These games have much more production value than any other mobile first-person shooter, but this is a genre that’s notoriously hard to adapt to touchscreens. So, can a big production budget make Modern Combat 5: Blackout worth your time?

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Modern Combat 5

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Gameplay

Modern Combat 4 focused on an intricate and ultimately uninteresting story about a terrorist who took every opportunity to remind us he was the bad guy through the use of torturously long cut scenes. Modern Combat 5 is still about terrorists blowing stuff up and shooting people, but there’s less time spent on an attempt to flesh out everyone’s motivation for shooting stuff. If you ask me, that’s a good thing. The story is no more compelling in MC5, but it stays out of your way more than in the last installment.

The game’s story mode takes place across six different zones including a Buddhist temple, a bustling metropolis, and a military base. Each area has 4-6 missions that advance the story, which is mostly about figuring out what these terrorists types are up to (it doesn’t really matter—you still just shoot all of them). After finishing those missions, there are a few “spec ops” levels to go through in the same zone. These are quick one-off missions that might call upon you to cover your team from a sniper perch, breach and clear a few rooms, assassinate a target, or rescue a hostage. The level design is reasonably good, and the spec ops stuff is surprisingly fun. I actually replayed some of these missions just because.

Modern Combat 5 includes a few different classes you can play including assault (rifles), heavy (shotguns/explosives), and sniper. Not all classes are unlocked at the start of the game, but seeing as there are no in-app purchases, you can unlock things pretty easily just by playing the game. In addition to all the classes, there are multiple guns, attachments, and secondary weapons to unlock. Basically, there’s a bunch of stuff and it’s oh so great to not get the hard sell every five minutes to get access to it.

Some upgrades to your units earned through leveling up can only be used in the multiplayer mode, which is pretty straightforward as shooters go. You have game types like deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. I have no real complaints about multiplayer separate from my general gripes about the controls (see below), except for some possible balance issues in matchmaking. One undeniable advantage for Modern Combat 5 compared to other multiplayer games is that there are actually people playing it. I’ve lost track of how many games I’ve seen with online components that were little more than ghost towns. In Modern Combat 5, I was able to find a game in a matter of seconds.

Okay, let’s talk AI—it’s still kind of dumb. I have yet to play a shooter on Android that has impressive AI that can avoid making stupid mistakes, and Modern Combat 5 continues the trend. Look at the image below. See that guy I’m pointing my gun at? He’s “in cover,” but his head is clearly exposed to all the people shooting at him. There are a lot of little things like that; enemies standing still out in the open, taking cover where there is no cover, and generally making themselves easy to hit. It’s not as egregious as some games I’ve played, but don’t go in expecting a ton of clever AI soldiers to flank you—they can barely manage a frontal assault.

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Shhh, I’m hiding

I do have one more ongoing concern with Modern Combat 5, and this might be a deal breaker for many of you. You need to have an internet connection to play the game—yes, even the single player. Frankly, I can’t think of any good reason other than (maybe) combating piracy. The game comes with the first zone when you download it, but the others are loaded when you unlock them (a nice feature, actually). So of course you need a connection for that, but I’m talking about levels you are currently playing. If you lose connectivity for even a moment, the game pauses and tries to reconnect. You cannot play until the server has been reached.

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Gameloft’s end

The first day I had Modern Combat 5, it seemed like the connection was lost every few minutes. I have no idea why, but there might have been some issues on Gameloft’s end. It’s been better since then, but I really have to wonder why anyone thought this was a good idea. Single player games should not arbitrarily require an internet connection.

Controls

If you’ve played any of Gameloft’s previous shooters (especially Modern Combat 4), you won’t find many surprises in the controls for Modern Combat 5. The various on-screen control schemes rely on some arrangement of dual thumbsticks. Drag on the left side of the screen to walk forward/backward and strafe side to side, and use the right side to aim. Here’s where things get weird—when you want to fire, you pick up your right thumb and press the floating trigger button. While pressing this, you can still drag around to refine your aim, but nothing is going to make that process completely smooth.

Modern Combat 5 has extremely aggressive aim assistance on by default, and frankly, I can’t imagine playing this game on a touchscreen without it. I say this as someone who plays a lot of shooters with a keyboard/mouse and a controller. Once your crosshairs find a target, your aim will actually stick there, even if the enemy should run a short distance. It’s weird, but you’ll wrestle with the controls enough even with the auto aiming. Sometimes it can get incredibly frustrating as you switch back and forth between swiping and tapping the fire button, always feeling just a little disconnected from the action.

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Modern Combat

The bottom line is that on-screen FPS controls are awkward, but I will grant that Gameloft has done the best job of making a shooter enjoyable on a touchscreen. I guess you could say the controls are good… in the context of other mobile first-person shooters. If you’re not wiling to settle for barely passable controls (and you shouldn’t), your best bet is to pair a controller with your device. I tested Modern Combat 5 on the Nvidia Shield, which is fully supported as a controller. Most other HID devices with the standard layout should work too.

Using a controller instantly makes MC5 more playable (you need to increase the sensitivity, though). The difference is actually huge. With touchscreen controls I feel anxious and off-kilter playing Modern Combat 5, but I’m instantly at home with the controller. That’s not just because I’m used to a controller, but the precision of a physical thumbstick is higher, and (importantly) you can fire while aiming without moving your thumb from the stick.

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FPS games

I feel like we’ve reached the point where perhaps we need to admit that FPS games are never going to be great with touchscreen controls. With a controller, Modern Combat 5 is actually completely playable, but it’s only barely acceptable on the touchscreen. This disconnect might be most evident by the way I completely destroyed the competition in online multiplayer mode. I suspect most of them are playing without a controller, giving me a huge advantage.

Graphics

Console-like graphics, you say? I’d really like it if everyone could stop saying that. I have yet to see a mobile game with console-like graphics, with the possible exception of some of the better Tegra-exclusive titles, but even then it’s older consoles. Modern Combat 5 looks good for a mobile game, but console-like it is not.

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On the Nexus 7

The game will default to “optimal” quality when you install it, but the specifics of optimal depend on your hardware (I suspect many of the complaints about graphics are because of this automatic setting). On the Nexus 7, I found the default settings to be a little lackluster (those are the screenshots with on-screen buttons). The textures were a little muddy and aliasing was pretty obvious during gameplay. Cranking it up to the higher quality setting made the game lag a bit too much. The Shield, on the other hand, looked much better at optimal settings with improved smoothness, lighting, particles, and textures. The game played perfectly maxed out on this device.

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Modern Combat 5

Modern Combat 5 is an ambitious title, to be sure. The environments are large and open. The game does guide you more or less in a certain direction, but you’re not closed in a tiny space, and you won’t have to wait while new parts of the level load. The promo video might not be indicative of the experience you’ll have when playing Modern Combat 5, but it’s a good looking game overall.

Conclusion

You can play Modern Combat 5: Blackout on a touchscreen, but it’s not fun. At least it wasn’t fun for me. Even with the auto aiming and generous hit boxes, I was constantly annoyed with the lack of precision. It’s not that Gameloft stinks out loud at implementing FPS controls on a tablet or phone, there just aren’t any good options. I’m sure there are people who will overlook the awkwardness of touchscreen shooter controls, but I feel like I’m over that. It doesn’t work very well and it never will with the technology we currently have. I want to play fun games, and a shooter isn’t fun with on-screen controls.

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Gameloft’s newest shooter

With a controller, Modern Combat 5 is a fun game. The difference is so stark that I can really only recommend buying it if you intend to play with a controller.

The story didn’t really strike me as interesting or relevant to the gameplay, but it seems to have been deemphasized this time, which I’m fine with. The lack of IAPs is a total win, though. It’s refreshing to play a game with unlockable content that isn’t tied to a paywall. Yes, MC5 is a $7 game, but you get everything for that price—and there is a lot of content here. So you should consider picking up Gameloft’s newest shooter, but only if you have a controller or hate yourself a little bit.

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Pokemon Go Review–Game Review

POKEMON GO REVIEW

Pokemon Go, described in simple terms, is a clever concept: Walk to real-life locations called PokeStops marked on a map on your phone to get items and collect the Pokemon that pop up along the way to gain XP. Use those Pokemon to take over real-world objectives called Gyms from other players. It has all the basics covered to make it a functional mobile treasure-hunting app, though technically its performance (and that of its servers) is often very poor on iOS and Android. But the main appeal of the free-to-play Pokemon Go is how being out in the real world, finding tons of other people who see the same augmented reality you do, brings the sort of intangible dream of Pokemon to life.

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pokemon go

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It has to be experienced to really make sense; without that social aspect it’s really just an extremely light RPG level-grinder. Pokemon Go’s success or failure hinges on that experience, and right now it’s stuck somewhere in between, simultaneously fun and unique but also inconsistent and incomplete. (It is, after all, listed as version 0.29 despite being released onto the App Store and Google Play without caveats.) It’s not mechanically interesting, but it is socially very interesting thanks to a few smart design decisions. You wouldn’t jump off a bridge because everybody’s doing it, but that is a great reason to play Pokemon Go.

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how to play Pokemon Go

Welcome to the World of Pokemon At least in the short term, Pokemon Go is a proven phenomenon with millions of players. I was at a party in the San Francisco Bay Area over the weekend where at least two dozen adults were out on the front lawn, calling out the names of Pokemon as they appeared on our phones. We ran inside when someone claimed a Bulbasaur was in the fridge; we ran back outside for Ponyta. We walked a block or two to challenge a nearby Gym only to have it taken over right from under us by someone we didn’t know and couldn’t see, and we all had the app crash on us a few too many times during our hour out and about. It was silly and frustrating and fun all at once.

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Pokemon Go’s setup

The San Francisco area is admittedly really well-suited to Pokemon Go’s setup — your mileage may vary if you’re out in a remote area with few points of public interest around. Here, it feels like there’s no shortage of PokeStops to visit, and on multiple occasions I arrived at a PokeStop or Gym only to find that a group of other people playing Pokemon Go was already there. I also learned a lot about my neighborhood and the landmarks I walk by every day just by taking meandering walks to PokeStops, which was one of the best things about the times I played Pokemon Go by myself. In this environment, at least, Pokemon Go’s design — the RPG-lite level system combined with the collection aspect and the nostalgia only a hugely popular, decades-long franchise can bring — all build to the kind of experience that developer Niantic wanted, the kind the trailer seems to evoke.

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people playing Pokemon Go

“ It feels like the whole world is playing Pokemon Go.

I was drawn to Pokemon Go for that real-life Pokemon Trainer dream, but even when that aspect of it underwhelmed me with its simplicity and bugginess, I keep playing because having to go outside puts me in front of new places surrounded by other people doing exactly what I’m doing. All of my friends are playing, random passers-by are playing; it feels like all of the world is playing.

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Pokemon games

When It’s Not Very Effective But this is a precarious house of cards built on top of a wobbly foundation of nostalgia. For the most part, Pokemon Go’s design as a paper-thin RPG is super accessible, but it’s completely unremarkable. You as a trainer have a level, and your captured Pokemon have “combat points” tied to your level, but none of that relationship is explained very well and thus feels confusing. It turns out that your level impacts the combat point ceiling of Pokemon you acquire, which is essentially how catching Pokemon in the regular games works… but just not as polished or intuitive, even to long-time Pokemon players. Fortunately (in a way) combat lacks the depth of traditional Pokemon games, so it barely matters.

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Pokemon’s rock-paper-scissors

Battles for control of Gym locations are nothing more than simple, real-time tapping-based combat, and it’s virtually unaffected by anything other than combat point value. Even Pokemon’s rock-paper-scissors type matchups hardly matter, either — if you have the higher-powered monster, you’re all but guaranteed to win. It’s boring by itself and, like the combat points system, isn’t explained well. (There’s dodging, but it doesn’t seem to do much to turn the tide of a fight.) It’s not that the only acceptable form of combat is turn-based and tactical, but the system in its place here is simply a dull chore after just a few fights.

On top of that, the app itself is stuttery, crashy, and performs inconsistently. There are updates that help with this, and it’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s often frustrating. I’ve lost semi-rare Pokemon to random crashes that struck during crucial moments (though sometimes those seemingly escaped Pokemon show up as caught once I reload after the crash).

“ Pokemon Go’s biggest weaknesses are more a matter of the features it doesn’t yet have than the ones it does.

Pokemon Go’s biggest weaknesses are more a matter of the features it doesn’t yet have than the ones it does, though. There’s no trading, no player-versus-player battles (you only fight automated Pokemon left to defend Gyms), no friends list, no leaderboards, and no in-app social capability of any kind, other than how we’re all prompted to group into one of three competing teams. Some of these features are in the works, but right now, the most interesting thing about Pokemon Go is not its gameplay but how its design encourages personal connections with other real-world players by physically bringing us together as we all chase common goals. Collecting is fun for a while, but without more things to do with those Pokemon or my Trainer profile, it feels a little empty at times.

The Power That’s Inside Battling against that emptiness are a few key things that keep Pokemon Go together. In order to power up or evolve a Pokemon you’ve captured, you have to catch duplicates of its species — sometimes many, many duplicates. Transferring the weaker ones out of your bank of available Pokemon earns you “candies” for that species to fuel power-ups. It seriously takes the sting out of finding yet another Zubat, something that the main Pokemon games never quite solve. In Pokemon Go, I want to catch that hundredth Zubat so I can farm it for power-up potential.

There’s also an area-of-effect item that all players can use for a limited time: lures. One person can place a lure at any PokeStop, which increases the number of Pokemon that will show up. The cool thing about them is that they lure people in addition to Pokemon — I pulled over while driving because my friend said there were lures nearby, and we ran into the people who had placed them. Wanting to catch Pokemon means more lures, which keeps the community alive. It’s one of the smartest design choices in Pokemon Go.

“ A few key design choices keep Pokemon Go’s community alive.

That drive and incentive to catch ‘em all keeps me walking and venturing out of my way (I walked all the way around a hospital yesterday) to catch even more Pokemon. I mostly want stronger Pokemon to take over Gyms for my team, even though combat is boring. There’s just something satisfying about holding an objective that every other person playing can see, and the draw of taking territory for my team kept me coming back when the battle had long since worn out its welcome. It also helps that taking over a Gym nets you in-game currency, and I’ve found that spending real money on microtransactions isn’t strictly necessary. I haven’t bought any of the in-game money since I can find items and earn coins from playing as normal, and I haven’t felt pressured to do so in order to keep playing at the aggressive pace I’ve been going at.

All of this, even if it’s not too complicated, encourages more walking around, which it keeps everyone playing and encountering each other. That in turn feeds the real-world aspect that makes Pokemon Go special. It’s just a matter of whether people continue to play.

The Verdict Right now, Pokemon Go is an incredible, can’t-miss social experience — like Pokemon is actually real and everyone is on board — but its RPG mechanics and combat don’t have nearly enough depth to support itself in the long term. If people start to lose interest due to its lack of depth once the novelty of seeing Pokemon pop up around their everyday lives expires, the community will fall apart and the spell will be broken. What Pokemon Go needs is more features to support that real-world interaction. Things like Pokemon trading and leaderboards, which developer Niantic says are incoming, could keep that momentum up. Even if it will be short-lived, though, there’s no doubt it’s exciting to be a part of while it lasts.

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Google Maps just made exploring cities easier than ever–Apps Archives

Google Maps just made exploring cities easier than ever

Google is rarely one for a fanfare, and the recent changes to Google Maps likely went unnoticed by many. Aside from some delicate aesthetic improvements, Google has now added “areas of interest”. These algorithmically selected and highlighted areas could change the way you explore cities both new and familiar.

You may have noticed that Google Maps has developed a breakout of peachy blotches. These areas of discoloration over the face of the earth are symptomatic of a new feature that Google recently rolled out.

Each peachy stain represents an “area of interest”, that is, an area particularly busy with economic and social activity, be it shops, bars or restaurants.

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AndroidPIT google maps areas of interest 1

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The new shading extends to individual buildings. / © AndroidPIT Browsing around Berlin, I found the results to be pretty accurate, highlighting popular and interesting areas containing many of my favorite spots. That is not to say the algorithm is perfect. There are problems: some cities are all but covered in orange, only businesses added to Google Maps register, and, ultimately, Google is not really in the cartography business but the advertising business.

Nonetheless, for a quick overview, it’s a very promising feature, and one that I will no doubt find myself using the next time I visit a new city or head to a neighborhood I am unfamiliar with.

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AndroidPIT google maps areas of interest 2

Some cities, such as Prague, are a little over-saturated. / © AndroidPIT And, as is Google’s forte, it has implemented something extremely complex in a deceptively simple fashion, so simple that is easily overlooked or underestimated.

Aside from this exciting addition, Google has made Maps subtly more attractive, dispensing with inessential elements, such as road outlines, and adjusting its color scheme to make different areas and building types more readily distinguishable.

What do you think of Google’s areas of interest? Will you be making use of the new feature?

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Make Free Calls to India with Indycall

Indycall is an exceptional free calling app for calling numbers with an India country code (e.g. +91). Developed by Promophone, Indycall lets users call any phone in India for free while enjoying excellent call quality and without having to worry about spending money on fees. Features Indycall primarily features the ability to call any phone in India for free over an active internet connection. Indycall is unique in that it doesn’t have any option to buy credits or require payment of any sort. Indycall stands out from the other Wi-Fi free calling apps (e.g. Skype, Viber, etc.), by letting users call any phone number in India instead of just calling other users who also have the app. Indycall does have a time limit for each call, and users will see the maximum duration permitted for the call next to the phone number they are dialing. This may deter those who enjoy chatting for extended periods of time, but there is no limit to the amount of times a call can be made to a number. Users can continue to call back if their time expires. To call numbers in Indycall, users need to dial a “+” sign or “00”, followed by the country code and phone number. Indycall doesn’t require users to sign-in using Facebook, but those who do so will receive more calling minutes as well as more applicable ads.

Make Free Calls to India with Indycall

Make Free Calls to India with Indycall

 
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Indycall is very relevant and useful for making calls to India (even from overseas!). The call quality is great (depending on internet connection) and although the ads are sometimes bothersome, it certainly beats having to pay extraordinary amounts for placing an international call. Appearance and Layout Indycall has an impressively clean and well-manicured appearance with an easily readable font and a simple fuze color scheme. The layout of Indycall is similar to a basic phone-calling app and makes use of the user’s phone book. Icons are the normal dialpad, recent contacts, phone book, etc making it easy to find the numbers or contacts you’re looking for. The superb appearance and layout of Indycall makes this app a thrill to use. Value Indycall is free to download and use and does not ever prompt for payment for anything. Indycall is supported by advertisements, so users watch an advertisement each time before making a call. At only 14 MB to download, Indycall is an incredible app for users who either live in India or make regular calls to India.

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Android L vs Android M preview: What new features will you get on?

ANDROID L VS ANDROID M PREVIEW At Google I/O 2015, the internet giant predictably gave us our first look at the next version of Android, its mobile operating system for smartphones and tablets. Android 5.0 Lollipopupdates are still rolling out but here’s a look at what Android M will bring in terms of new features. Here’s our Android L vs Android M preview. Note: Before we launch into the comparison, it’s worth noting that this is the Android M Developer Preview (which we’re runing on the Nexus 6) so the new operating system is still very much a work in progress and will change by the time it launches properly. Therefore this article is something of a preview and we’ll update it when Android M is fully launched. See also: Android M vs iOS 9 comparison.

Android M screenshots

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ANDROID L VS ANDROID M: LOOK AND FEEL

We’re not going to go crazy with side-by-side screenshots of Android L and Android M here since Google has pretty much kept things the same. Lollipop was the version with something of an overhaul of the interface and Android M keeps the Material Design.

There are a few tweaks though such as a microphone icon at the bottom-left of the lockscreen instead of the phone (for the dialler) so you can quickly conduct a voice search or command. The app menu (or app draw) now displays vertically (as does the widgets drawer) with apps split into alphabetical groups – you can use the scroll bar at the side to quickly navigate to a particular letter. Plus there’s a new bar at the top which shows your four most recently used apps. Smaller changes include two fields for memory management so you can see average and maximum amount of RAM an app has used. SD cards can also be formatted to appear as internal storage which will keep things nice and neat.

Unfortunately the Quick Settings can’t be rearranged as standard but there is a new addition in the form of do not disturb (DND). You can edit them with the device in Developer Mode switched on and the SystemUI Tuner also switched on.

ANDROID L VS ANDROID M: ANDROID PAY

To compete with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, Google has announced Android Pay for Android M. It will let you pay for things (at participating stores) with your phone without needing to open an app. It uses NFC and Google said it will be accepted at over 700,000 stores in the US soon – there’s no word on other markets. You can choose which card to pay with across multiple devices and your card information won’t even be part of the transaction. Google said: “Instead we’ll use a virtual account number to represent your account information – providing you with an extra layer of security.” Android M Android Pay

ANDROID L VS ANDROID M: FINGERPRINT SCANNERS

Fingerprint scanners are already around on various devices but Android M has native fingerprint support which enhances Android Pay by allowing users to confirm a purchase with their fingerprint. Your fingerprint can be also used to unlock devices and make purchases on Google Play. “With new APIs in M, it’s easy for you to add fingerprint authorization to your app and have it work consistently across a range of devices and sensors,” said Google.

ANDROID L VS ANDROID M: APP PERMISSIONS

The permissions apps require in Android have always been something of a sore point, with many apps asking for way more than necessary and looking on the dodgy side. Well Android M is putting the control into the hands of the user. Apps will request certain permissions at runtime so you can choose whether to grant it or not but you can also control the individual permissions for each app in the settings. Android M App Permissions

ANDROID L VS ANDROID M: BATTERY LIFE

We always want better battery life and short of new battery technology software has a big part to play. In Android M, a feature called Doze will use sensors to detect when a device is not in use and put it into a deep sleep type mode. You’ll still receive important notifications and the like but it has the potential to double battery life which is what Google has seen running Android M on the Nexus 9.

ANDROID L VS ANDROID M: USB TYPE C

Although battery life should be better, you’ll need to charge your device eventually and Android M supports USB Type C which is reversible so you can’t plug it in the wrong way and could well be on the Nexus 5 2015. Even better is the fact it will charge your device quicker (three to five times) and you can use it to charge other devices if needs be. Android M Now on Tap

ANDROID L VS ANDROID M: NOW ON TAP

Google Now is helpful for all kinds of things within Android but it’s going to get better in Android M. Now on tap means you can press and hold the home button whenever you need help – Google Now will appear without you needing to navigate anywhere and will already know what you’re doing like trying to find the way to a restaurant.

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OUR VERDICT

With the same Material Design at the heart of Android M, it’s not a big OS update but the tweaks and new features are all welcome. Stay tuned for more on Android M as we approach the full launch.

BADLAND GAME

10 best action games for your Android

Action games are among the most popular on any platform. They get the blood pumping, the fingers moving, and it’s a great way to test your reflexes and wits. There are a variety of action games out there, including shooters, fighting games, adventure games, platformers, and more which makes narrowing it down a little difficult. Nevertheless, here are the ten best action games on Android! BADLAND

BADLAND GAME

BADLAND GAME

[Price: Free with in-app purchases] BADLAND was one of the best action games released on mobile in 2013. It’s a 2D infinite runner with simple, but beautiful graphics, a simple premise, and easy game play. You must dodge obstacles and continue forward before the ever scrolling screen swallows your character. There are currently more than 100 levels, a full co-op mode, and updates in late 2015 gave players the ability to make their own levels which they can then share with other players around the world. It’s free to download so you can try it before you buy the full version and it’s a game that just keeps on giving. Half-Life 2 [Price: $9.99] Half-Life 2 may be the purest shooter left on Android. It’s a full port of the PC version which is currently only available for NVIDIA Shield devices right now. It offers superior graphics, a decently long campaign mode, and there is even an expansion you can pick up for an additional $7.99. Anyone who has played Half-Life 2 before can tell you that the game ramps up the action almost constantly and there are no in-app purchases to get in the way. If you have an NVIDIA Shield device, you should buy this game. Into the Dead [Price: Free with in-app purchases] Into the Dead is a 3D infinite runner action game where you’re caught in the zombie apocalypse and you must run to survive. You’ll be given weapons but otherwise it’s just you as you wade through a seemingly endless hoard of zombies that are trying to kill you. The game graphics use a lot of silhouettes and darkness which helps keep the atmosphere dark and foreboding. It’s an excellent time waster and one that should keep you going for a while. Injustice: Gods Among Us
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Injustice-Gods Among Us

[Price: Free with in-app purchases] Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fighting game that features a large cast of DC’s most popular comic book characters. It includes some basic fighting game mechanics along with super powers that are integrated into the controls as special moves to make each character unique and interesting. On top of the basic game mechanics, you can battle online against other folks using parties of three and you’ll be able to upgrade each of your characters to make them more powerful. There is a lot of game here and it’s worth checking out. Implosion – Never Lose Hope [Price: Free / $9.99] Implosion is a hack-and-slash action game with pretty decent graphics. It takes place in a futuristic world where you must slay mutants, monsters, and various types of creatures both mechanical and non-mechanical. The controls are easy enough to use and the game does have a pleasant flow with plenty of action and mayhem to enjoy. The free version includes the first six levels with the rest unlocking after you purchase the full game as an in-app purchase. It also has Google Play Games cloud saving which is just cherry on top of an already sweet cake. Grand Theft Auto (any of them)
Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto

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[Price: $4.99-$6.99] Grand Theft Auto is arguably the largest sandbox game available on Android. Anyone who has played a Grand Theft Auto game knows what to expect here with car chases, shootouts, fighting, driving, dodging police, and taking down rivals all being par for the course in these games. The controls are a little clunky on mobile devices and will require a bit of a learning curve before you’ll feel comfortable, but otherwise these games work really well, have tons of content, and look pretty decent as well. Modern Combat 5: Blackout [Price: Free with in-app purchases] The Modern Combat series helped define what a shooter should be on Android. It contains easy controls, decent graphics, online multiplayer, a leveling system, and, of course, a campaign mode. You’ll be able to choose between six classes based on how you want to play with each class possessing their own unique traits and abilities. You can level up through single player and multiplayer which is a nice plus. The in-app purchases get in the way a little bit like many of Gameloft’s games do, but the execution is otherwise very good. PewDiePie: Legend of Brofist [Price: $4.99] PewDiePie: Legend of Brofist exploded into the scene back in 2015 and was one of the most popular paid games of the year. It’s a 2D action game that borrows mechanics from a variety of genres, including platformer, shooter, and more. It features tons of pop culture and gaming references and you can even unlock other popular YouTubers. There are a ton of levels, boss fights, secret treasures, and pretty everything a retro action game would ever need to be awesome. Of course, there are no in-app purchases. Sonic the Hedgehog [Price: $2.99] Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the original action games available on any platform. The game focuses on speed as you get from the beginning to the end of each level, collecting rings, and avoiding certain death. There are also boss fights! Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 are available on mobile right now as well as Sonic 4 episodes 1 and 2 that all hold true to the original Sonic ethos. They’re a lot of fun and even bring a bit of nostalgic value to the mobile gaming world. They’re also pretty cheap with no in-app purchases! UNKILLED [Price: Free with in-app purchases] UNKILLED is a title done by MADFINGER GAMES, the same developers who brought us Dead Trigger and Shadowgun. In this action-fueled zombie shooter, you take down mass amounts of zombies using a variety of weapons, fend off bosses, and play in over 300 missions and counting. The graphics are some of the best we’ve seen on mobile and those with a Tegra X1 device will get a little bit extra in the graphics department as well. It’s a great mix of shooter and time waster and it’s definitely worth a shot.

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Take Candid Photos with Spopic

Spopic is a unique and interesting photo-taking app that let’s you take candid photos while using your phone. Developed by Valiko, Spopic takes spontaneous photos for you whenever you talk on the phone. It’s a rather unique approach to photography and will definitely take interesting photos for you. Features Spopic primarily features an app that automatically takes photographs every time it senses that your phone is by your ear. Once you bring your phone to your ear, Spopic will take a picture. The picture is then saved onto your phone’s internal storage. By swiping up or down, users can share or  delete photos taken. By swiping left or right, users can view the photos they’ve taken with Spopic. Users can turn off Spopic whenever they want to by simply tapping the on/off icon. Overall, we found Spopic to be quite fascinating and thought the photos it took were often so random and candid that it was actually rather interesting and entertaining. Most of the photos it took for us seemed to be tilted at an awkward angle (since very rarely do people hold their phone vertically up and down while talking), but they were easy to rotate and fix. We felt that Spopic might be a great app to use as a way to subtly take photos (e.g. when in a place where photo taking might be frowned upon).

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Appearance and Layout

Spopic Android App

Spopic Android App

Spopic has one of the most basic interface appearances that we’ve seen, with rough boxes and hard colors. We felt like we were looking at an unfinished app and felt that the app could definitely be made to look better. Since it is so simple and basic, it might appeal to those who like using simple apps with basic GUIs. Simple would be an understatement for the layout of Spopic. The options (on/off), share (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and delete are all easy to find and use. It would be hard to get confused with the layout in this app! The overall appearance and layout of Spopic is minimalist in its approach and simple to use. Value Spopic is completely free to download and use. At only 3 MB to download, Spopic is an easy app to get and use on your phone (if even occasionally). Spopic can even get you those photos that you otherwise wouldn’t have taken when in a foreign country or when you don’t want to attract too much attention to yourself. Overall, we enjoyed using Spopic and although we felt that it was quite basic, its minimalist approach gets the job done. Check it out and let us know what you think of it in the comments below.