Welcome to Five to Try, our weekly look at the must-download apps and games just released for Android devices. If Valentine’s Day has you in the mood for a little self-improvement, this week’s release of Peak Brain Training could be just what you need to start bettering yourself.
But if you’d rather spend the weekend and beyond enjoying yourself instead, perhaps Sling TV’s streaming channels will the trick, or you might want to grab the amazing, atmospheric Limbo for a side-scrolling adventure. USA Today Sports and ScreenPop are other intriguing options this week, so pop open the Play Store and check out the latest standout apps.
What happens when neuroscientists and game designers get in the same room? Brain training, that’s what. We’re several years out from Nintendo’s Brain Age phenomenon, and the mobile apps that have followed are sleeker and smarter. Peak made a big splash on iOS last year, and now it’s on Android with 15 games designed to clear the cobwebs from your brain.
You’ll seek words in a jumble and draw paths around hidden hazards, but just four games are available free—the rest come with the premium plan, priced at $4.50/month. The app is bright and attractive, with some nice Material Design touches, and the ability to compare your results by age group or profession is interesting. And if it can help jumpstart your noggin, Peak could be well worth a few bucks a month.
Afraid of fully cutting the cord? Sling TV is here to ease you away from your bulging cable or satellite subscription while lightening your monthly expenses. It’s effectively a trimmed-down premium TV plan, without the need for a box or contract, letting you pay $20/month for access to live feeds of ESPN, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, and other top channels. And there’s a free weeklong trial.
Sling TV properly launched this week following last month’s invite-only rollout, and the Android app lets you watch wherever you are, featuring sharp stream quality over a strong connection. One notable drawback for now: it’s not Chromecast-compatible, so you can’t cast it to a TV. However, it does work with Amazon Fire TV and recent Roku devices.
Easily one of the most distinctive games of the past few years, Limbo makes its long-awaited debut on Android this week, delivering a minimal platform-puzzle game set within a haunting, shadowy forest. As a boy wandering in search of his sister, you’ll leap over chasms, overcome environmental barriers, and deal with surprising threats—like a gargantuan spider.
For a game originally designed for an Xbox controller, Limbo handles very well on a touchscreen, letting you slide your thumb to walk and jump, or tap and hold to interact with objects. The atmospheric presentation isn’t dimmed at all by being on a small smartphone screen, and it’s easily one of the most memorable games I’ve ever played on any platform.
There’s no shortage of ways to get sports scores, news, alerts, and info on your phone, so the launch of USA Today’s dedicated sports app may not generate a lot of enthusiasm on the surface. But beyond the clean interface come nice additions that might make you shift away from the ESPN app, or Bleacher Report’s Team Stream.
In particular, I really like the scores section, promoted as the “Best. Scoreboard. Ever.” And it’s not total exaggeration: what sets it apart are context and rankings, as it lists the top events throughout the world of sports and offers quick details about what’s happening and why it matters. Add in trending social topics and in-feed video highlights, and USA Today Sports has strong appeal.
Want a surprise every time you pick up your phone? Got friends and family that also want that surprise, and that you implicitly trust not to send you explicit images? Good—then you might be interested in ScreenPop.
As its full title above notes, ScreenPop lets you swap photo messages with other friends using the app, and when an image comes in, it’s automatically plastered on your lock screen the next time you power up the display. You can sketch atop a photo or insert text and emoji before sending, and that’s really the long and short of it. ScreenPop isn’t meant to eliminate your messaging app of choice, but rather supplement it. For the right couple or pair of friends, it could be a cute and fun way to stay connected.