Five to Try: Pac-Man 256 is a remixed arcade addiction, and Bing preempts Google's Now on Tap

fivetotry aug21 lead

Another month, another great Pac-Man game? That seems to be the case. After Pac-Man Championship Edition DX put a fresh spin on the old classic in late July, this week sees the release of Pac-Man 256, an endless runner remix designed by the makers of the awesome Crossy Road. And it’s free, so there’s no reason not to give it a shot.

Elsewhere this week, Microsoft beats Google to the punch with its Now on Tap-like feature in the updated Bing Search, while cable channel AMC launches its own streaming video app. Meanwhile, The Guides (and its companion app) should leave you plenty puzzled, and Mozilla Webmaker strives to enable easy content creation for just about anyone. Need some interesting new apps to dig into this weekend? Make these the first five on your list.

Pac-Man 256

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Can you keep pushing ahead without running into a ghost—or the glitch flood?

Pac-Man meets Crossy Road? Sign me up! It’s not hard to get behind the idea of Crossy Road maker Hipster Whale putting a unique spin on a classic gaming franchise, and the first impression here is a strong one. Pac-Man 256 sends you into the scrolling maze to eat dots and fruit while evading ghosts—and avoiding the ever-creeping mess of “glitched” code coming up from behind.

It’s a clever tribute to the garbled kill screen (level 256) of the original Pac-Man, plus that design gives the game a tense momentum as you push ever ahead. And now Pac has power-ups, like a laser that shoots out of his mouth, or a bomb that decimates nearby ghosts. Pac-Man 256 is a free-to-play game with regenerating credits, and you can buy a full load for $1 if you run out. However, if the addictive pull starts kicking in, you might consider shelling out $8 for the unlimited play unlock. It’s a steep price for a mobile game, but that might prove cheaper in the long run than topping up regularly.

Bing Search

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Hold down the home button to access Bing’s new Snapshot feature, which delivers contextual information tied into what you are viewing.

One of Android’s best features will get even better when Android Marshmallow introduces Now on Tap, an expansion of Google’s contextual assistant. With Now on Tap, you’ll be able to hold the home button anywhere to have Now analyze what’s on the screen and intelligently provide information that might help you at the moment. But Microsoft already beat it to the punch this week with an update to Bing Search.

With the new Snapshot feature, it can do much the same: hold down the home button when browsing the web or using YouTube, for example, and Bing will provide contextual options. For example, if you’re looking at a movie trailer, Bing will pull up a card about the film and point you towards reviews and tickets. Reading about a travel destination? Flight and hotel links will appear. It doesn’t seem quite as polished or impressively nuanced as Now on Tap appears, but at least you can try this one out today.


fivetotry aug21 amc

Cable and satellite subscribers can access full episodes of AMC shows, but the selection is pretty limited.

AMC has produced some of the most captivating television of the past several years, with hits like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead leading the charge, and now the cable network has its own Android app. It’s not quite an HBO Go-level offering, however: only a handful of shows are featured, and the backlogs aren’t anywhere near comprehensive.

You’ll need a cable or satellite subscription to login and access full episodes, but even so, you’ll find just three episodes of Breaking Bad, for example, and none of Better Call Saul. I only found Mad Men by searching for it, and even so, all the app has are behind-the-scenes clips. But if you’re watching an active show like Humans or Halt and Catch Fire, it might be a good way to keep up each week. Sadly, as user reviews so helpfully point out, there’s no Chromecast support for now.

The Guides

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If you can work your way through the unexplained puzzles, The Guides promises a building storyline.

In stark contrast to Pac-Man 256’s arcade accessibility comes The Guides ($1), a puzzler that throws you right into the deep end with no clear idea of what you’re supposed to do. It promises hundreds of codes, ciphers, and other visual puzzles to work through, albeit without an introduction or a hand to hold: right from the initial menu, you’ll have to try and figure out what’s going on.

It’s the kind of game that you might want… a guide for, no? Well, developer Kevin Bradford is happy to help there. Sort of. Releasing alongside the game is The Guides Compendium ($1) an optional companion novel-in-an-app that provides context for the experience and perhaps even subtle clues. The approach is similar to that of the excellent Year Walk on iOS, which also had a full experience that spanned two apps. Are you persistent enough to uncover The Guides’ secrets?

Mozilla Webmaker

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Webmaker can’t produce anything too fancy, but it offers an approachable platform for digital creation.

You may know Mozilla for its Firefox browser, but the company has a new Android app out this week: Webmaker. It’s not a robust website design app, despite what the name might suggest, but rather a dead simple way of assembling sharable idea webs. You can drop in images, text, and links, and create new pages that spin off in any direction. 

It doesn’t have a lot of functionality within, but Mozilla says that’s the point: it’s designed to help Internet consumers become creators for the first time, particularly in developing countries. For now, there’s not much to find in the Discover tab, but over time, Webmaker could provide an interesting glimpse into the everyday life of other cultures. And at the very least, it’s a good way for non-Internet-savvy folks to start sharing into the digital world.

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