Five to Try: Metamorphabet mesmerizes, and Lonely Planet curates handy travel guides

Check out the week's biggest Android app and game releases.

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Another week, another massive pile of new Android apps to sift through. Luckily, our Five to Try column makes your task easier, pointing out the week’s most interesting releases. Metamorphabet is an edutainment wonder (for all ages) that we’ve been waiting on for a while, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Also new this week is Guides by Lonely Planet, which can help you navigate numerous worldwide destinations, plus Spotify just added video to complement its streaming music library.

It’s a great week for Android games, as well, with frantic arcade shooter Downwell leading the charge. New puzzler Twofold Inc, by contrast, is a much calmer experience worth savoring at your own pace. Whatever interests you, clear a little space on your phone and grab these apps and games for an entertaining weekend ahead.


fivetotry jan29 metamorphabet

Cone, car, caterpillar! Metamorphabet is enchanting.

Perfect for kids yet still mesmerizing for adults, Metamorphabet ($4) is a delightfully interactive exploration of the alphabet. Each letter is given an individual spotlight and gradually transformed into various terms that start with it—and often in a creatively absurd manner, too. “B,” for example, sprouts a beard when tapped, followed by a beak… and then the beak opens and loads of bugs fly out before a large butterfly dominates the view. 

It’s an incredibly charming app, and not a game so much as an educational toy and great little diversion. Metamorphabet is also very easy to understand, so much so that my two-year-old son has been playing it on iPad for months. Now, thankfully, it’s on Android too.

Guides by Lonely Planet

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The Need to Know section not only gives you a personal overview of each city, but also helps you sort out a budget.

Planning a big trip? It’s best not to go it alone. If you don’t have an expert companion riding shotgun on your next vacation, turn to Guides by Lonely Planet, the handy new app from the notable travel resource. It launches with comprehensive guides to 37 major cities around the world (with more coming), including domestic hotspots like Boston and San Francisco, as well as distant destinations like Dubai, Paris, and Singapore.

Each guide can be saved offline and features striking imagery, with recommendations on where to eat, sleep, shop, visit, and explore in each locale. It’ll point you towards interesting things, but also help you get around and manage both your budget and expectations, thanks to a built-in currency convertor and general daily cost estimates for every city.


fivetotry jan29 downwell

Dip into a cavern for a quick respite (and weapon swap), otherwise it’s back down the hole.

One of last year’s most engrossing iPhone games is now on Android, as Downwell ($3) is here to dominate your time. As the name suggests, your hero quite literally goes down a well—only he’s equipped with bullet-spewing gunboots that not only blast the enemy creatures below, but also help slow his descent.

Downwell is quickly challenging, not only because you’re falling into unseen hazards, but also because your boots usually have only a few rounds to fire before they must reload. Finding a balance between aggressive action and self-preservation is key as you try to push further and further down the hole, seeking out upgrades and weapons and unlocking perks along the way. The lo-fi look and pulsing chiptune soundtrack only help reinforce the illusion that this is a tough-as-nails, old-school gem.


fivetotry jan29 spotifyvideo

No longer just a prime source for streaming audio, Spotify has videos too.

Considering the more than 100 million installs on Android alone, most of us already know about Spotify. But have you tried Spotify Video? The functionality was in limited testing for months, but now it’s widely available for all to try, letting you tap into curated content from a number of major providers.

You’ll find clips from top Comedy Central shows, The Tonight Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live, among others, as well as recent news highlights from ESPN and ABC News. Problem is, they’re just clips, and if you have a Netflix or Hulu subscription, that won’t stack up. But Spotify says it’ll have original content at some point, and the service will learn from your viewing habits over time, so maybe there’s a grander purpose ahead. For now, it’s good for killing a few minutes here and there.

Twofold Inc.

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Big chains are pleasing, but don’t lose sight of other requests ahead.

Looking for a calm, contemplative puzzler to get absorbed in? Twofold Inc. ($4) comes from the same school of design as the brilliant Threes!, often forcing you to spend ample time considering each little move—or else face a swift end. Here, you’ll shift rows and columns to align like-colored blocks, which you can then clear by drawing a path from one end of the chain to the other without interruption.

Clearing those chains helps you satisfy requests, which pop up at the top of the screen and dictate which color blocks and how many of each are needed, but you only have a certain number of turns to complete each. Waste turns and you’ll lose lives, and ultimately the game too. The minimal aesthetic (and great acoustic guitar music) works well with the at-your-own-pace design, resulting in a puzzler that is both challenging and surprisingly calming.

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