Five to Try: Google opens its Science Journal, and Brothers is a beautiful adventure

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Load up on fresh Android apps and games for the weekend ahead.


Feeling anxious? Want to do something this weekend? Start by grabbing a few new apps and games from the Play Store. Google’s Science Journal could give you plenty of ideas, as the app lets you tap into your phone or tablet’s sensors to perform experiments. Also interesting is the recent Lens Launcher, which puts every app icon you have on a single home screen. Really! 

If your idea of a productive weekend involves pouring hours into games while snuggled up on the couch, this week is an ideal one for that, too. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a beloved indie adventure about sibling love and loss, while Romancing SaGa 2 brings a classic 16-bit role-player to the U.S. for the first time ever and Lifeline: Whiteout is a text-based quest to get lost in. 

Science Journal

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Google’s educational app lets you tap into your phone’s sensors for quick, fun experiments.

Smartphones live up to their billing thanks in part to several sensors built into the devices, which do things like allow motion controls in games and apps and handle auto-brightness. But now Google has opened up those sensors for your use with Science Journal, an app designed to help you make predictions, take measurements, and draw your own conclusions.

You can tap into the microphone, ambient light sensor, and three axes of the accelerometer to measure light, sound, and movement of the phone. Real-time readings are shown, and you can record the measurements for certain spans of time for controlled experiments. Science Journal is great for curious kids, but also inquisitive folks of all ages—and Google even has suggested activities available on the web. 

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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Solve challenges by controlling both brothers at the same time in this emotionally-charged quest.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons ($3) is one of the most acclaimed and well-loved indie games of the last few years, and it has finally made its way to the Play Store. It’s the story of siblings ravaged by the death of their mother, and who must now save their ill father by journeying to the Tree of Life. Along the way, they’ll help several other people and creatures, delivering an adventure that is warm and charming, yet also heartbreaking and deeply emotional. 

And it’s unique in more than just tone and story: You’ll control both brothers simultaneously to solve the environmental puzzles, with each using his respective size and strength to play a role. Giving each bother a virtual movement stick that can be tapped and held to grab things makes sense for touch, but is a bit clumsier than wielding a gamepad. Still, this is a Tale you don’t want to miss—on any platform.

Lens Launcher

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Every app you have on your device will fit onto one screen, although you can move your thumb around to zoom in.

It’s a pain to wade through pages and pages of app and game icons, right? Carefully curating your home screens can help save you time in your day-to-day life, but if you really want everything plastered right in front of you, consider Lens Launcher. It’s recognized by Google as an Android Experiment, and it puts every single app on your phone on a single grid. 

The app icons are the same size and an equal distance apart, and pressing your finger upon the screen brings up a fisheye lens to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Also, you can tweak the finer settings of the experience, including icon size, haptic feedback, and how the lens works. Lens Launcher surely won’t be for everyone, but Android is all about options, right?

Romancing SaGa 2

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Love the 16-bit Final Fantasy games? Here’s another long-lost game from the same studio and era.

For English-speaking fans of Japanese role-playing games, Romancing SaGa 2 has been a holy grail: a game released during SquareSoft’s legendary Super Nintendo days (see: Final Fantasy VI and many others) that sadly never made its way across the Pacific Ocean. While the game never hit our 16-bit consoles back when, the adventure is amazingly now available for Android more than 20 years later.

Romancing SaGa 2 has not only been translated for 2016, but also remastered and updated with new graphics and additional play elements. The fantasy quest spans multiple generations as you control an emperor or empress and his/her heirs, and looks and acts a bit like a classic Final Fantasy game. It’s ultra-pricey for a mobile game at $18, but for old-school RPG fans who will spend dozens of hours within, that’s a fair ask. 

Lifeline: Whiteout

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Lifeline works on your phone but is especially fun on an Android Wear watch, where the notifications feel more like real text messages coming through.

Lifeline set the template for the notification-based adventure game last year, and Lifeline: Whiteout ($3) marks the fourth such entry in the series in less than a year and a half. That might seem like a formula that would wear thin, but fans really love the bit-by-bit storytelling that fits into your day as you talk to a mysterious stranger and see the narrative unfold. And it has Android Wear support, which fits that bite-sized gameplay approach really well.

Whiteout is a brand new and standalone entry that has you intercepting messages from V. Adams, an unknown character trapped somewhere in snowy terrain. He (or she?) can only reach you, and you’ll need to help Adams navigate perilous situations ahead by offering advice as requested. When Adams quiets down, so does the game: You’ll get messages as notifications when it’s time for the story to pick up again.

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