Looking for some fresh apps and games to entertain and amuse you this weekend? If you have an Android phone, then we’ve got you covered: our Five to Try column rounds up the latest and greatest offerings on the Play Store. And if you love rich role-playing quests, then the release of the beautiful The Banner Saga 2 should be fantastic news indeed.
Also new this week is Anchor, an app that lets you trade two-minute audio recordings to create a dialogue with other users, as well as Microsoft’s personalized news app, News Pro. And if you need further game options, NBA 2K17 offers a slick basketball simulation, while Legend of the Skyfish remixes Nintendo’s Zelda series with a fishing twist.
It’s here, it’s here! The original The Banner Saga remains one of the most engrossing games available on Android, and now two years later, the sequel is in the Play Store to deliver another dazzling role-playing quest. Like its predecessor, the game offers a mix of tactical turn-based combat, adventure-defining narrative choices, and between-battle management as your caravan travels the country amidst the apocalypse.
The Banner Saga 2 ($5) doesn’t bring any dramatic shifts to the formula, although the battles are livelier thanks to new units and map obstacles. Nevertheless, the original was excellent and the sequel is just as vivid and enticing, and just as meaty for fans of role-playing adventures. It’s a direct continuation, so you should really play the original game first—although there is a recap video if you prefer to start here.
It’s not difficult to find people to chat with on the Internet, but having a constructive, spoken dialogue with random people can be challenging. However, that’s exactly the kind of community that Anchor is trying to create with its new Android app, which lets you record up to two minutes of speech, tag and label it as you please, and send it out into the world.
Other users can find and listen to your thoughts and then reply with their own short recordings, creating a chain of conversation that Anchor likens to tiny, on-the-fly podcasts. It’s a unique concept, and since the app has already been on iOS for a while, you’ll find a number of active threads and topics to dig into—and share your own perspective within.
Just as suspected: following the recent release of the MyNBA2K17 card game and console companion app, now we have a full-fledged NBA 2K17 ($8) game for Android. The console versions have been brilliant for years, and this year we see the mobile hoops experience inch even closer to the $60 TV game, even if it’s not as packed with features.
It’s a realistic simulation that is nicely streamlined for smaller screens, and the five-on-five action looks fantastic: the players are realistic and the animations are pretty smooth, although audio output is glitchy. NBA 2K17 has a thin season mode along with single games, or you can jump into the enhanced MyCareer mode, which lets you guide a single created player through college and into the NBA. Alternatively, free-to-play rival NBA Live Mobile was just updated, as well.
Microsoft’s Garage program has developed an array of smaller apps for Android outside of larger offerings like Office and Cortana, and News Pro is its latest effort. It’s a news curation app built around the Bing search engine, but it’s all funneled through your own social media accounts: you can link in Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to get personalized picks.
That’s the promise, at least: you can only sign in with one account at a time, and when I switched from Facebook to Twitter, the results were the same. Also, the picks are a bit questionable: when reading about a horrific train crash, a celebrity gossip blog should not be the top source for that topic. News Pro does have some helpful annotation and sharing features, however, and hopefully it’s an app that becomes smarter the more you actually use it.
Many games owe a debt to Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda, but few capture enough of the magic to warrant being mentioned in the same breath. Luckily, Legend of the Skyfish ($3) is an exception. Widely praised after its iOS debut last month, this mobile quest puts a fun spin on the classic formula—and swaps the sword for a fishing pole.
Yes, a fishing pole: as Little Red Hook, you’ll use the tool as a grappling hook to vault across islands and grab far-off objects, or even to daze enemies. Unlike its inspiration, Skyfish is pretty linear, looping you through 45 shorter stages, but the puzzles are compelling and the graphics and storyline are sharp. Zelda fans should finally see the great Oceanhorn on Android soon, as well.