Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL are out this week, but you don’t need a new phone to enjoy some new apps and games from the Play Store. Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes leads this week’s roundup of the five hottest Android releases, as the free-to-play game takes the familiar pieces from the tower defense series and rebuilds them into a fun competitive card-battler.
Elsewhere, Google’s own Wallpapers app comes with some welcome features and the alluring Mini Metro puts you in charge of your own transit system, while VUDU offers an array of free on-the-go films and Chrome’s experimental Canary browser comes to Android. No matter what kind of phone you’re wielding this weekend, be sure to snag a few fresh apps.
PopCap’s much-loved tower defense series has already been transformed into a surprisingly fun console shooter, and now Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes spins the series in another new direction. Now, it’s a card-based battling game, in which you’ll build decks of the familiar plants or undead invaders from the main entries, and then send them out to destroy your opponent.
Unlike the sensational Clash Royale, this free-to-play offering is a turn-based game: whether in single-player missions or online battles, you’ll switch off as you play creature cards on the lane grid, use special abilities, and try to emerge victorious. Having played a few matches, Heroes really does make a compelling case for this unexpected series deviation, although it’ll be long-term play that determines whether this will be another freemium juggernaut or just a brief distraction.
You’ll find a lot of different wallpaper apps on the Play Store, many with images of dubious quality and sourcing, but Google’s own offering might be worth your attention. Not only does Wallpapers serve up a large array of eye-catching, high-resolution images across several categories, but it also comes with some customization perks as well. For example, you can opt to have a new wallpaper rotated in each and every day from a particular category.
And if you have Android Nougat installed, you can also choose separate wallpaper images for your home and lock screens, as well. Wallpapers is actually derived from a function found on the Nougat-toting Pixel phones, but this app should work with any Android 4.1+ phone or tablet. It’s not mind-blowing stuff, certainly, but Google’s stamp of quality helps set Wallpapers apart from the pack.
Ever thought you could build a better transit system than what you endure on your commute? Now’s your chance to prove it with Mini Metro. This ultra-minimal indie game lets you plot out your own subway based on some of the world’s best-known systems, including London, Paris, and New York City. And it’s not going to walk you through every step of the process, as you’ll quickly discover once you’re staring at a blank screen with a few shapes on it.
Connecting the shapes with your finger creates a line between stations, and before you know it, you’ll have trains with passengers—and more stations that pop up, filled with even more riders who have places to be. Over time, you’ll earn gradually more resources to add trains and carriages, place further lines, and build tunnels over rivers, but overcrowding can quickly lead to failure if you’re not serving everyone. It’s a smart and absorbing puzzler that’s perfect for touch.
If you don’t have a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu to stream movies and TV shows on the go, then Vudu’s latest program might grab your ear. The video-on-demand service just launched a new Movies on Us category, which offers thousands of films to watch for free with one very expected catch: you’ll need to watch some video ads, too.
Still, it doesn’t seem overbearing: I fired up School of Rock and only had to watch three 30-second commercials beforehand before the movie started. I skipped around a bit until the end and didn’t see any further ads, but that might not be the case if you watch straight through. The Movies on Us category has a lot of junk, admittedly: crappy movies and straight-to-video fare dominate the listings, but you’ll find higher-profile picks like True Grit, Mad Max, Young Adult, and more in the mix. And hey, it’s free: beggars can’t be too choosy.
Do you strive to stay on the bleeding edge of tech? Does that pursuit include web browsers, as well? Chrome’s Canary channel lets desktop users tap into the absolute latest builds, which may be buggy but also bring along new features, enhancements, and optimizations—and now it’s available on Android in a standalone app.
Chrome Canary is unstable by design: these builds are fresh out of the code oven and haven’t been put through rigorous testing, which means they may crash or do strange things during use. And otherwise, for the most part, Canary will look and act just like the standard, fully-tested Chrome for Android. However, Play Store reviewers claim it runs speedier than the common version, and you could be among the first to try out new additions as they come. Expect some data usage, however: Google estimates 100MB worth of weekly downloads as new daily builds release.