Five to Try: Android Auto opens up to all cars, and find charming adventure along The Trail

Refresh your phone with these new and updated apps and games.

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Need to take your mind off of America’s turbulent week? We have a few new or updated Android apps and games that might help you and your family focus on something else for a bit. Android Auto is this week’s big highlight, as Google’s updated driver-friendly app can now work in any car and use your device screen—no special hardware needed. 

Our other picks this week fall more firmly into the realm of distractions: The Trail is a casual quest that sends you adventuring ever ahead through beautiful terrain, while Galaga Wars remixes the classic arcade shooter with glossy new tweaks. Meanwhile, Remixlive is an approachable, yet in-depth beat-making tool, while Disney Story Central delivers droves of books for your kids to devour. Grab a few apps and unwind this weekend!

Android Auto

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From the main menu, you can easily access music, maps, and other quick-access apps.

Prior to this week, using Android Auto came with a hard requirement: having access to a car with a compatible dash display or aftermarket stereo. Luckily, that’s no longer the only way to use Android Auto, as now the app itself can make your phone or tablet plenty useful in any car. With this week’s update, Android Auto now lets you use your device screen while driving, and offers access to navigation, music, calls, texts, and more in a car-friendly format.

While not exactly the same interface as you’d see on a dash screen, Android Auto’s phone mode makes all the buttons and controls big and chunky so they’re easier to handle while driving. You can use voice commands and send texts by voice, as well, but you’ll need to tap a button first; “OK Google” control is coming soon via update. If you use your phone a lot while driving, Android Auto makes the experience a lot easier and hopefully safer. Just pop it into a mount, fire up the app, and you’ll be on your way.

The Trail

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Your traveler looks a little rough early on, but that can change.

Adventure games with crafting and exploration elements tend towards the hardcore end of the gaming spectrum, as titles like Don’t Starve and Terraria exemplify, but The Trail puts a more casual spin on the premise. You’ll explore a colorful world from a behind-the-back perspective, making it seem like a slower-paced endless runner, but along the way you’ll snag items, craft tools and clothing, and trade and interact with various characters. 

Eventually, your character will make his way to Eden Falls and build up the town, but the lightweight blend of simple mechanics, play-at-your-own pace wandering, and beautiful environments seems solidly appealing—although also a little aimless at first. The Trail comes from 22Cans, the studio from gaming legend Peter Molyneux (Populous, Fable), which you might know from its previous mobile effort, Godus.

Remixlive 

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You’re all set the next time someone demands, “Gimme a beat.”

Like to play around with beat-making tools on the go? Here’s another one to check out: Remixlive lets you turn the song in your head into a lavish, professional-sounding beat using an array of sample pads and plenty of other tools. The interface scales well between phones and phablets/tablets, giving you more control when extra space is available—yet in either case, the core interface is kept absolutely approachable.

And if you want to go deeper, you can dig into the other menus to control levels, add effects, edit samples, play with the BPM, and use beat-repeat pads as desired. Remixlive comes with a few sample packs with the free download, while additional genres and styles are sold via an in-app store for a couple bucks apiece.

Galaga Wars

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Old-school Galaga with new-school graphics… and in-app purchases.

Remember the arcade classic Galaga from back when? Well, it’s celebrating the ripe old age of 35 this year, and Namco Bandai just marked the occasion by launching Galaga Wars for Android. Unlike the pixel-packed renditions of the past, the shooter has a fresh and slick new look paired with a speedier take on the bug-blasting, vertical-scrolling combat—and it’s a free-to-play game now as well.

Galaga Wars doesn’t come with any energy meters or play restrictions, thankfully, but there are paid perks and premium ships, along with the option to watch video ads to continue once your ship goes boom. Even with those pesky bits, Galaga Wars offers a pretty entertaining one-thumb shooter experience, and you can play and enjoy plenty without spending a cent.

Disney Story Central

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Moana and past movie hits are well represented as books for varying age levels.

If your kids are voracious readers and love Disney, then the Mouse House has a potentially cheaper way to keep them stocked with new books. Disney Story Central offers more than 175 digital books to read within the app, all with full spoken narration, and touches on all of the modern sensations: Frozen, Pixar films, Disney Jr. fare like Sofia the First, and plenty more. 

With a paid subscription ranging from $8/month to $40 for six months, your kid(s) can read everything available in Disney Story Central so long as you keep paying. Otherwise, they can permanently buy individual books using tokens that you can purchase in bundles. Buying the digital books could get a little pricey, but at least then you’re not committed to the subscription. Story Central just launched with several books from Disney’s new Moana film, too, so there’s plenty fresh fare for tykes to explore.

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