Thanksgiving is just days away, and Google’s new PhotoScan app could be a useful way to maximize your time with family next week. The app leads our latest Five to Try roundup, and you could use it to scan old books of photos, as PhotoScan removes glare and crops the result so the digital versions are ready to send and share. Elsewhere, the new Attenborough’s Story of Life app serves up 1,000+ dazzling wildlife videos that you can watch with your entire clan.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for distractions to pull you away from meal prep and mouthy relatives next week, we’ve got three enticing games to check out: the mobile MOBA action of Titan Brawl, the thrillingly intense RunGunJumpGun, and the mystical adventure of Jade Empire: Special Edition. We’re off next Friday for the holiday, but check back when December rolls around for fresh Play Store picks.
Digitizing your old photo prints can be a time-consuming and/or expensive process, but Google’s new PhotoScan app is both fast and totally free. Rather than simply catalog quick digital snaps of your physical photos, PhotoScan uses the phone’s camera to capture the image from four different vantage points as you move the reticle to the four dots. And when it’s done, you get a digital version that removes glare, auto-crops, and cleans up old prints.
It’s kind of like magic, and the results can be very impressive. PhotoScan automatically removes the glare via its stitching process and properly crops the image so you can easily share it as a digital photo. The app launched this week alongside advanced new editing tools in Google Photos, making it a one-two punch for scanning, fixing, and archiving your old photo collection.
Some early PhotoScan users have complained about fuzzy, low-res images or loss of contrast, so it may take a couple of app updates for Google to work out all the kinks. Still, it's fun and fast and probably worth a shot.
We’ve seen the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) formula of games like League of Legends and Dota 2 adapted for mobile, most successfully in Vainglory, but Titan Brawl attempts to streamline the action much, much further. Here, the goal is still for one team of powerful heroes to topple the the giant totem found at the other end, but now you’ll command the entire squad—and see everything from a fixed, top-down perspective.
Instead of actively controlling one hero, then, you’ll drop up to four different warriors into the battlefield and watch them battle it out. It’s essentially the Clash Royale take on the MOBA, and while simplified and lacking the team play component of typical genre entries, Titan Brawl (not to be confused with mech shooter Titanfall) makes a lot of sense on mobile. And it still has real-time online battles and clans, along with single-player missions.
Have fond memories of the days of old-school, tough-as-nails, twitch-based action games? If so, you’ll want to point your eyes and thumbs towards RunGunJumpGun ($3), a remarkably intense throwback that looks and plays like a lost game from the 8-bit era. It’s a fast-moving platform game in whcih your only weapon and resource is a very large gun: hold the left side of the screen to jump (like in Jetpack Joyride), or hold the right side to shoot forward as your hero automatically sprints.
The 120+ stages are loaded with hazards, from barriers to saw blades, crisscrossed laser beams, and plenty more, and it’s absolutely chaotic—but the relentless pace means you have no choice but to meet each challenge head-on. RunGunJumpGun is a perfect fit for mobile, given the super-simple controls, and the trippy, flashing colors and thumping beats make it a delight to see and hear. Just be warned: it’s incredibly hard, but also loads of fun.
We have to wait until January for the BBC’s Planet Earth II, which is airing in the UK right now, but you can dig into a vast treasure trove of stunning wildlife video now on Android. Planet Earth presenter Sir David Attenborough has been producing and narrating wildlife content for decades, and now more than 1,000 clips and behind-the-scenes moments from Planet Earth, Blue Planet, and other docu-series are available in Attenborough’s Story of Life.
It’s a wealth of content and it’s all pretty fascinating, plus there are introductions from the man himself. The BBC’s app is slick and features brilliant photography, and you can view clips either in premade categories or by making your own collection of favorites. Everything streams, so you’ll need a steady connection (use Wi-Fi!), and be prepared for the occasional commercial before the real content rolls.
BioWare is one of the most beloved developers in all of gaming, thanks to its epic role-playing quests like Mass Effect, Baldur’s Gate, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic—and now you can play another one of the studio’s classics on Android. Released in 2005 on Xbox (and later PC), Jade Empire: Special Edition ($10) is an original adventure set in a world of mystical powers and martial arts.
It’s similar to Knights of the Old Republic in approach, as you’ll guide your created character through the role-playing quest and make decisions that align you towards the light or dark side, essentially. This is a hearty campaign, promising 40+ hours of gameplay, and the original version was widely praised upon release. The virtual button controls aren’t ideal for a 3D adventure, but they’re tolerable, plus Jade Empire has optional controller support.