Tired of tapping the same handful of app and game icons? Looking for some fresh experiences for your Android phone? Look no further: our Five to Try column highlights the most exciting new releases, and this week’s entry is headlined by Rockstar Games’ Bully: Anniversary Edition, an open-world, Grand Theft Auto-lite take on high school shenanigans. After a decade on consoles and PC, it comes to phones and tablets at a much smaller price.
Other top debuts this week include Google’s Trusted Contacts, which lets you check up on or send alerts to close friends and family as needed, as well as Quartz, a unique news app that shares stories in a conversational style. And if you’re looking for something other than Bully to play, then the programming-based Human Resource Machine is a clever puzzler to consider, while Zen Pinball has new tables based on gaming favorites like Fallout and Doom.
Back in 2006, Rockstar Games found a way to top the controversy around Grand Theft Auto by releasing a game about kids paired with a title like “Bully.” It’s kind of misleading, however: as 15-year-old Jimmy Hopkins, you’re not really the bully (for the most part), but rather a kid who was discarded by his parents and the system, and is trying to take down cliques and shady folks at his new school. In any case, it’s another gem from the GTA maker, and now you can play it on Android.
Bully: Anniversary Edition ($7) delivers the complete console game experience with higher-resolution textures and other graphics improvements, and you’ll wander the school grounds and surrounding city as you attend classes, get into fistfights, complete missions, and build relationships. The game’s age shows through in spots, whether it’s the abrasive dialogue or slightly clunky play mechanics, but this is a big, enticing adventure that is still worth experiencing today.
Google’s new Trusted Contacts app is designed to keep you connected with your close family and friends should you need help from afar. Once paired up with a contact through the app, you can send along your location if you’re concerned about where you are or where you’re heading. And any contact can request your status at any time, as well; if you don’t respond within five minutes, your last location will automatically be sent over.
You’ll also be able to see if a contact’s phone has moved recently, or what kind of battery life it has left. We’ve seen some of these features in other apps in the past, like Motorola Alert and Glympse, but Google’s broad reach could get a lot more people plugged into this kind of digital safety net. It seems well worth setting up and keeping handy; you might actually need it someday.
Learning about programming doesn’t have to be a dull experience (at least not entirely). Case in point: Human Resource Machine ($5) is an ingenious little game that appears to be about corporate monotony, but really it’s a puzzle game built around the fundamentals of coding. You’ll drag and drop commands into order to solve each new challenge, with the game gradually introducing new concepts over time.
While you won’t finish the game having learned actual coding techniques, you’ll take away a sense of the logic and concepts behind assembly language programming. And even if you don’t have an interest in coding software, Human Resource Machine is still a fun little brain-teaser with a great look (courtesy of the makers of the brilliant World of Goo) and a sharp personality.
Many of us get an alarming amount of our daily news from social media these days, and Quartz hopes you like that kind of compact, conversational approach… because this news app essentially turns news updates into text messaging. Quartz offers up a rundown of the top stories of the day, with each presented initially as little more than an extended headline. You can then tap one of two contextual response options provided, allowing you to either see more or skip ahead to the next story.
The stories are lively, yet to-the-point: nothing spans more than just a few text bubbles, and you’ll see amusing animated gifs and can even reply with emoji at times. And thankfully, everything is clearly sourced—so if anything seems off, you can judge for yourself whether it’s fake news or not. Getting news from Quartz isn’t quite as fast or easy as just reading a list of headlines, but maybe the added engagement can help these stories stick with readers.
Bethesda has emerged as one of the most reliable and celebrated game publishers in recent years, and now three of its biggest franchises have arrived on Android… as pinball tables. That might not sound as thrilling as getting dedicated, core Doom or The Elder Scrolls entries on your phone (we already have Fallout Shelter, of course), but there’s reason to be excited: they’re part of the great Zen Pinball platform.
Zen already has dozens of tables from properties like Star Wars and Marvel Comics, and now you can download tables based on Fallout, Doom, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim within the main Zen Pinball app. Each table costs $2 for unlimited play, and does a great job of capturing the essence of the source game within an original, digital table. Zen Studios usually releases a standalone app for each partner series, as well, so don’t be surprised if a separate Bethesda Pinball app also shows up soon.