Five to Try: Star Wars: Force Arena arrives, and Toontastic 3D lets kids make cartoons

Check out this week's biggest new Android app and game releases.

fivetotry jan13 lead
Andrew Hayward

Need some fresh, on-the-go distractions? Our Five to Try column spotlights the most exciting new Android app and game releases worth tossing on your phone, and we’ve got a stellar stack of Play Store debuts this week.

Star Wars: Force Arena is the biggest of the bunch, bringing a strategic, Clash Royale-esque multiplayer experience to Android, while Google’s new Toontastic 3D is a delightful creation suite that lets kids cobble together their own cartoon shorts. Elsewhere, Towaga is an action-packed monster-mashing game, Inkitt provides loads of free digital books from up-and-coming authors, and Mysterium offers a crime-solving board game experience that you can play wherever you are. Clear space on your phone and give these apps a look.

Star Wars: Force Arena

fivetotry jan13 starwarsforcearena Netmarble

Liked Director Krennic from Rogue One? Now you can direct him.

Disney didn’t have a new mobile game to release alongside Rogue One last month, but about a month later, here is Star Wars: Force Arena to fill the role. Just rolled out internationally after a soft-launch period, Force Arena is a card-based, real-time action game that lets you control a popular hero or villain from the sci-fi franchise and attempt to destroy a rival base.

It’s a streamlined spin on the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre that shares a lot of similarities with the great Clash Royale: you’ll build a deck of unit cards, and then drop them into the battlefield as your resource meter gradually fills—and the goal is to take out the turrets and shield generator on the other end before yours fall. The biggest difference here is that you’ll also have a primary character of your own to control amidst the A.I. companion units.

The more obvious difference, of course, is that it’s Star Wars… and that fact alone will surely pull in millions of players, at least for a taste. Force Arena’s player models look great, and the selection includes classic characters and some from Rogue One, as well. Netmarble’s game is freemium, however, and it’s not clear immediately whether it’s anywhere near as friendly as Clash Royale in that regard. But given the lack of initial price tag, it’s surely worth a look for Star Wars lovers.

Toontastic 3D

fivetotry jan13 toontastic3d Google

You can even add mood-appropriate music after moving and then voicing your characters.

Many of Google’s own apps tend to be utilities or for managing media, but Toontastic 3D is something very different indeed: it’s fun, it’s silly, and it’s super creative. Built from the foundation of the original Toontastic, which Google acquired along with creator Launchpad Toys, Toontastic 3D is a kid-focused creation suite that lets you build and customize your own animated shorts with ease.

It comes with an array of 3D characters and settings, all of which can be tweaked to your liking, along with varying story formats to choose from. You can really make it yours, however, by adding in your own photos and audio, or even drawing 3D characters from scratch with ease. The resulting videos can be exported and shared, plus it’s free and seemingly lacks in-app purchases, making this a perfect app for kids (and adults!) to explore their creativity within. 

Towaga

fivetotry jan13 towaga Sunnyside Games

Can you complete the ancient ritual?

Force Arena’s action is pretty automated, as you tap targets and drop ally cards onto the screen—so if you’re looking for something a bit more active to play this week, consider Towaga ($3). As a masked being and savior of your people, you’ll stand atop a temple and wield your immense powers to stop waves of invading monsters, whether they climb up from below or soar in from the sky. You’ll slow them to a crawl with your beam of light, which you can rotate around with a little virtual thumbstick, and then release your thumb to exorcise them from existence.

It reminds me a lot of the great Ziggurat on iOS from years ago, although the beam mechanic is unique: you’ll want to kill as many monsters as you can in a single shot, but if you wait too long, they may still attack while semi-frozen. That kind of design gives the game a neat arcade-like edge, challenging you to set high scores while surviving, and Towaga has a great hand-drawn look to it as well.

Inkitt

fivetotry jan13 inkitt Inkitt

Inkitt has plenty of free books to read, but are they any good? You decide.

Looking for a new book to read but don’t want to pay any money? Well, assuming you’ve already scoured your local library for options, your next destination might be Inkitt. Just launched on Android, Inkitt is a service that offers up free digital books from up-and-coming authors, and you can even save them locally for offline reading. For the reader, there really are no costs or strings attached: these are totally free books. 

Inkitt brands itself as “The Hipster’s Digital Library,” and tries to sell its angle as providing books from the next big authors (whoever they might be). That means that the books found here haven’t been extensively vetted or professionally edited, so amidst potential greatness, you might find some junk. But it is free, and the books that find a big audience on the service are then shopped to publishers and could hit it big. You might help discover a true writing sensation here… or just find something decent to read in a pinch.

Mysterium: The Board Game

fivetotry jan13 mysterium Asmodee Digital

This whodunit sees clairvoyant psychics working alongside a ghost.

Love a good board game, but want to be able to play on the bus, in your bed, or all alone? Luckily, more and more of them are coming to the Play Store, and Mysterium: The Board Game ($7) is the latest sensation to make the digital leap. Mysterium, which won last year’s prestigious As d’Or Jeu de l’Année award for best board game, is like a supernatural spin on Clue: you’re trying to figure out the details of a murder, only now as a psychic in touch with the dead.

Multiple players are psychics, actually, while one serves as the ghost. With only visual clues to serve up, the ghost must guide the psychics’ investigation in each case to solve each crime. Up to seven people can play together online, and across platforms too, with PC and iOS versions out this week as well. And if you’d rather play solo, a single-player story mode is included with A.I. companions in tow.

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