Welcome to Five to Try, our weekly look at what’s fresh and exciting in the Play Store. We have five brand new Android app and game picks this week, led by Splitter Critters, a game that makes you slice up and shift the environment to solve each puzzling new level.
Also new this week are Ooniprobe, an app that can scan wireless networks for signs of censorship and surveillance tools, as well as the FBI’s official Wanted app for helping to track down suspects and missing persons. And if you need more game options, the entertaining Tomb of the Mask is a speedy, swipe-based adventure, while Glitchskier is like a classic arcade space shooter… albeit set within a computer’s code.
Classic platform-action games can be tough to adapt to touch devices due to the lack of physical buttons, so many mobile games go the auto-runner route—like Super Mario Run, hitting Android next month. But Splitter Critters ($3) goes with a different, and rather creative solution: here you’ll manipulate the environment itself rather than the titular critters.
You’ll do so by swiping giant rifts into the level, which then allow you to slide either resulting half to create new pathways for the little aliens to reach the UFO at the end. By chopping the stage into chunks, you can rearrange safe passage around obstacles and enemies alike, and you’ll often need to cut multiple times (and in multiple directions) to work around hazards. It’s a really inventive approach, and one that makes each area feel like a fresh puzzle to solve.
If you’re concerned that a Wi-Fi network you’re using may be censoring certain sites, limiting access, or tracking your actions, then Ooniprobe might be able to confirm (or dash) your fears. Developed by the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) under The Tor Project, Ooniprobe runs a series of simple tests on your network directly from your phone.
You can run a test of dozens of controversial or frequently-blocked websites to see if any are inaccessible, scan for the presence of censoring or surveillance tools, or even just do a diagnostic and speed test and get immediate results. Granted, Ooniprobe can’t actually change any concerning elements you discover about a network, but it might give you some helpful information—or maybe just some peace of mind.
Tomb of the Mask looks like Pac-Man but plays like an endless runner—and in any case, it’s a lot of fun. You play as an explorer who enters an ancient tomb and stumbles upon a magical mask, which lets him climb walls and zip through the mazes. And that’s exactly what you’ll do, swiping to make the little hero blast ahead in a straight line until he hits a barrier.
Your goal, of course, is to make sure that those barriers you smack into don’t have spikes or other hazardous surfaces, which can end your run. As you navigate the tombs, you’ll attempt to grab all of the treasure and stars in the smaller mission levels, while an endless mode tasks you with continually hustling upwards so you’re not killed by the rising neon wave. In fact, that mode isn’t too far off from Pac-Man 256 in approach, but Tomb of the Mask has its own unique flavor.
Want to help solve crimes, make your city a bit safer, and maybe reap some rewards in the process? Have a look at the official FBI Wanted app, which serves the America’s Most Wanted-like purpose of providing information about wanted criminal suspects, as well as missing persons and other unsolved crimes, in the hopes that you’ll recognize someone and share information.
The app itself is about as rudimentary as they come, looking like something you might have found on the Android Market several years ago, but it’s a handier way of accessing the data than using the mobile web. You can search for keywords and cities to find nearby cases, but the lack of a location-based filter is one big omission for now.
Arcade-style scrolling shooters often take place in space or in warzones, but Glitchskier ($2) offers some very different terrain: the garbled code of an old-school computer. As a little pointer, you’ll glide through the chunks of characters and attempt to survive as blocky enemies attack from all sides, plus larger bosses emerge along the way.
Glitchskier commits to its retro computer aesthetic, all the way from double-tapping a faux executable file on the menu screen to the fuzzy, CRT-monitor-like visual output. Procedural creation means the endless stage is brand new every time you play, while the thumping beats of the soundtrack pair well with the pulsing action. The controls feel a bit clumsy, as my finger often was in the way of the chaos, but there’s still a lot to like about this intense indie game.