Five to Try: Google Earth goes 3D, and Guardians of the Galaxy gets interactive

Hit the Play Store for this week's freshest Android apps and games.

fivetotry april21 lead
Andrew Hayward/IDG

Whether you plan to wield a Samsung Galaxy S8 (or S8+) in the coming days or you’re sticking with your current device, one thing is sure: you’ll probably want something new and interesting to enjoy on the thing. And that’s where our Five to Try column comes in handy.

Google Earth leads our list of this week’s top new and updated Android app release, as the old favorite gets a reboot complete with 3D imagery and guided tours. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series is up next, as the episodic adventure game series starts anew, while Microsoft To-Do can help you get organized, CATS: Crash Arena Turbo Stars is a fun vehicle battler, and Music Mate makes it easy to find official music videos in a snap. 

Google Earth

fivetotry april21 googleearth Greenbot

See the world without ever leaving your couch.

Google Earth has been on Android for ages now, but even if you’ve browsed its global recreations before, there’s reason to embark on a fresh tour today. Launched this week, the new app—the first significant version debut since 2014—brings in a few big new features, including the ability to view 3D terrain all over. It’s impressive to see not only big cities and landmarks from a 3D, fully rotatable view, but also homes, neighborhoods, and nature. 

That’s great for exploring on your own, but Google Earth can also hold your hand if you’re looking for a journey. The new Voyager feature brings 50+ different tours around the globe, all curated and blending interactive maps with things like video content and stunning photos. Some of it was produced in collaboration with forces like NASA and BBC Earth, and there’s even a Sesame Street-themed tour about girls around the world. 

Separately, the “I’m Feeling Lucky” search will point you towards a random destination all over the world, with Knowledge Cards ready to show you around a bit. This v9 release is rolling out to the Play Store now, or you can snag the signed APK from APK Mirror if you can’t wait to embark. 

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series

fivetotry april21 guardians Greenbot

Guardians tells a movie-and-comic-inspired story that you’ll help direct.

We’re just a few weeks away from the theatrical release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Marvel’s offbeat space sequel about this questionable bunch of heroes looks just as delightful as the original. But it’s not the only way you’ll find a new Guardians saga that’s not solely in comic form: you can also start playing through Telltale’s episodic adventure game series.

The first episode (of five), Tangled Up in Blue ($5), is out this week, and it gives you a couple hours of narrative to soak up as you pick dialogue options, make big choices that can shift the course of the quest, explore environments, and even battle a notable Marvel villain. It clearly aspires to capture the film’s essence, but comes a bit short without the official voices and likenesses. Still, this could shape up to be an interesting tale as future episodes release in the coming months, and Guardians is off to a solid start here. You’ll need a pretty new phone, however: it ran a little rough on the Galaxy S6 Edge+ I’m using.

Microsoft To-Do

fivetotry april21 microsofttodo Greenbot

Gradual Office 365 integration will be a highlight of this Wunderlist replacement.

If you’re a tried-and-true Wunderlist user, we have some bad news: it’s going away. Microsoft bought the company a couple years back, and is replacing the original app with the new Microsoft To-Do. But here’s the good news: while To-Do isn’t quite ready to match Wunderlist on features just yet, Microsoft says that it won’t retire the original app until To-Do is fully capable.

Still, you might want to start making the transition now. Microsoft To-Do looks and acts a fair bit like Wunderlist, with a clean interface and the ability to sync across Android, iOS, Windows, and web, plus it has intelligent task suggestions that learn from your habits. Outlook integration is included for now, with further Office 365 syncing ahead, plus Microsoft plans to add list sharing and Android tablet support before this preview version is properly finalized.

CATS: Crash Arena Turbo Stars

fivetotry april21 catscrash Greenbot

Build the brashest (or smartest) car you can and let it rip.

ZeptoLab designed one of mobile gaming’s all-time greats with Cut the Rope, but the studio’s latest game swaps the puzzle-solving for feline-assisted vehicular destruction. In CATS: Crash Arena Turbo Stars, you’ll build the war machine of your dreams from various parts, starting with a frame and augmenting it with rocket launchers, spinning saw blades, and other cartoonish weapons and tools.

From there, the battle is on: your vehicle enters the arena and tries to be the last one still whole in a head-to-head showdown. You won’t actually control the car; it’ll simply drive ahead and fire weapons as fast as they’ll go, which means your job is really in the design. That’s a fun hook, and the cat-centric theme here is amusing, although it remains to be seen whether the freemium format—complete with timers for unlocking parts—wears down the fun quickly. 

Music Mate

fivetotry april21 musicmate Greenbot

Music Mate helps you quickly watch what you’re hearing.

Ever listened to a song on your phone and wished you could watch it instead? Well, that’s the kind of conundrum that Music Mate is uniquely designed to solve. DJiT’s app hangs around in the background when you’re using apps like Spotify, Pandora, or Google Play Music, and once a new song starts playing, it goes to work finding the official music video on YouTube.

Music Mate offers up its result within a second or two, and you can have it appear as a notification or a bubble along the side of the screen. Tap that, and the windowed suggestion will appear, letting you tap for an immediate preview or flip over to the YouTube app for the full-fledged clip. You can also save a video for later if you don’t want to end your audio-only session. Music Mate’s findings were pretty spot-on in my testing for songs with actual music videos, so this could be a handy way for on-the-go listeners to save a step or two.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon