Five to Try: Asphalt Xtreme is mud-slinging fun, and Adobe debuts three new creative apps

Actually, we have seven apps this week, but please don't hold it against us.

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With the presidential campaign closing next week and winter drawing ever near, we suspect that some fresh distractions could come in handy right now. No problem: we’ve got an array of new Android apps and games worth a look on the Play Store this week. 

Asphalt Xtreme is the new off-road entry from the popular racing series, and it delivers a lot of free, glossy fun, while DC Legends lets you command a superhero (and villain) squad as you battle an unfamiliar threat. If games aren’t your thing, we also have a trio of new Adobe apps—Photoshop Fix, Photoshop Sketch, and Comp CC—to help you flex some creative muscle, along with Amazon’s kid-focused Rapids reading app and Microsoft’s IFTTT-esque automation app, Flow.

Asphalt Xtreme

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Gameloft’s latest racer is much more rugged than usual.

Gameloft’s Asphalt 8: Airborne is easily the best arcade-style street racer on Android today, even after a few years, and now the developer has taken the concept off-road with Asphalt Xtreme. Like its blacktop-treading sibling, Asphalt Xtreme is all about super-fast racing, now with rally cars, buggies, SUVs, monster trucks, and other rugged vehicles zipping through canyons, across ice slicks, and over massive gaps (as usual).

Despite the shift in terrain, Asphalt Xtreme seems to keep everything that worked so well with the last main series entry. It looks fantastic on a phone screen, is loaded with campaign content and live eight-player online races, and has a fairly hands-off free-to-play model that isn’t too aggressive with its purchase prompts for boosts. 

Adobe Photoshop Fix, Photoshop Sketch, and Comp CC

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Photoshop Fix (left) and Sketch expand Adobe’s sizable mobile suite.

We’re doing a three-for-one here, since Adobe unleashed a big trio of new apps upon the Play Store this week. Two of them are extensions of its popular Photoshop suite: Photoshop Fix, the first, brings some heavy-duty photo editing tools, letting you use features like Heal and Liquify to transform images. Meanwhile, Photoshop Sketch shifts away from image editing, instead giving you sketching tools to doodle to your delight and then bring the results into other Adobe Creative Cloud apps. 

Lastly, Comp CC is an app that lets you quickly create design layouts for print or digital use, and it includes several common template sizes and brings in gestures for making easy additions. Like many of Adobe’s other Android apps, all three of these newcomers are best utilized with a Creative Cloud subscription and are targeted at professionals, but they’re all free downloads that you can fiddle with as you please.

Amazon Rapids

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They’re mostly text-based stories, but you’ll get little photo bursts from time to time.

Here’s an interesting experiment in storytelling from Amazon: its new Rapids service offers up hundreds of original short stories all delivered in conversational bursts. Instead of participating or interacting in any significant way, however, you’re simply watching the dialogue unfold between multiple parties. For example, the clever sample story is an amusing exchange between a human boy and an alien invader, who is trying to disguise the fact that he’s both alien and invading.

It’s a neat format that is very much built for today’s smartphone and tablet-wielding kids, and all of the content is focused on the 7-12 age group. They can also have the stories read out loud, or use the built-in glossary to look up any word’s meaning. You’ll pay $3/month for unlimited access to the growing library, although there’s a free two-week trial available.

DC Legends

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Heroes and villains form an uneasy alliance in DC Legends.

Hot off of last week’s Android release of Batman – The Telltale Series is another DC Comics game—and this one works with a much larger slate of devices. DC Legends is a turn-based combat game set in the wider DC Universe, and it sees heroes and villains alike teaming up to defeat Nekron and the Manhunters. Inspired by the “Blackest Night” comic arc, the game lets you pair the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Harley Quinn, Doomsday, and more.

DC Legends plays out a lot like Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, as you’ll build a team of a few fighters and then face down an opposing squad in streamlined skirmishes. It’s a freemium grind through and through, with an energy system, paid perks, and heroes to unlock and upgrade, but hopefully the sharp graphics and comic trappings help smooth over any rough spots along the way.

Microsoft Flow

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Flow isn’t as fully-featured as IFTTT, but with Microsoft’s backing, maybe it can get there.

IFTTT (If This, Then That) is a spectacularly handy invention, as the free service allows users to create and share applets (previously called “recipes”) that connect different services together. It’s a way to bridge the gap between cloud services, smartphone apps, connected home devices, and more. And now Microsoft Flow is here to try and challenge that established market with its own solution for linking up disparate services and devices. 

Right now, Flow has a strongly business-centric angle, but it’s free to download and tinker with. You can browse the existing workflows or modify and make your own, with the ability to connect services like Office 365, Twitter, Dropbox, Slack, Instagram, and more. For now, Flow doesn’t seem to have as much value as IFTTT for anyone not entrenched in Microsoft’s business ecosystem, but that could change as the service becomes better established.

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