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 ANDROID FEATURE

Top tips and essential games for your new Android

The new owner's guide to gaming on Google gear
Product: Android
 
Android Android, thumbnail 1
If you received a new smartphone this Christmas, statistics suggest it's most likely to have been an Android device. They're rather popular, you know.

Meanwhile, the likes of the Google Nexus 7 and Google Nexus 10 have finally made Android a viable platform for tablet fans. It's easy to see why - that widget-heavy Android UI is beautifully suited to the large screen. Far more so than iOS on the iPad, we'd venture to say.

Whatever Android device you have in your hands now, though, it's important to know this: it's a really flexible, genuinely smart device that's capable of many things, not least of which is gaming.

Here are a few handy suggestions to help you on your way to mastering your new Android device. Oh, and to getting the best gaming experience out of it. Of course.

How to download games for your Android



You're reading this guide rather than one from one of those tech sites, so the chances are you're interested in mobile gaming. You clearly have impeccable taste, too.

Let's start by going through how to download games onto your new Android device, then. You can do this straight from your Android device. Simply hit the white shopping bag icon labeled 'Play Store', either on your home screen or in the main app menu (brought up after hitting the virtual button at the bottom middle of the screen).

The Google Play Store is full of all the games, apps, books, movies, and music you could possibly need on your Android. And all of them are very competitively priced.

Once inside Google's online marketplace, you'll see that there's a dedicated 'Games' icon below the top banner. Hit this to open up a whole world of gaming goodness.

Select one of the featured games, or scroll to the left to browse games by their categories (Arcade and action, Sports, etc.). Scrolling right will show you some of the most popular free or paid apps, while the little magnifying glass symbol at the top will allow you to search for a specific game.

Once you've selected a game, tap on the price, followed by 'Accept & buy' to start the download. You might need to supply some credit card details initially - don't worry, it's secure - but after that you'll just need to provide your Google password (which you would have created when you set your phone up).

I don't like this UI much



If you've got yourself one of Google's 'vanilla' Nexus devices, such as the Google Nexus 4 or the Google Nexus 7, this isn't an issue for you. Move on to the next point.

For every other flavour of Android device, we dare say it is. You see, the vast majority of Android manufacturers just can't help themselves. While Android 4.1 (a.k.a. Jelly Bean) in its purest form is arguably the finest mobile OS on the market, the likes of Samsung, HTC, and Sony think they can make it better by applying their own custom interfaces on top.

They can't.

All they do is make the Android experience unfriendlier, slower, and less intuitive. Fortunately, the open nature of Android means that you can download something called a launcher. This is a lightweight user interface that sits on top of the Android OS, bypassing the manufacturer's typically bloated and unwieldy efforts.

We'd recommend Apex [download] or Nova [download], as they replicate much of the look and functionality of stock Android, while allowing for a good deal of tweaking and customisation should you wish to be a bit more adventurous.

Fiddle with your widgets



One of the key areas that makes Android stand out from other mobile platforms is its widget-friendly nature.

Widgets are essentially advanced app icons that provide you with up-to-date information at a glance. So, for example, you can have a calendar widget that shows you your next appointment, or a weather widget that shows you, well, the weather.

Another helpful one is the power control, which provides shortcut controls for wi-fi, GPS, and the like without your having to trawl through the settings menu every time.

The beauty of Android is that you can resize many of these widgets to show more or less information.

To place a widget on one of your home screens, it's typically a case of pressing and holding on a blank space and selecting 'Widgets.'

How to update your apps



Game developers are always updating their apps. While it might be a little annoying to have to keep downloading such updates, it's actually a good thing. It means your games will be constantly improved and expanded upon.

You'll be told when updates are available via a notification, and tapping on this will take you straight to the area of the Google Play Store that handles these updates.

If you want to check for updates manually, just go into the Google Play Store app, hit the three-dot icon at the top right and select 'My Apps'. This displays a list of all your apps (obviously) and will tell you whether any updates are available.

How to take a screenshot



Want to take a screen capture of a fantastic bit of a game you're playing, or of an innovative website you're visiting? Maybe, you want to share the moment with a friend, or to make the scene your wallpaper.

Whatever, you can do this on any device running Android Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean. The process differs according to the phone, but try either holding the volume down and power buttons simultaneously, or the home and power buttons simultaneously. The captured image will be saved to your gallery.

How do I get a refund on this poopy app?



There are so many games (and apps) available in the Google Play Store for which you won't be able to find reviews on Pocket Gamer... or elsewhere. This means that you're bound to experience your fair share of duds.

If you realise you've made a serious error of judgement in purchasing yet another lightsaber app, don't worry: you have 15 minutes in which to secure a refund.

Just go back to the product page for the now-unwanted app on the Google Play Store and you'll see the option for a refund.

Which games should I get?

Now you have a good idea how to locate and download the apps that you want. So, err, what apps do you want?

Allow us to make some suggestions based on some of the most popular game categories. All of the following titles have won a Pocket Gamer Award of some description, which virtually guarantees a high degree of fun.

Platformer

Rayman Jungle Run
By Ubisoft - buy for Android



Rayman Jungle Run is one of the critical darlings of the year thanks to its gorgeous Disney film-like graphics and intuitive single-button platforming.

Paper Monsters
By Robots vs Wizards - buy for Android



If you'd prefer to play a 'traditional' platform game on your new 'droid, then Paper Monsters is for you. Yep, you'll have freedom to roam and explore hidden areas.

Racing

Real Racing 2
By Electronic Arts - buy for Android



By downloading this amazing game, you have a console-style racer in the palm of your hands, complete with a roster of licensed 3D cars and realistic driving physics. Real Racing 2 feels real alright.

Reckless Racing 2
By Polarbit - buy for Android



If you prefer your racing looser and more arcade-y, check out Reckless Racing 2. It's full of varied events - both on and off-road - and plenty of power-sliding action.

Puzzle

Piyo Blocks 2
By Big Pixel Studios - buy for Android



Probably the slickest and purest match-three puzzler on the Google Play Store, Piyo Blocks 2 is a tactile joy to play.

Splice
By Cipher Prime - buy for Android



Splice is a completely different sort of puzzler, requiring you to manipulate molecules to form new patterns. It's beautiful, weird, and oddly calming.

Sports

New Star Soccer
By New Star Games - buy for Android



In New Star Soccer, you step into the boots of a young footballer who is tasked with making the crucial passes, shots, and off-pitch decisions throughout his career.

Backbreaker 2: Vengeance 
By Ideaworks - buy on Android



Take to the American-football pitch and dodge, weave, and hurdle your way to the end zone as quickly as possible. It's like British bulldog with body armour.

RPG

Knights of Pen & Paper
By Behold Studios - buy for Android



This is a role-playing game in the truest sense, riffing charmingly and humorously on the old tabletop Dungeons & Dragons experiences.

Arcane Legends 
By Spacetime Studios - buy on Android



Prefer your RPGs to be massively multiplayer and online? Arcane Legends is the ideal Android game for you, then, for it boasts a rich fantasy world and fun social questing.

Free

Angry Birds Star Wars
By Rovio - buy for Android



Everyone knows about Angry Birds, and everyone knows about Star Wars. That you can experience them together in such fine style for free almost seems wrong. Almost.

Jetpack Joyride
By Halfbrick Studios - buy on Android



This shining light of the endless-runner genre sees you skimming along an interminable corridor, avoiding lasers and missiles and collecting coins. Riotously good fun.
 

Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy 25 December 2012
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Joined:
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Post count:
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funkyflychicken | 00:25 - 26 December 2012
Music Player - "DoubleTwist". This one has been my favorite music player on the market. Can do mp3's, internet radio, podcasts, you name it. Also has an Alarm Clock add-on you can purchase separately.
Joined:
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Post count:
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funkyflychicken | 00:23 - 26 December 2012
I would recommend a few other apps:

WIDGETS - HD Widgets (and the icon pack for tablets). It's a great, cheap widget pack with clock and weather. Probably the best clock/weather widget I have used.

KEYBOARD - Tablet Keyboard. I've also used Thumb Keyboard, but prefer "Tablet Keyboard" over all of the offerings. It's great for typing on any tablet.

GAMES:

Elder Sign: Omens - great board game conversion that goes above and beyond what the original board game provided. The physical board game itself collects dust now!

Bard's Tale: Hands down, the best RPG currently available on the Android/Google Play market.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted - My favorite racer on Android. Damage modeling, ability to make your opponents and cops wreck (kind of like burnout), incredible graphics.

Minecraft: Pocket Edition: great "portable" version of Minecraft, updated fairly frequently with more than you would expect, feature-wise.

Granny Smith - Great "auto-runner" platformer game. Not as good as Rayman, but good bit of charm and timing challenge on the later levels.

Expendable: Rearmed - great port of older Dreamcast title. Basically a top down dual-stick shooter, but it runs smooth and is actually really fun.

Sword and Sworcery - Interesting pixel-art adventure game.

Hey! That's My Fish! - Another great board game conversion that also exceeds the original/physical game. Entire family loves this one. Fantasy Flight Games does it again (they also made the Elder Sign: Omens).

Great Little War Game - awesome turn based strategy title, one of my favorites.

Jelly Defense - cute but somewhat difficult tower defense. Really liked this one!

Sprinkle - Another puzzle game from Mediocre games, interesting mechanic, takes a bit though to get used to controls (but is worth it).
 
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