Welcome to Five to Try, our weekly look at the new and updated Android apps and games that deserve your attention. Star Wars continues its Android assault this week with the release of Star Wars: Uprising, a role-playing quest set in the timeframe before this year’s The Force Awakens film. It’s joined on the gaming front this week by Minecraft: Pocket Edition, which gets a shout-out for a huge new update that lets you play alongside iOS and Windows users.
If games aren’t your thing, worry not: the top apps this week include the newly rebranded Google Wallet, which puts its new focus on personal payments. Besides that, MovieDay is a slick app that lets you track upcoming films (like…Star Wars?), while Adblock Browser might alleviate your worries about obnoxious or predatory web ads.
Star Wars: Uprising
Last week saw the Star Wars merchandizing machine roar back to life, delivering an array of toys and other goods—but also the launch of new fiction set between 1983’s Return of the Jedi and this fall’s sequel, The Force Awakens. Released this week, Star Wars: Uprising is another piece of that puzzle. It’s a free-to-play role-playing game that takes place during that timeframe, and it lets you create your own sci-fi adventurer.
Granted, you’re not going to rub elbows with Luke Skywalker or Han Solo in this one; it’s a less-central side story. But the dialogue is engaging, there’s an overarching narrative to unwind, and it takes place in familiar series locales like Hoth and Cloud City. The tap-and-shoot gunplay seems drab early on, but there’s plenty of gear and abilities to unlock, plus it has live online cooperative play. At the very least, Uprising seems like a solid-enough freebie diversion for die-hard fans.
Android Pay’s NFC payment system has started rolling out in the United States, replacing the previous Google Wallet app—although as of this writing, it’s not showing up in the Play Store quite yet. But Google Wallet isn’t dead: it’s justcharting a new course, moving away from tap-and-pay and into the world of personal payments (like Square Cash or Venmo).
The new Wallet app dropped this week, and it’s all about sending—or requesting—money via an email address. You can link up a debit card or bank account to add funds or cash out anything received, and even request a physical card to use at ATMs, or anywhere Debit MasterCard is accepted. Google Wallet might not have been a contactless payment sensation, but it has new life for other money matters.
Minecraft: Pocket Edition
With tens of millions of paid downloads, Minecraft: Pocket Edition should be a known quantity by now—and it is, mostly. But Mojang has shown an admirable dedication to continue improving the game with major updates, and this week’s 0.12.1 release is a huge one.
Now, the block-based building sensation supports cross-platform multiplayerbetween Android, iOS, and the new Windows 10 Edition, letting up to five local players collaborate in the same game. I tried it out on a Galaxy Note 5 and an iPhone 6 and the feature worked flawlessly, making it easier than ever to link up with pals. And that’s not all: the update also brings physical gamepad support (finally!) and access to The Nether area in the game. If you haven’t played in a while, now’s the time to check back in.
We’re past the summer blockbuster season, but soon it’ll be time for studios to trickle out all the award-chasing flicks. And then there’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And the last Hunger Games film. And The Hateful Eight. Really, if you’re a film buff, the stream of must-see movies never ends, and it can be easy to lose track of what’s coming and when. That’s where MovieDay comes in.
MovieDay is simply an attractive, handy way to keep tabs on the films you’re excited to see—or browse for more potential candidates. You can scroll through the listings or search for something in particular, and once added to your list, the movie info will appear with a banner image and countdown clock. The app also tracks which movies you’ve seen, plus it allows easy access to trailers and production details.
Ad blocking punishes the web publishing industry, so excuse me if I’m notterribly enthused about this week’s release of the Adblock Browser for Android. But while blanket blocking of ads fails to consider their purpose (paying for the content), Adblock Browser does also allow you to disable specific types of obnoxious or data-tracking ads, and allow less-obtrusive ads to still shine through.
And you can whitelist sites, so the ones you like and trust (Hi!) still get ad revenue from the content you consume. Beyond those headline features, Adblock otherwise seems pretty capable as a mobile browser: pages load pretty quickly, getting around is straightforward enough, and it has options like private browsing and requesting a site’s desktop version. I’ll stick with Chrome (and supporting creators), but if you want it, Adblock is now on the Play Store.