Ninja Jamm (Free + IAP)
Ninja Jamm is the work of British dance label Ninja Tune: a music creation app that’s fun and accessible, but has plenty of depth too. The app provides you with samples and loops from a range of the label’s artists – some free, and some paid for in ‘packs’ via in-app purchases – then you create remixes and new tunes.
Microsoft Translator (Free)
If you often find yourself turning to The Power Of Google Translate when abroad and stuck for a phrase, Microsoft is hoping you’ll give its new app a try as an alternative. You can quickly search for a translation and display it on your smartphone or Android Wear smartwatch – useful for showing people if you don’t want to balls up the pronunciation.
Internet users – Guardian colleagues included – have been getting excited about Google’s Deep Dream technology, and the trippy images that it produces. Now there’s an app for that. Dreamify takes your own photos and runs them through its algorithms to create digital masterpieces. Or frightening messes, of course. But let’s focus on the former.
The best Android apps of 2014
MSTY is one of a flurry of startups exploring the middle ground between WhatsApp and Spotify: music messaging. It’s a quick, slick way to choose a song from the app’s catalogue, add a background image and text message, then send to a friend. Like Music Messenger, Rithm and others, it’s hoping to spread via word-of-mouth among chatty music fans.
Drupe Contacts & Dialer (Free)
Drupe is also part of a wider trend: apps trying to provide a smarter way to organise your contacts and get in touch with friends. In this case, it gathers and sorts your contacts, ties in services like Skype, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, and promises to make it simple to initiate a conversation with individual friends and groups alike.
This one’s for American investors, really: the first Android app for the online service whose USP is that it doesn’t charge you a fee to buy and sell shares. The app helps you quickly control your account on the go, while also browsing market data and keep a ‘watchlist’ of stocks you want to keep tabs on.
Show Me the Money (£1.92)
Based on publisher DK’s book of the same name, this app does, indeed, show you the money. It’s an educational app about the history of money and financial transactions, from banknotes to credit cards. Aimed more at children, it does a good job of making what can be a dry subject engaging for young savers.
Govberg OnTime: Watch Toolbox (Free)
This is the narrowest niche audience in this week’s roundup: luxury watch collectors. It’s a way to store (and, let’s be honest, show off) the watches that aren’t on your wrist at any given time, while also reading up on new models. Govberg, which makes the app, will also buy your watches and sell you new ones – the motivation behind releasing the app.
Another educational app for children here, and it’s actually a remake of PC software from the 1990s. Children have to guide the Zoombinis characters through a succession of puzzles testing their logic and pattern-recognition skills. Parents of a certain age will feel pangs of nostalgia, but let’s see if their modern-day kids are as enthusiastic.
Find your VS Shade (Free)
Finally: hair! Dyed hair, to be specific. This is a Vidal Sassoon-branded app that gets you to take a selfie, trace the outline of your glossy locks, and then experiment with new shades via digital manipulation. And of course, persuading you to buy branded product is the goal here, but it could still be useful if you’re mulling that switch from strawberry-blond to autumn-plum or turtle-green.
Fallout Shelter (Free + IAP)
This started as a mobile spin-off from the Fallout games, to promote the upcoming Fallout 4. It’s taking on a life of its own though, as people build their underground communities in a post-nuclear world. It’s a bit like mobile hit Tiny Tower, and a fine time-tider-over for fans waiting for the next full game.
Down The Mountain (Free + IAP)
Your first thought on seeing Down The Mountain will probably be ‘Oh! Crossy Road again…’ but there’s more than meets the eye here. Yes, its blocky design is reminiscent of that popular game, but skipping down its mountains unlocking characters and completing missions is very fun indeed.
March of Empires (Free + IAP)
Fantasy-themed massively-multiplayer strategy games are, it turns out, a big money-spinner on mobile – even if you don’t hire Kate Upton to ride a horse in your TV ads. Gameloft is hoping to attract lots of players to its new empire-building title, as you build a castle, tool up an army, wage war on foes and trade with friends. It’s hard to judge this kind of game a day after release, but it looks like it has plenty to explore.
The best Android games of 2014
Card Crawl (Free + IAP)
More fantasy gameplay here – the app stores are stuffed with monsters and dungeons at the moment – although it’s not your average dungeon-crawler. This is just as much of a card-battler game, as you explore the game’s environments with a virtual deck of cards to fight your way through. It’s well-crafted, and the individual scraps are the perfect length for mobile play.
Lego Batman: Beyond Gotham (£3.85 + IAP)
Lego has been releasing a steady series of its console games for mobile devices, with Lego Batman the latest character squeezing onto smartphones and tablets. As with previous games, this isn’t just about the hero: there are more than 100 characters to unlock and play as – hence the in-app purchases. It’s colourful, fun and playable for all ages.
Oddwings Escape (Free + IAP)
Bird-based physics flying adventures? Nobody mention Flappy Bird! Before that, there was iOS hit Tiny Wings, which has more of a role in the DNA of Oddwings Escape. This is a delightful action game with some clever features for playing against friends, and plenty of charm.
Little Raiders Robin’s Revenge (Free + IAP)
Ubisoft’s latest mobile game takes its inspiration from the legend of Robin Hood, albeit with a few name changes (so long, Sherwood Forest and the Sheriff of Nottingham, hello Snowbourne and Sheriff Blackthorn). It’s part action-adventure and part city (well, village) building strategy, with lots to enjoy.
Blood Gate – Age of Alchemy (Free + IAP)
More monsters, more heroes, more match-three puzzling and in-app purchases. DeNA knows what it’s doing with this sub-genre of mobile games, and there appear to be plenty of players out there interested too. Blood Gate sees you dispatching beasts with your matching skills, with lots of party and character-customisation to get your teeth into.
Rockstars of Ooo – Adventure Time Rhythm Game (£1.54)
Adventure Time remains a marvellous TV series, although the quality of its increasing stable of mobile games varies. Rockstars of Ooo is diverting fun: a music rhythm game featuring the cartoon’s key characters, and some brand new songs based on familiar scenes from the show. Well, familiar if you’ve been watching it as much as I have, under the guise of “parenting”.
Farms & Castles (Free + IAP)
Finally, someone at Square Enix has clearly been playing puzzle game Triple Town: it’s a clear influence on the company’s latest mobile game. You have to match objects on the on-screen grid to create larger and larger items – yes, castles and farms. It’s sent me back to Triple Town, which surely wasn’t the publisher’s goal, but this is fun on its own merits too.
That’s my choice, but what Android apps and games have you been enjoying this week? The comments section is open for your recommendations.