Review: Runik brings tile matching madness to Android

I’m a big fan of puzzle games on my phone for two reasons: usually they’re quite easy to pick up, and they tend to be easy on my aging Droid’s poor processor. Accessibility is key for Android games, and puzzlers seem to be one of the few genres that can benefit from touchscreen controls.

Runik’s a great example; this new game comes to us from team SoFresh and has the distinction of being a purely Android game. I give this props because there seems to be way too many “port of an iOS” titles these days.

Runik’s simple: it throws a “match 3 or more” formula at you, which is extremely easy to pick up. Players start with a full board of runes and match until no combinations remain. The only thing shifting the tiles is the force of gravity, so it pays to think steps ahead before you break especially big chains.

Once combinations are exhausted, the leftovers turn to stone; any tiles cleared next to these stone pieces, however, become active again. If played unwisely, this can lead to a very limited playing space. Play continues until there are literally no more moves, but I haven’t reached this yet. As you clear runes of a color, meters at the bottom for each color fill. When topped up, they provide a score bonus for that color, and when activated, clear all the tiles of that type. This leads to a very strategic usage: you don’t want to waste that score bonus with few tiles on the field.

Controls are simple: click to match. Not much to say there. However, it can be a little annoying to have to wait for the gravity effect of falling blocks to finish before making your next match. The graphics are great and sound is a generic “calming puzzle music” soundtrack, but they both do their jobs extremely well; I could play a puzzler of giant pixels and a MIDI loop in the background if the gameplay is addicting and functional.

There are achievements and profiling supported through ScoreLoop, but I don’t really bother with these things. It’s enough to have to register with OpenFeint for some titles in order to stop prompts; I’m not going to sign up if it’s non-intrusive, like Runik. I’m going to give props for not shoving it down our throats, though.

Runik is free and ad-supported, so I definitely recommend it. So far, this is SoFresh’s first offering to the Android field, and I hope it won’t be their last.

Download Runik here.

Matt Demers is Droid Life’s App guy, and would love a good port to Tetris Attack, or Pokemon Puzzle League. Those games were legit.

You can find him on Twitter, or contact him through his Droid Life e-mail.

Widget: BobClockD3 brings the sexy

Earlier I had some people over on my RedWall review ask me what clock widget app I was using, so I thought I’d oblige that. This awesome clock is called the BobClockD3, and it comes to us from the fine people over at the XDA forums. The widget draws inspiration from the Korean-made Cowon D3 media player, which features a clock very similar to this one.

It’s available for free through a number of download links on the forum post. The one I’m personally using is a modified version of the original from user “lesa0208,” which has a number of color options available. However, you can only install one color at a time.

The .rar of the .apks can be found here (mirror for non-XDA members). Happy customizing!

Matt Demers is Droid Life’s app guy, and enjoys not having the top two rows of his home screen taken up by Beautiful Widgets.

You can find him on Twitter or by e-mail.

Review: RedWall makes social wallpapering a breeze

If you’re like me, you prefer that your Android looks as stylish as it works. Besides skinning your home replacement app or customizing your boot animation, there’s something even more rudimentary that can shift the whole motif of your phone: your wallpaper.

Unfortunately, all wallpapers aren’t created equal: a user usually has to properly re-size an image to their phone’s specific resolution, transfer it to an SD card then crop it from within the phone. This, however, excludes the monumentous task of finding wallpapers that aren’t crap in the first place.

I’ve found an app called RedWall that eliminates some of these frustrations.

Reddit is a portmanteau of the words “Reddit” and “wallpaper.” In simplest terms, it scrapes a certain Reddit sub-board (/r/redwall) for images and allows you to set them as your phone background; images are downloaded, cropped and set in one swift motion.

The backgrounds I’ve tried both look great and are sized appropriately; I haven’t had to worry about jagged pixels or misshapen images. This is a giant plus in my book, since there’s less work to do to get something great.

Perhaps what’s most interesting about this app is that the wallpapers shown are influenced by the Reddit voting mechanics. Top “day”, “week” and “month” sortings show what’s been voted on the most in those time periods; if you have a Reddit account, you can go to the board and contribute yourself.

So I’d recommend getting RedWall (it’s free, with ads) and try out a few of their offerings. There’s an extremely good chance you’ll find something you like. Reddit is good like that.

Download RedWall here

[Note: in the screenshot above, the “grey stairs” icons are replaced by image previews once they’ve loaded. I snapped my screenshot a little too quick. Also, the wallpaper I’m using is called “Coloured Pipes”]

Matt Demers is Droid Life’s app guy, and would like to pay his respects to Brian Jacques, the author of the lovely Redwall books. Rest in peace, Brian.

You can find Matt on Twitter, or e-mail him.

How to use your desktop as a SMS workstation [without Google Voice]

I’ve been running into a certain phone-related problem with alarming frequency lately: I come home from class and throw all my gear down in a pile at the foot of my bed. As a result, my phone remains hidden in my jacket’s pocket or inside my bag, and I will miss SMS notifications until either my phone dies or I finally notice something is awry. A simple answer to this would be to simple clean up my room, but I’ve found a more Android solution.

I’ve fixed this problem with a two applications that are free to the market and work quite well. With them, I’ve found a way to be notified of and answer SMS from the comfort of my browser window. (more…)

In Depth: GO Launcher EX

In my 11 months here at Droid Life, it’s become apparent that most of our community use one of two different home replacement tools: LauncherPro or ADW Launcher. It’s gotten to the point that these tools are deemed essential to Android users because of the additions they bring to an otherwise boring Android home screen. That one row of buttons adds a lot of functionality and saves a lot of space; something that’s precious on a stock 4×4 grid.

Naturally, when a new home replacement comes along, it’s easy to dismiss it. How could it even come close to the “big two?” However, I urge you to read on: GO Launcher is no half-assed effort.   (more…)

Review: RealPlayer for Android

If you’ve been using computers awhile, you can probably remember RealAudio Player, an early audio player that had the capability to stream over the Internet. The original program came out in 1995, with a later version bundled with Microsoft’s Windows 98 operating system. Many a fond memory were spent trying to delete it from my system because I would rather use Winamp which didn’t have pop-ups.

So, ironically, 2011 rolls around and RealNetworks Inc., RealAudio (Now RealPlayer) have released an Android app that is looking to make its mark in the media player market. I was sent a nice e-mail proclaiming that the beta of the app “received more than one thousand pieces of feedback from users, both positive and constructive,” and that the newest update would be “based entirely on user feedback.”

This got me curious. I mean, if enough people say something’s crap, maybe it will get fixed, right?

At this point in the review I’m going to stop cracking jokes at RealPlayer. While they’ve made some stinkers in the past, I’m going to give them credit where credit is due: their app is not horrible.

I would even go so far to say it is good: not amazing, and not likely to unseat Winamp as the media player du jour. However, its simplicity does have an appeal: as a guy who doesn’t use his Android phone as a media player that often, RealPlayer seems to be a bit of step up from the default apps. Within it, you’ve got a music and video player along with an added photo viewer; all are very basic and rudimentary. They do their jobs well, as they should.

However, it offers a little bit more than the stock apps in the sense that you can use the folder browser to determine which folders to keep scanned: again, seems like a no-brainer, but it’s much less of a hassle to fine-tune what media you want showing up. Strangely, as evidenced by my screenshots above, the scanning animation never seems to stop.

The app, while still in beta, looks like they’ve actually cranked some money into it. The interface looks slick and doesn’t have the familiar pitfalls like jagged edges on buttons or a general lack of polish. That’s what endears it to me: I don’t think I’d use RealPlayer myself, but the fact that they’re taken feedback into account and not just shoveled something out the door both gives this app a pass. I’d suggest it to someone who doesn’t want or need Internet radio, library syncing or any of the Winamp fanciness; however, if you’re tech-savvy enough to be using your phone as your primary media player, that someone probably isn’t you.


Matt Demers is Droid Life’s app guy, and isn’t afraid to crank up some Beastie Boys from time to time. You can reach him through his Twitter, or his Droid Life e-mail.

Review: Aura for Android

With a full course load and a bunch of online writing to do, EVE Online is one of the few MMORPGs that I have time for. Skill training progresses in real time (even when the player is logged off,) which allows for advancement with a (relatively) small time investment. This allows players to step back and take a break from the game while still feeling like they’re moving forward in EVE’s sci-fi universe.

An interesting mechanic that’s the developers have implemented is a robust API system which allows players to use a number of utilities. As the player earns money and trains skills, the API updates and allows these utilities to stay up to the second.

Aura is an app that takes advantage of that. After inputting a character’s User ID and Limited API key (provided by CCP, the game’s developer,) Aura will sync up with the player’s skill queue and assets. At the moment, the app will only display skills and money; there are plans for timers to be added for the progress of things like manufactured goods being processed.

This is useful for an on-the-go player like myself, and allows me to keep tabs on when my skills are going to be completed. It also represents a growing group of apps that are developed for extremely niche audiences that are well-polished, functional and inventive. I give the developer my props on this one. The only problem I had is that you can’t access specific skill pages (like the middle screenshot above) or add them to a skill plan queue when your SD card is mounted to a computer. Even though my app is installed on my phone’s memory (not my SD card) it seems like that database data is stored on the card. Any way, I’m not going to nitpick about that.

Another large part of the app is both the item database and fitting simulator. These are recently-added updates, and aid in perhaps the most important part of EVE Online: planning. Similar to the skill queue, the fitting simulator allows you to choose individual ships, fit them with different weapon/armor packages and compare overall statistics. Supplementing this is a robust item database, which allows for searching and comparison as well. While you can’t access market data for any of these items (due to the region-specific nature of searches), this is an extremely good way to kill some time.

Props to developer Aideron Robotics; I’m looking to see where Aura goes, and its future impact on the world of EVE.


Matt Demers is Droid Life’s app guy. You can find his posts every day on this site. You can get ahold of him via Twitter or his Droid Life e-mail; he doesn’t bite.

Review: GO SMS looks to take away Handcent’s candy

Like many other Android users, I’ve taken the leap and changed from our default SMS application to the popular alternative, Handcent SMS. With it came a wealth of customization options; all in all, it offered a similar, but deeper experience to the default messaging app.

However, while doing research for my upcoming review of GO Launcher, I found the developers (aptly titled “The GO Development Team”) have an SMS app of their own. Eager to keep my apps matching, I installed it, hoping that it would impress me as their launcher had.   (more…)