I’ve cracked it! I’ve discovered the formula for eternal and invincible perversion! I have, this day, established a way in which PC gaming website Rock, Paper, Shotgun can post about intriguing mobile games without the slightest concern that we’re stepping beyond our self-elected remit! Well, maybe a little, occasionally, hesitantly, sideways.
Three exclamation marks in that introduction. That’s how pleased I am that a program called Bluestacks has meant I’ve spent the morning playing Android games from the big-screen comfort of my computer.
Now, Bluestacks isn’t new. I am not breaking any news here. I’m sure a great many of you will be familiar with it already, but please remember that won’t be true of everyone. Indeed, I was already aware of it too, but the last time I used it (over a year ago) it didn’t seem quite up to scratch. It’s not exactly aping a hexacore ARM processor in its current form, but it’s speedy enough to handle games.
I’d given Bluestacks another spin because I really wanted to play space survival sim Out There (think FTL with no combat, a crushing sense of solitude and a desperate hunt for fuel) but was disappointed to find there was no PC version. Sure, I could play it on my phone, but I don’t really get on with playing games on tiny screens any more. Also I’m an entitled little twerp who demands that every game is immediately available on his preferred platform.
Bluestacks did the trick, and there’s no illegal skullduggery involved. It hooks into my Google account and I can install any apps I’ve bought previously, or buy/install new ones, just like on a ‘real’ Android device. While Bluestacks is billed as an ‘app player’, the reality is that it’s running a barebones versions of an older edition of Android through assorted witchcract, so you can make your PC look and behave like an Android tablet if you so wish.
It can also be set to synchronise apps with your Android phone if you have one, and install them that way through than through Google Play or other stores.
Setup is essentially as simple as downloading and installing the thing, but here are a few tips to make it work and look better – particularly as it’s prone to not running its own post-install setup gubbins which hook it into a Google account.
First up, you’ll want to click on the clock at the bottom of the screen, click the settings icon, then Accounts & Sync, then Add Account – from there you can add/create your Google account in order to grab stuff from the Play Store. It may be that Bluestacks pops up a prompt to do this anyway, but that’s how do it manually just in case.
Similarly, it may offer the option to Cloud Sync with your phone, but if it doesn’t go to settings again and ‘Cloud Connect’ to set that up.
You’ll probably also want to install a different Launcher, as the homescreen in Bluestacks is nasty and basically trying to sell you things. If you go to the search icon at the top left, try typing in ADW, Apex or Nova, then clicking ‘Search Play for…’ and installing one of those, which will give you something which looks a lot more like an Android tablet. I haven’t established which of these is speedier yet, so see how you go.
Finally, if you’ve got a 1080p or better monitor, you’ll notice that Bluestacks is running rather low res. There’s no official way to fix that, and the only official method has partial results. Does broadly improve matters, though. To do it you’ll need to engage in a spot of simple registry edit. Hit Start, Run, type regedit, press enter then navigate to:
Then double click on the entry marked ‘Height’, click on ‘Decimal’, then enter your vertical screen resolution (i.e. height) in Value data. Then do the same for ‘Width.’ If your screen res is 1920x1o80, it’s 1080 in height and 1920 in width, for example.
Like this, basically:
And done. Do expect some weirdness, as it doesn’t really want to be at that res, but most apps run OK and look rather nice – for instance, here’s Out There at 1440p (click to embiggen):
As well as games, I’m finding it useful for apps whose PC/web versions are a bit lousy. Comixology’s app is far superior to its browser version, for instance, and there’s a wealth of pretty Twitter clients to experiment with.
Oh, and F11 switches Bluestacks from Fullscreen to windowed mode if you’re having troubles accessing buttons/your desktop.
You’ll probably hit dozens of different problems that I didn’t. Hell, that’s part of the fun. I’m sure people below or on the wider internet can help out if you ask politely, though.
Also, once you’ve got this running, please play Out There. It’s smart, lovely and tense, and a great piece of survivalist sci-fi. A PC version is theoretically inbound, but this makes a good stopgap measure.