I’ve never been one for mobile games.
Sure, everyone has played “Clash of Clans” and “Angry Birds,” but these games never really held my attention for long. They were more time sinks than anything, and I quickly abandoned them for other distractions when I had a few minutes of downtime on the go.
“Brawl Stars” is different. Yes, it’s still a time-wasting game you play when you’ve got five minutes to spare and nothing better to do, but I’m still playing it daily weeks after release. That's because, at its core, it’s just a solid, fun game.
“Brawl Stars” is a top-down, twin-stick shooter where you control one of 22 brawlers and face other teams in various game modes. There’s a collecting game where whichever team holds onto 10 gems first wins, death match games, a capture-the-flag-esque mode and even a mini battle royale. Each game takes only a couple of minutes to play, which adds to the bite-size appeal. Available game modes cycle out every several hours to keep things fresh.
At first, I didn’t like the idea of playing a shooter on my phone. Obviously, real analog sticks are preferable to digital ones displayed on a flat screen, and I was worried the game would be difficult to control without the feedback real sticks provide. But the game is cleverly designed to be slow without feeling slow, and the reach of the sticks is forgiving so controlling characters while simultaneously shooting is surprisingly easy and, even more surprisingly, fun.
The game offers several different brawlers with different styles of play. Shelly the shotgunner has a narrow and medium-range blast that keeps enemies at bay while Colt’s long-range dual pistols can snipe opponents from afar. One of my favorite brawlers, El Primo, has a devastating close-range punch attack that requires sneaking through tall grass to get the jump on enemies before they blast you apart.
Several brawlers are locked at the start and must be unlocked by either winning them in loot boxes or buying them outright. Yes, this game has loot boxes and microtransactions (what mobile game doesn’t?), but I have never once felt a temptation to spend any real money.
Characters are ranked depending on your skill, so you’re rarely paired with opponents who have spent inordinate amounts of money to power up and unlock the best characters. Also, I regularly earn free loot boxes daily that give me a new character every once in a while. Really, only inpatient players are the ones dropping cash on this game.
If you’re looking for a fun game to play when you’ve got a few minutes before a meeting or on the train ride home, you could do a lot worse than “Brawl Stars.”