In recent days I've been juggling two games on my phone. The first is the Westworld town-builder at the centre of a dispute between Bethesda and Warner Bros., because I wanted to know how closely it apes Fallout Shelter. Despite some great theming, it's a bit cow-clicker. Instead I found my finger drifting towards Boost Arena for a quick five minute session because, unlike a lot of mobile cruft these days, it's simple bitesize fun.
The concept's a classic: a big arena, a handful of cars and power-ups, off you go. Much of Boost Arena's charm comes from the fact it's a one-hit kill affair, with quick restarts, and it bangs you straight in against other human players. I'm not even sure how the scoring works, beyond the fact that if I stay alive for a decent while and destroy a few cars then I'm suddenly in the lead.
What I enjoy about Boost Arena is the well-tuned steering, which allows for both shallow turns and easy doughnuts, in concert with the boost mechanic that, as matches go on, becomes more important. There are loads of little blue energy balls dotting the arena, enough of which will build up your car's boost meter. When it's full, you slam both thumbs down and your car shoots forwards, destroying any vehicle foolish enough to be in the way. So you have to kind of line up the boost and predict your opponents' movements, a split-second element of strategy that, as the pace picks up is the difference between lasting one minute or ten.
The developers note a debt to slither.io, the onetime Youtube phenom that we described as being "more fun than it has any right to be". That line kinda fits Boost Arena too. It's not doing anything radical, and you probably won't be surprised to hear that the power-ups follow the Mario Kart lines of tires (i.e. red and green shells), bombs, fake pick-ups, the odd missile, a boombox and so on.
Perhaps the reason Boost Arena keeps on getting booted up, however, is the straightforward monetisation. I thought this might be a pain at first, because the first thing it does is make you aware there's a timer on the game – if you want to play for free, fine, but it'll occasionally have to recharge. Or you can just fork out £2.99 and remove the timer and unlock all the cars. £3 is a fair enough price for an enjoyable mobile game, so I forked it over straightaway and off I went. You could not have a greater contrast to the coin-guzzling and progress-strangling Westworld, which I had to stop playing out of frustration. I wish every mobile game had this option.
There's so much stuff to play on mobile these days, and I find my tastes shifting over the years. No longer is my phone loaded with the card games and strategy titles of past years, the big time-guzzlers, and I've also left the F2P likes of Clash Royale well behind. These days I like refined concepts, like Reigns, or the high-octane five-minute-blast experiences. Boost Arena delivers the latter, and is perfect for those moments when you just have to wait a few minutes for something. It won't set the world on fire, but it may smoulder on your homescreen for a good while to come.