BarBarQ is an intriguing blend of three of mobile’s heaviest hitters. You’ve got the shrinking arena of PUBG, the hectic brawling of Brawl Stars, and the highly addictive multiplayer battling of Agar.io. But does it all combine to create the ultimate mobile game?

We’ll come back to that later. BarBarQ plays much like any other .io multiplayer battler. You play as an axe-wielding barbarian, and have to gather mushrooms dotted around the arena. These not only increase your size and statistics, but help level you up.

Every few levels you gain you can pick a perk that will boost you in a number of different areas. These come in two varieties: active and passive. The former you can unleash at any given moment, while the latter are always active.

When you first play you’ll just pick whichever one you think sounds best, but you’ll soon get a feel for your favourite perks. These range from providing healing whenever you attack to pulling enemies close when you get a good hit. It’s pretty varied.

So far, so Agar.io. But what BarBarQ actually does better than Agar.io, is the encouragment it provides to get stuck right into the action. Early games of Agar.io are typically tense, with you trying to collect as many balls as possible without being swallowed by a bigger ball.

BarBarQ turns this on its head a bit though. While collecting mushrooms should definitely be your initial priority, it’s often well worth attacking any opponents you come across. If you win, you’ll gain so many more levels than you would just by staying out of trouble.

Also, if you die, it’s no big deal – you can just respawn and keep going, which really does help you take risks. In the end, it just feels more full of action and excitement than Agar.io ever does.

But the real stroke of genius stems from how brief a game of BarBarQ is. Typically, a match lasts about three minutes, and the ever-shrinking arena encourages you to battle harder the longer the match lasts.

It’s even more tense if you’re currently top of the leaderboard. Your avatar completely changes, and you’re lit up like a Christmas tree, meaning almost all players will come after you to try and bring you down and steal your hard-earned mushrooms.

We say almost, because this is primarily a team game. Whenever you hit play, you’ll either randomly join two other players to form a team, or you can bring your friends along for the ride. It feels a bit like an unnecessary feature, but it does help differentiate it from the pack.

But therein lies BarBarQ‘s biggest problem – it’s just crammed full of unnecessary features. Take the perk system, for example. While we appreciate being able to unlock and bring a single perk into the game with you, it does lead to imbalance. Not all perks are born equally.

Speaking of imbalance, there are also a bunch of pets that you can acquire by spending real cash or hours of time battling in the arena for chests.

While other multiplayer battlers settle for purely cosmetic upgrades, BarBarQ definitely has pay to win features, and that’s likely to put off a bunch of players.

It doesn’t help that there are so many different ways to spend your hard-earned real life money either. There are too many buttons on the main menu, and the vast majority of them are encouraging you to spend money.

There’s a lucky dip, a store, multiple recharge buttons, and loads of other faff. It’s a far cry away from PUBG Mobile or Clash Royale that simply has an option to play and an option to buy stuff.

But the reality is that you can ignore all of that and just play for fun and for free. And boy, will you have a lot of fun here. There’s nothing else quite like BarBarQ, which feels like an odd thing to say about a game that wears its many inspirations on its sleeves. Ultimately, it’s more than the sum of its parts and well worth checking out if you like any of its inspirations.

Ultimately, BarBarQ blends PUBG, Agar.io, and Brawl Stars and the result is far tastier than you’d imagine. The action is packed, the perk system deep, and the visual style keeps things nice and simple but remains pretty. It’s just a shame that the free to play faff, pay to win, and a cluttered UI slightly tar an incredibly fun and unique experience.