You Must Build A Boat is the latest game from EightyEight Games, a one-man studio located in the UK. EightyEight's previous game was 10000000 ("ten million") which was something of an unexpected hit when it was released in 2012. How does You Must Build A Boat stack up to 10000000? Let's find out in my You Must Build A Boat review!
You Must Build A Boat feels very much like a sequel to 10000000. It builds on the former game's mechanics while expanding them in new and interesting ways. You Must Build A Boat blends aspects of several different genres. The puzzle game blends turn-based RPGs, match-3 games, and endless runners together. The boat building is very similar to a modern roguelike's persistent upgrades. On top of all of these disparate mechanics are a lot of systems that are unique.
Although it would seem like this "blender full of genres" approach would yield a mess of a game, You Must Build A Boat (like 10000000 before it) is highly addictive.
If you've never played 10000000, let's run down the basic gameplay loop for both games. There are two major modes to the gameplay.
You Must Match 3
In the puzzle half of the game, you'll be frantically matching tiles to defeat monsters and break open treasure chests.
This half of the game is frenetic and fast paced, almost like playing Tetris on a high difficulty level. It requires a lot of attention to detail - are you up against a chest and need to match keys? Or are you fighting a monster resistant to physical attacks which requires magic? It's easy to slip into that "flow" state and really enjoy yourself.
Just knowing what to do isn't enough - you've got to make the tiles line up properly in order to make progress. You Must Build A Boat's tiles are set out in a grid, and you can move an entire row or column of them at a time in order to make a match. This means that you can't really focus on one small area of the board and expect to win - you've got to keep the whole board moving all the time.
Pro Tip Speed is key - even if a match doesn't help you, getting more tiles on the board is important. If you ever get to the point where you can't find a match to make, grab a row or column and spin it. Chances are good you'll find a match quickly and break out of the rut.
Besides direct damage tiles, there are also crates you can break to reveal items, which are used by tapping on them. There's food that can keep you alive longer, as well as a variety of spells and some physical damage weapons.
Pro Tip Sometimes it makes sense to stockpile items, but bear in mind that items can't be matched, so excess items can actually make you move slower.
Actually Building a Boat
All good things must come to an end, though, and eventually you'll "win" the puzzle (read: fail miserably) by failing to move fast enough, and at that point you'll be sent back to your base. In You Must Build A Boat, this is where the titular boat comes into play. By spending the various types of loot you find in your dungeon runs, you can upgrade the boat in various ways, making it easier to do better on your next run.
Each of the vendors specializes in a different type of upgrade. Some upgrades boost your physical and magic attacks, other upgrades give you a bonus to your defensive skills or to your loot pickups.
Pro Tip The more dangerous the dungeon, the higher quality the loot that you'll find, so it pays to kick up the difficulty as high as you can.
The meta-game is generally enjoyable, and it serves to even out the difficulty. If you're kicking ass in the puzzle, you'll be clearing quests like crazy and moving the boat up the river, where the game gets harder. If you're having trouble, grinding the puzzle will give you enough raw materials to upgrade and make it easier.