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You Must Build A Boat Review: A Not So Lonely Island
You Must Build a Boat is a puzzle game by publisher EightyEight Games. This game is the follow-up to their game 10000000, a game which I have only played a little bit of, but which has a quite substantial cult following behind it. If you’ve played 10000000, then you will be familiar with some of the concepts behind You Must Build a Boat.
You Must Build a Boat starts you off exploring dungeons as an unnamed character. The game does an excellent job of introducing you to the core gameplay mechanics, such as splitting your attention between the top of the screen, which contains the protagonist running through various dungeons, and the rest of the screen, which has the match-3 style puzzle gameplay. One critique I have of the introduction sequence is that the game does not describe to you how the two necessarily relate for each specific moment, which if you are new to the series, is something that is very important to know. What I mean by this is that when you the player match 3 of a row of a certain type of puzzle tile, you get a corresponding bonus. There are red explosive tiles, and green key tiles for example. Matching these tiles do not carry over, so for example, if you match 3 key tiles, and you are fighting a monster, that will not do anything for you. That is something that the publisher could clear up a bit more in subsequent entries. Entering the game, I had thought that matching 3 in a row would save up, so for example, matching 3 key tiles early on would allow you to open up the next treasure chest you encounter. This is a minor complaint however, as the game does a great job of integrating you into everything else. Additionally, the fact that stacking the tiles does not carry powers over into later on in the run means that you have to constantly juggle between the top and bottom of the screen. This is built upon later on in the game via flying traps, which adds an urgency and franticness to the game that makes it a blast to play.
The concept of the game is that you start off on a tiny boat, navigating a river in search of treasure. Your character enters these dungeons with various quests that have to be fulfilled. These quests can be as simple as “learn how to open a treasure chest” to as difficult as “defeat 10 enemies with your sword in a single run”. During these treasure runs, your character is literally running across the top of your screen, running into monsters, traps, and treasure chests. If your character stops running and gets pushed off of the screen, your run is done, and you try again. Everything is randomized each run, keeping the gameplay fresh. With each successful quest, you gain more characters and upgrades for both your character, and your boat. The upgrade system is well done, and it rewards you for your patience with each run, encouraging you to play more.
Soundtrack wise, the game has a solid retro-inspired chiptune soundtrack, which is in line with the rest of the retro-inspired vibes given off by the game. The sound is upbeat and fun, but it loops indefinitely, and will get on your nerves after about 4 hours or so. This is one of the larger criticisms I have of the game.
Graphically, it falls under your generic retro themed indie game, but that is ok. It perfectly suits what the game is, and isn’t necessarily a limitation at all. The colors of each tile pop out during gameplay, allowing for sufficient clarity in the hectic puzzle action.
Overall, You Must Build a Boat is a great puzzle game, and is a solid deal for its price. You can play it on iOS, Android, PC, and Mac. I’m reviewing the PC version of the game, but the versions are uniform across platforms. The game has some limitations such as a repetitive soundtrack, but EightyEight games does a great job of building more and more nuances to your dungeon crawling adventure. For about eight hours worth of gameplay, you will be enthralled with the charms of this game.