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You Must Build a Boat Review: Wet, wild fun

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You Must Build a Boat
Price: $4.99
System(s): PC (Also available on Android and iOS)
Release Date: Month Date, Year
Publisher (Developer): EightyEightGames (EightyEightGames)
ESRB Rating: N/A

Match-3 games tend to be a guilty pleasure. The problem is, it’s difficult to find one that really stands apart. Distinctive endeavors are difficult to find, given how hard it is to improve on the Bejeweled and Puzzle Quest formulas. Yet, EightyEightGames did it once with 10000000, and now has done it again with You Must Build a Boat.

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Taking to the seas.

One begins You Must Build a Boat knowing they must travel from point A to point B. Why? No one knows. There are two monster allies on board a dinghy, which is barely seaworthy, and there’s no option but to head into dungeons, hoping to make enough headway to unlock gold and additional areas, which will in turn make for a larger boat more capable of reaching additional areas.

Going through dungeons is what makes it possible to progress from one area to another and improve the boat. While in a dungeon, an 8×6 grid appears, filled with tiles representing specific actions, items and abilities. Swiping left or right, up or back on a specific icon shifts the entire row in that direction, hopefully matching a group of three or more. This causes the adventurer to perform an attack on the top screen, hopefully progressing further into the dungeon than ever before.

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Swiping, not swabbing, the decks.

I think what’s so great about You Must Build a Boat is how it so delicately treads the line between tasking and mindless. If you get into the right groove, you can hop into the dungeon repeatedly, barely noticing any possible setbacks. After all, even though you’ll eventually be pushed back and shoved back to the boat, You Must Build a Boat will tell you that you’ve won. There are objectives, especially since missions are chosen before each dungeon run, but it’s so fast paced that a player will barely notice as they fly by. It’s only upon reaching the results screen that you see how well you’ve done.

You Must Build a Boat is always rewarding a player too, which is another perk. It keeps you coming back. Maybe you’ll recruit a new monster friend this time. Perhaps there’ll be enough money after this run to buy some sort of upgrade so matching specific tiles will be more productive. If you’re really lucky, the boat might even be bigger when you get back, with a new crewmate to enhance your shipping experience. Change is constant, making every visit to the dungeon or return to the boat fulfilling.

The retro-inspired graphics improve the gameplay as well. It seems like a callback to dungeon-crawlers of yore, and it is, but it also serves to make You Must Build a Boat more efficient. There’s no wondering what each icon is. Everything is simple and distinctive. If you’re missing matches, it’s your own fault, and not because the game is obscuring them.

Perhaps my only qualm is that You Must Build a Boat doesn’t feel as comfortable on PCs. I’m fortunate enough to have a laptop with a touchscreen, so I was able to rely on both mouse and touch controls. The latter never felt as responsive and smooth as the former. This is a game that relies on split second reactions, and those are always easier when you can reach out and swipe at the screen. It’s good on computers, but exceptional on mobile devices.

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A perfect match.

It’d be tempting to call You Must Build a Boat 10000000 2.0, but anyone doing so would be wrong. This isn’t more of the same. Rather, it’s taking the core gameplay of the first game and adding complementary mechanics to make the exploration and matching more satisfying. You’ll see improvements happen after each run and know the joy that comes from doing a little better each time because of the investiments you’ve made. You Must Build a Boat is a rewarding match-3 game, one which will surely have people jumping on board.

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A review copy was provided for this review.

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