You Must Build a Boat is basically 10,000,000 Redux, but that’s not at all a bad thing. Unless you have work to do.
I have played a disgusting amount of You Must Build a Boat this week.
Somewhere around 4 A.M. on Thursday, I realized I was addicted. I was lying in bed, mindlessly swiping columns left and right, up and down, matching swords with swords and staffs with staffs and brains with brains while my tiny player character sprinted through a sewer. I had to be up for work in four hours. “Okay, time to go to bed,” I thought, clicking the button to exit out—only to be met with a prompt asking if I wanted “One More Run?”
“Eh, why not?” I thought, and I started playing again.
Got the itch
If You Must Build a Boat looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve played or at least seen Luca Redwood’s previous game 10,000,000. In fact, if you’re looking for a shorter name you could always refer to You Must Build a Boat as 10,000,000 Redux.
The two are practically identical. Both games are essentially match-three puzzlers, so there’s a grid of tiles (swords, staffs, keys, brains, biceps, crates) and you need to slide rows/columns around to make three of a kind. Both games are also endless runners—above the tile grid is a dungeon packed with enemies and treasure chests.
As your character encounters these various obstacles you’ll need to match the corresponding tiles. Killing a monster, for instance, might require you to match two sets of swords to do enough damage—or four swords, for double the damage. Opening a chest requires two sets of keys.
The longer you run, the more treasure you earn. You can also earn special rewards by completing quests—say, “Match 360 Tiles” or “Kill an orc in one hit.” Many of these quests unlock characters that will sell you upgrades (i.e. Add damage to your sword tile matches) enabling you to get further into the dungeon, and thus the feedback loop continues.
The main difference between 10,000,000 and You Must Build a Boat is, no surprise, the boat. You must build it. Why? Because the game says so. Starting out in a little dinghy, every crewmember you add on your journey up the river expands the boat a bit more until…well, you’ll see.
And that journey upriver is also a change. Not necessarily a huge one, but one that keeps You Must Build a Boat a bit more fresh than its predecessor. Whereas 10,000,000 had a single dungeon, You Must Build a Boat has a dozen or so stages: The Sewers, Hell, The Gallery, The Vault, et cetera. Besides a visual shakeup, each has a unique wrinkle—for instance, all of The Vault’s treasure chests require one more set of keys to unlock.
Sure, these are small differences. I wasn’t lying when I said You Must Build a Boat is essentially 10,000,000 Redux.
But I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. You Must Build a Boat is, like its predecessor, incredibly addictive. And it knows it. The game is a psychological masterpiece. It preys upon all of your worst tendencies—the feeling that the next run will be “the lucky one,” the obsession with visible progression and unlocks, the fact that each minute-long round isn’t too long (but you’ll rarely ever play just one round and then stop).
In other words, it’s just as addictive as you’d expect from a mash-up of a match-three puzzler and an endless runner—with a healthy dose of “filling up progression bars” to dig those hooks in even deeper.
It’d be easy to call You Must Build a Boat insidious, but the best/worst part is it’s not. There’s nothing subtle about the game and its compulsiveness. On the contrary, it’s utterly obvious with its strings. And I still love it.
That’s really the key here: I love You Must Build a Boat. Whether that love is real or born out of addiction, that’s impossible to tell. It doesn’t matter. It’s love—and what I can say is I played it for hours and hours this week, beat the game, started playing it a second time, and still want to play more. It’s perfectly mindless entertainment. Something to do while also half-watching TV, for instance.
If you played 10,000,000 and want more (or even think you might want more), then You Must Build a Boat is the game for you. If you like match-threes, You Must Build a Boat is the game for you. And if you want to forget all your social and professional obligations, stay up way too late for about a week straight, and feel tired all the time? Well, You Must Build a Boat is the game for you.