You Must Build A Boat Is Stealing My Life

by Jeff Marchiafava on Jun 05, 2015 at 11:54 AM

Despite not being a huge match-three fan, I decided to check out You Must Build A Boat. Not only did the recently released puzzle game steal all of my gaming time last night, it apparently put me into a fugue state.

Yesterday, the Game Informer office was preoccupied by the release of the much anticipated sequel to Luca Redwood's 100000000000?, You Must Build A Boat. The charming match-three game and its predecessor bubbled up in numerous conversations throughout the day, as editors downloaded (or tried to refrain from downloading) the game and started playing. I'm not a huge fan of match-three games, so while I spent a few hours in 10000000, I deleted the game from my phone long before reaching the titular score. I did enjoy the rewarding upgrade loop Redwood had created, however, so I was curious to see what the sequel offered. After a few minutes of watching our Test Chamber of You Must Build A Boat, I was ready to buy it – not because of Bryan, who did a fine job of explaining all of the improvements and new gameplay aspects, but because Kyle was so bad at the game that I had to buy it and play it for myself just to get his glaringly overlooked matches out of my head (the shields, Kyle, match the shields!).

So I downloaded You Must Build A Boat and played a few rounds at work (one of the perks of working for a gaming magazine is that there's some legitimacy to trying out a new game when you've got some time to spare). It was fun – not enough to convert me to a diehard match-three fan, but I wanted to play more of it and continue upgrading my modest dinghy.

My ship upgrades would have to wait, however. With a rare free night ahead of me, I already had my gaming plans set and was looking forward to staying up all night with The Witcher 3. Wild Hunt has everything I love in a game: a giant, gorgeous open world to explore, an interesting narrative and cast of characters, and loads of entertaining side content to distract me from the main quest. I was still in White Orchard, with but a couple hours of uninterrupted game time ahead of me, I figured I could make some meaningful progress.

You Must Build A Boat's tile board is rotated in the PC version, but the dimensions are still the same.

Unfortunately, my night was derailed by one fatal mistake: After dinner, I decided to play a quick round of You Must Build A Boat – I figured it would be a nice palate cleanser of sorts before getting back into Geralt's heavy and time-consuming world. Predictably, one lighthearted, retro-dungeon run turned into countless more. While I'm still not that good at the match-three action (at least I'm not Kyle-bad, though), You Must Build A Boat's upgrade loop is insanely varied and satisfying. You capture enemies and then train them to help you out. You recruit a variety of merchants throughout your adventure, who sell you new upgrades for your sword, staff, magic spells, and shield. Yet another high-end merchant sells expensive trinkets that provide big boosts and new perks, like the ability to tackle a third quest objective during outings. An endless amount of loot can be collected and traded in to a mysterious orb for even more cash and resources. You Must Build A Boat keeps you firmly stuck in a perpetual loop, where there's always something new to buy – and unlike virtually every other mobile game on the market, there are no time gates to bring your progression and enjoyment to a grinding halt in hopes that you'll spend real money to kick-start it again.

It turns out, that lack of forced breaks is a bit of a double-edged sword. Eventually, the red light on my phone started blinking, indicating that my battery was about to die. I couldn't stop though – I just reached Hell, for crying out loud. I plugged my phone charger into the wall and sat near the outlet while I worked toward my latest quest (FYI: Trying to blow up 10 boxes with a crate bomb sucks). When I reached an Eastern-themed pagoda (that's right, ninjas are more deadly than demons), I decided it was finally time to check how late it was. I didn't want to exit out of the game on my phone though, so I tapped my PS4 controller back to life, which had been sitting idle from dinner until – 4:00 a.m.?! I resigned myself that this was really the last round. Looks like Geralt's quest would have to wait – maybe he should invest in a boat of his own.

There's a lesson to be learned from my derailed night of gaming, and it goes beyond my complete lack of self-control; a good game has a nearly magical ability to enthrall a player, far above and beyond its production value. A simple three-dollar puzzle game, sporting Atari-level graphics made by a single person, can be just as enticing as a triple-A console game with an estimated development budget of $15 million dollars. Although I do feel a tinge of guilt for the witching I missed out on last night, I don't regret my time with You Must Build A Boat – though I am a little worried about how many more hours I'll lose during my next boat-building session.

You can expect Bryan's review of You Must Build A Boat early next week.