The match three puzzler. Due to the overly pervasive nature of the genre combined with the easy to learn mechanics, this genre tends to rank somewhere between Farmville and urethral herpes on the scale of derision for your average hardcore gamer. I have made no bones about enjoying these games in the past, but I am certainly in the minority. Fortunately, due to the more complex overarching mechanics that could be found in EightyEightGames’ 10000000, the hardcore community was able to find itself making an exception for just this one. Well, I guess now we can make that two, because You Must Build A Boat is an absolutely worthy follow up, and one of the most rigorously compulsive games I have touched in a while.
Starting off, though, the name is a misnomer. The boat is built. The game starts with you floating up to the first dungeon on a boat. It’s there. I suppose I can find it in my heart to be forgiving as “You Must Expand the Size of This Boat, This One Right Here, and Then Populate it with Creatures and People You Find in Dungeons” might be a little too long for store fronts. YMETSOTBTORHATPIWCAPYFID, as it should be properly abbreviated, does have the hooks to earn said forgiveness.
The idea is that the adventurer runs through a dungeon, using matches on the board to bypass obstacles to proceed. When coming across monsters, the player will want to focus on matching sword and wand pieces to defeat it. Chests are opened by matching keys. There are also shields to boost defense, thought and strength for recruiting monsters, and crates that can randomly drop useful items directly onto the board.
While matching the correct tiles to the situation is absolutely the way to win, I have found that the game tends to elicit a sense of urgency in spots that left me close to panic, matching something, anything, in hopes that I will luck into what I need. For those that like to plan ahead to get the best combos, I wish you good luck. I was never able to stay level headed enough to plan more than two moves ahead.
While proceeding through the dungeons will net gold and resources to use to upgrade back at the boat, the only way to truly succeed and move to the next stop along the river is to complete quests. These range from things like “perform X amount of damage in one hit” to “make it to the third stage of this dungeon.” Finishing these grants items with various functions, monsters that can be recruited for stat buffs, and new people to join you on your journey. (And sell you stuff.) The way these quests are doled out is perfectly balanced. I found that when I was able to finish the last quest of a dungeon, I was perfectly leveled and equipped to start the next area. There was never a time I felt severely outclassed as I moved along the river. That isn’t to say that there was no challenge. It just always felt fair.
While the game itself is great fun, I cannot get behind the graphics. The appearance is that of a souped up version of an Atari 2600 game, with very simple pixel inhabitants and environments. I realize that this is an intentional aesthetic choice, as there is certainly an artistic talent here. The detonation of the “crate bomb” item is a very cool effect that gives the impression that the board is coming out of the screen from the shock waves of the explosion. That, alone, is proof enough for me that the style is done by choice, not due to a limitation of talent.
The sound, though, is stellar. The effects are very 8-bit, while still lending a meaty feel to a landed hit. Unlocking a chest is very satisfying. Really, though. I have to curse the sound for the creation of wonderfully catchy ear worms. There simply is not a dud among the musical offerings. If you have ever appreciated the music from an 8 or 16 bit title, you will find something you like here. (I really need to look into getting the soundtrack.)
Really, there is quite a bit on offer here for a meager five dollar asking price. The campaign is lengthy, 7-10 hours, and provides numerous smaller goals in support of obtaining the big one: building a larger boat. The base play is always the same, but the goals found me adjusting strategies on the fly. For this, I have to recommend YMETSOTBTORHATPIWCAPYFID. It’s just too fun, too great a value to pass up.
Also, if were to ask me if you should go with 10000000 or YMETSOTBTORHATPIWCAPYFID first, I would recommend YMETSOTBTORHATPIWCAPYFID. Both are good, but there is just so much more in the sequel.