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Review: You Must Build A Boat is a superb match-three/endless runner mash-up

Run! Match! Quest! And realize that until you’ve built that boat, no other game’s getting a look in

Price: £2.29/$2.99
Size: 58.8 MB
Version: 1.0.1617
Developer: EightyEight Games LTD

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This is the good stuff. Rarely does a game come along for iPhone that so totally takes over your life, but You Must Build A Boat sucks hours from your day like a videogame vampire, until you realize with surprise that you’re sitting there in the dark, like an idiot, having attempted to urge your little seafaring crew through just one more mission.

Although visually basic, gameplay and structure have been honed to near perfection. The basis of the game is to send the boat’s captain sprinting down endless corridors, whereupon he faces obstacles such as monsters and chests. To tackle them, matches must be made in the grid of tiles below — swords and staffs to give monsters a smack, and keys to unlock chests and grab some bling.

Fare poorly and you’ll find yourself barged off of the left-hand side of the screen, at which point the game ironically grins YOU WIN!, flings some currency your way (in-game only — there’s no IAP), and plonks you back on your boat. Pretty soon, missions enter the mix, rewards for which may include upgrades to your boat or crew. Eventually, your canoe will have turned into a huge ocean-going vessel, complete with a forge, chapel and pub, various critters hopping about its decks.

At each stage of the journey, You Must Build A Boat subtly tightens the screw, demanding increasingly more of you. Initially, you’re splitting your attention between runner and tiles; towards the end of the finite quest, you must juggle power-ups while remembering any special conditions of the location you’re in and whether the current beastie you’re facing is invulnerable to swords yet will take a pasting from your staff.

By the end, you’ll be at the absolute limit of your ability to split your attention between several things at once, frantically matching tiles while hoping your captain doesn’t get a kicking, but you’ll be loving every second of it.

Running through dungeons, stabbing monsters (that you later recruit!), and unlocking chests for spoils… We assume there’s clearly a simpler way of building a boat, but we doubt it’ll be this much fun.

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