You Must Build A Boat has a fairly simple premise: build a boat, stock it with monsters, and have adventures. And when someone tells you to build a boat, it’s usually a good idea to listen. After all, it worked out pretty well for the last guy.
YMBAB is a combination of endless runner and match-three puzzler in which your character explores dungeons, ruins, pyramids and other dangerous locations. Every time you begin a run you’re given one or two quests to complete. Completing those quests will help you build a boat. Your boat grows from a humble raft to a towering vessel, slowly expanding to include shops, libraries, monster trainers and extra rooms for your crew.
The game handles combat in an interesting, intense manner. While on a run, your character constantly runs to the right until he encounters a monster or treasure chest. From there, players must match three tiles onscreen to either attack, block, use a lockpick or collect resources. The match-three system is a little different from Bejeweled or Candy Crush, because you drag an entire line of tiles instead of just swapping two of them. This takes a little getting used to, but doesn’t hamper the gameplay.
Combat and lockpicking becomes an intense race against time, and you’ll often frantically swipe away to try set up attacks. Failing to do so will get your character gradually pushed out of the frame, which signals an end to your run. The game specifies that you can never lose, however, and it becomes comically disconcerting seeing your character get wrecked by a dragon only for the words “YOU WIN” to flash onscreen. Continue to defeat monsters and open chests and you’ll keep running right, and the rewards and challenges increase the further you go.
The other aspect of gameplay is boat management. Completing quests unlocks new monsters for recruitment, and these monsters become part of your crew when hired, conferring permanent passive buffs. Besides the monsters – who look hilarious wandering around the boat – you’ll also slowly add merchants, blacksmiths and other characters to your crew. These bring some RPG elements to the game, and your character is able to upgrade various attacks, spells and armour, or temporarily grant buffs and bonuses.
Fair warning: this game is challenging. There is a high degree of difficulty from the start, and that challenge doesn’t fade. This would be a problem in a free-to-play title, but it works for YMBAB because the difficulty will prompt buyers to get their money’s worth. And by the time that has happened, you’re hooked. The difficulty, charming visuals and rewarding gameplay make for a very addictive and compelling game that you’ll be hard-pressed to put down.