You Must Build a Boat Review

Screenshot of boat in You Must Build a Boat
Towards the end of the game, your boat will grow quite large in size and have several passengers aboard

Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
Developer: EightyEight Games
Publisher: EightyEight Games
Release Date: 5 Jun 2015
Time played: 10 hours

In the beginning, there was 10,000,000

10,000,000 ended up being a game I surprisingly, quite enjoyed. While I don't mind playing the occasional match-3 game it had an addictive gameplay loop and an appealing retro-style soundtrack. It was good fun while it lasted but it's not something I'll likely pick up again, which is probably why the developer, EightyEight Games, wasted no time in developing a sequel to the game called You Must Build a Boat which was released in 2015, a couple of years after 10,000,000. Thankfully I received the game as a gift from my very generous Steam friend Mix-Master pretty much as soon as the game was released (thank you)! I know, I know, it took me quite a few years to finally get around to giving it a go but since I did quite enjoy 10,000,000 and the game was ideal for filling in those short 10-15 minute stints, I was curious to see what EightyEight Games would do in its sequel.

Don't ask questions, just build a bigger boat!

Neither 10,000,000 nor this game are going to win any literary awards for its plot but one does exist. In 10,000,000 your character attempts to free himself from a dungeon by fighting hundreds of monsters that stand in his way. At the conclusion of the game (when you achieve the goal of 10,000,000 points) your character is finally free. The character you play in this game looks exactly the same as the one in 10,000,000 so I can only assume it's the same character but somehow it's a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire as despite finally making your way out of a dungeon you now have to (as the name of the game implies) build a boat! Along the way you'll meet new characters that will become crew members on your boat although they don't really add much to the story and are only really there to be shopkeepers or trainers which you can use to purchase upgrades, similar to your home base in 10,000,000 (except this home base has sails). Eventually you build a boat big enough to complete the journey and once you find the "East Wind" it's game over.

Screenshot of dungeon run in You Must Build a Boat
The game looks similar to 10,000,000 but visuals and audio are improved. There's also a bigger emphasis on quests

Enhancements over the original, but are they necessarily welcome?

If you've played 10,000,000, gameplay is very similar in its sequel. The core gameplay works like a mix of endless runners, RPGs and match-3 games like Bejeweled. The goal for each level is to try to survive as long as possible which means ensuring your character is always outrunning the left edge of the screen. If the left edge of the screen reaches your character, it's game over. Monsters and chests are obstacles that will impede your progress and you have to defeat the monsters and unlock the chests by matching three or more of the appropriate gems on a board.

Each time you make a dungeon run you'll accumulate more loot that you can use to upgrade your stats which will maximise your chances of success. You can upgrade your stats when you return to the boat and you'll eventually want to upgrade the boat itself as this is how you progress between stages.

Despite the core gameplay loop remaining as addictive as ever, there are some slight enhancements to the gameplay in You Must Build a Boat over its predecessor, although at times the enhancements made create potential issues. For example, one aspect I like about this game is that it seems more interactive than 10,000,000 and it's probably because this game has totally embraced the mobile platform, but this also means the interface can be somewhat annoying on PC as it takes much mashing of mouse clicks to get anything done. The game also has a lootbox mechanic that is used to reward your character when you complete a level. While it's not as nefarious as lootboxes from other games (where you effectively have to pay-to-win) some might consider it a form of gambling but I guess the same can be said for almost any RPG where you have randomised loot, right?

The game also appears to be more quest focused this time around to the point where you have to complete particular primary quests in order to advance to the next stage. I'm not quite sure how to feel about this. On one hand it creates more of a challenge and you can't just play the game on autopilot where all you had to do was gain a certain score. But then again, that's one of the reasons I liked the original game, it was just some mindless fun you knew and you always knew you were making progress towards your final goal. In You Must Build a Boat runs are sometimes complete wastes of time and that means the game is less casual than its predecessor.

For those that enjoy the retro aesthetic

If you liked the retro pixelart aesthetic in 10,000,000 you'll be happy to know that You Must Build a Boat retains this style but improves upon it with better animations along with more resolution options. The game also retains its retro chiptune-style soundtrack and thankfully has slightly more tracks than last time (but that's not entirely tough to do when its predecessor only had three tracks in total).

Little reason to play again

If you're into match-3 games you'll probably be happy to replay this game just to experience the addictive gameplay, but those that aren't enticed by the match-3 gameplay and are quite happy to complete a game's campaign never to revisit it will find little reason to play this game once their ten hours or so is up. That's not to say the 10 hours weren't enjoyable mind you and 10 hours is still a solid number of hours of gameplay but just like its predecessor, I wasn't motivated enough to replay the game once I had completed it.

Screenshot of upgrading weapons in You Must Build a Boat
Upgrading weapons in this game is a surefire way to trigger RSI, at least on PC


You Must Build a Boat is a solid sequel to 10,000,000 and is superior in many ways with respect to its improved graphics and audio despite it still retaining its retro aesthetic. Some of the game's enhancements however could be welcome additions for some yet annoying for others. It's a decent enough mix of endless runner, RPG and match-3 game though and it won't break the bank so if that sounds appealing to you, it's worth a look.

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