Jun 072015

Status: Completed once

Most Intriguing Idea: Making both the active game and the narrative be about travel.

Best Design Decision: Putting items on the match board.

Worst Design Decision: Poor information flow.


You Must Build A Boat is the sequel to the match-3 RPG 10,000,000, a game I really enjoyed even though it has a ludicrously bad title. In terms of its fundamental play YMBAB is not much different from its predecessor: the player character runs down an endless hallway as the player slides rows and columns around to create matches. As before, the game has swords, staves, shields, and keys for dealing with enemies and chests in the hallways, as well as resource tiles that reliably give items for use back at the base and unreliably produce items for use during the run (here these are strength, thought, and crates instead of the wood, stone, and backpacks from the previous game). YMBAB adds “traps” to the hallways that will damage the player in some way unless e produces a correct match in time, as well as special crates that must be opened with some specific combination of matches. It also distinctly improves on the original by placing found objects into the match grid rather than into a separate on-screen box. This allows the items to be used both for their own effects and as strategic entities, since the column of tiles they are in will fall when they are used, potentially forming a match.

YMBAB has more of a sense of story progress than 10,000,000, in large part because the running locales and home base change in clear ways as the player completes quests and recruits helpers. Most of the monsters the player encounters can be recruited by first completing a quest and then paying some amount of thought and strength to a particular vendor. Some, however, cannot be recruited this way, and it’s not clear what the player should do to get them. This sort of inscrutability and bad data flow is everywhere in YMBAB. It’s never quite clear how some recruited vendors work (e.g. can the gods ever be pleased with an offering?) and plenty of useful information (distance run, time run, shield level, quest progress) is absent from the running screen for no apparent reason.

My major annoyance with the game is its almost perverse habit of withholding, which may be programmed or may simply be bad luck. Happening on a chest that required specific tiles to unlock it was almost always a sign that none of those tiles would drop in the near future. Getting a quest that required a specific spell also generally meant that the spell would not show up as an item for the next ten runs or so. In what may be a bug, the shield spell never showed up again after I upgraded it completely.

Despite this, the boat with its ever-expanding crew of vendors and monsters has a lot of charm. I also like the symmetry of complementing the infinite runner gameplay with a story about a journey. These things make YMBAB a little bit of an improvement over 10,000,000, which was already a surprisingly good game.

Verdict: Strongly Recommended

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