Many videogame snobs will reject match-3 puzzle games like Candy Crush outright for a perceived lack of plot. But the plot of a videogame, like any form of storytelling, can be boiled down to one basic element: The protagonist must have an objective. Enter You Must Build a Boat by EightyEight Games, their sequel to 10000000. It’s a match-3 that plays like a dungeon crawler RPG, and it’s easily one of the most fun and addictive mobile games I’ve ever played. Every single aspect of the game hinges on one goal: build a boat that’s large enough to cross the ocean. How and why are irrelevant.
You start with a crew of three on a simple raft. By fighting monsters in dungeons, one of many fantasy RPG staples present in the game, you gather resources and recruit the monsters to join your merry band of misfits. But slashing through these dungeons isn’t as easy as swinging a sword. Attacking, using magic, unlocking chests, and charging your shield are all done by matching the corresponding tiles into groups of three or more. If you can’t match sword tiles in time, monsters push you off-screen and the round is over. If you can’t match key tiles in time to unlock a chest in your path, you guessed it: you get pushed off-screen and the round is over.
Thankfully you can attempt a dungeon run as many times as you want. There are also no waiting periods and no ads for micro-purchases of any kind, a (justifiably) hated feature of games in the Candy Crush vein. There is nothing to stop you from building your boat as fast as you can… besides the real world and other boring garbage like “not missing your stop on the subway.”
Every dungeon has mini-objectives that contribute to the larger goal of building a seafaring vessel, like finding masts or sails. Eventually your boat gets pretty tricked out, and you end up with a blacksmith, a magical items shop, a pub, and various other service providers. At one point you can even recruit a monster who invests your gold in the stock market.
Which brings me to the most delightful feature of this game: It’s silly. Wonderfully wacky and self-aware in its use of RPG tropes. The 8-bit design and MIDI-file soundtrack give the game a nostalgic feel that should make nerds feel right at home. Your crew’s banter in the (quick and painless) tutorial is playful and sarcastic, repeatedly breaking the fourth wall. The items you loot from chests are an assortment of useless (often contemporary) objects like ice cubes, jerky, muscle magazines, and multivitamins, which, true to RPG form, you can later sell for gold.
While the combat mechanic is simplistic, the puzzles and dungeons are increasingly challenging. And the clear goal, that you must build a boat at all costs, is constantly reinforced, giving the game a sense of urgency and purpose outside of matching tiles. I managed to beat the game in just a few days, but there’s an option to replay on a higher difficulty and beat my previous time.
So what are you waiting for? That boat isn’t going to build itself, you know.
Is it hardcore?
You Must believe it.
This fast-paced game combines challenging match-3 puzzles with the best parts of an old school RPG.