Word/Puzzle Game of the Year 2015: You Must Build a Boat

By Dave Neumann 17 Dec 2015 0
We all win! We all win!

I first became aware of Luca Redwood when I found myself hopelessly addicted to the Pocket Tactics' Word/Puzzle Game of the Year for 2012, 10000000. Three years later and he's done it again with its sequel. You Must Build a Boat takes everything that made 10000000 so fantastic and ratchets it up a notch, making it the most addictive and entertaining puzzler of 2015.

Like 10000000 before it, You Must Build a Boat mashes up match-3 puzzlers, dungeon crawlers, and endless runners. It's a dizzying combination that forces you to not only watch the board for possible matches, but also keep an eye on what's happening in the dungeon. What's going on there determines which matches are important or worthless at that moment in time. Swords are great, unless your facing a chest and need keys. Add monsters that are resistant to physical damage or magic and then add a few flying traps and you end up with a puzzler that eschews quiet thoughtfulness and feels more like defusing a bomb.

We haven't even touched on the boat, which is what truly separates YMBAB from its predecessor. Yes, you live on a boat which at the beginning of your journey is little more than a canoe. As you progress your ship grows, offering new rooms and crew that each require new resources that can be obtained via matches on the board. Once again, YMBAB ratchets it up a notch.

On top of everything else, Luca added the ability to add quests to each run, allowing the player to set their own difficulty level. He also imbued each level with it's own random boons or banes to shake it up and make sure you were paying attention on each run. You won't be successful in YMBAB if you simply follow the same strategy every time you enter the dungeon.

I asked developer Luca Redwood why a boat? Where did the idea for You Must Build a Boat come from?
It all started with 10000000, which became a big update, then an expansion pack and then at some point, a completely different game. The boat, ( or airship as-it-was-for-a-while  ) was somewhat borne out of necessity - I wanted a home base that you could upgrade and have followers set up shop in, but also the ability to travel around to new areas, it felt a bit janky to return all the way back home between travels, so home had to come with you.

Incredibly enough, the YMBAB we know was originally going to be something very different.
I had a real crisis of faith on this game. At the furthest point YMBAB was near unrecognisable with a very fully developed choose-your-own-adventure style narrative and resource management - but I the played quite a lot of Out There and figured there are already amazing, focused implementations of that type of game and I should focus on the core elements of this game.

So instead, it came down to iterating on what exists and finding the fun, It took around two months to develop the new real-time-matching system just to try out lots of different ways and finding the most fun.

I think he found it.

To see all of the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2015 Awards, visit the 2015 Awards Index page.
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