Boat Building.

EightyEight Games Must Build a Marketing Department.

Seriously - these folks develop great games but they totally suck at naming. Their first game, "10000000" is impossible to discover with an App Store search and this title is so long the actual app's title on screen is #ymbab. It's fun in a quirky "hipster geek cachet" sort of way, but get past the name and you will see why Apple awarded it a Best of the App Store title in 2015.

EightyEight might want to get a graphic designer too. You Must Build a Boat has a graphical look that doesn't quite look retro but is no where near modern. It kind of evokes a 90's "bad shareware on a 3.5 inch floppy" vibe. It's flat pixel art, with no depth and little shadowing. "Meh" at best.

So we're really talking this game up, huh? Well look - the whole point of Nomad Gamer is a curated list of games that are great to play in small bites. We aren't a review site or a marketing factory for development houses with cash. We just point out great gameplay and You Must Build a Boat or #ymbab or whatever is pure gold. The premise is you are on a journey down a river to some sort of goal. To get there, you need to build a bigger boat to survive the river. As you travel down the river you stop for what I am calling "dungeon runs" (some runs take place outdoors) where you encounter chests filled with gold and raw materials as well as monsters to defeat. Unlock chests and kill monsters, and at the end of each run you walk away with your cash and bonuses that you can spend to upgrade your boat and continue down the river.

The game mechanic is really cool. In a "dungeon run" your character is shown at the top of the screen running left to right. When you encounter a monster you match tiles at the bottom of the screen to defeat them. This isn't matching in a Bejeweled swapping sort of way, it is more of a "slide three" game where you slide entire rows and columns up and down to form the match. Sliding gives you a lot more options, but since the game is timed it engenders just the right amount of frantic fun. 

Matching swords and staves does damage to monsters. When monsters hit you they knock you to the left. Get knocked off the screen and the run is over. Collect your gold and go back to the boat. Matching each symbol has a unique effect - shields keep you from suffering knockback, crates contain goodies, etc. Special items and spells also drop into the grid and tapping them activates their bonus. Play is smooth and fun. Those ugly icon-like graphics? Yeah well they are clean and easy to read when sliding everything around. See, there is a method to EightyEight's madness.

There is not much to say about You Must Build a Boat. It's a simple game with a simple mechanic that is just flat out fun. It is well worth the $2.99 entry fee. There are no in-app purchases of any sort, doesn't require a data connection, is a microscopic download across LTE and it includes Game Center achievements and daily challenges that extend the game's play value. There is a reason this made the 2015 "best of" list. If you missed this one, check it out and go play Noah.