Why I Love: The garden lady in You Must Build a Boat

It’s a common conundrum: you want to cross a particularly large body of water, but your boat is too small. What, pray tell, are you to do? Well, build a bigger one, obviously, by playing a match-3 game to fight your way through dungeons. Ok, it makes about as much sense as Puzzle Quest, but You Must Build a Boat makes such clever use of RPG stat-updating to keep its tile-swapping gameplay interesting that I’m happy to handwave the whole reason for the boat construction. I’m on my second playthrough of YMBAB and can now say with certainty that my favorite thing about it is the garden lady.

It’s not enough to build a boat, you see - you also have to fill it with a crew. As you progress through the game’s dungeons, you’ll persuade all manner of creatures to hop on board, many of which provide game-enhancing functions. There’s the lizard who runs the forge and makes your sword tiles do more damage, there’s the librarian who teaches you about the enemies you’ll face, and there’s the…ok, I’m not really sure what he is, we don’t judge on my boat. If I can find room for a muck beetle, a doom engine, and an imp, I can sure as heck find room for the thing with no face that resells the extra swag I pull out of treasure chests.

The garden lady, however, is a whole other situation. She just seems to want to tag along because hey, why not? It’s Tuesday and she didn’t have anything much to do today anyhow. I kept visiting her during my first run through YMBAB, hoping she’d eventually have something for me. A hint. A bonus. Advice. Cookies. But no, she couldn’t really care less about this whole boat-building thing you’ve got going on, she just wants to know if you like her garden. Well? Do you? DO YOU?

I did, eventually, build the boat and complete the game, but Garden Lady haunted me. Surely she must serve some purpose. Even the guy who just says “Hmph” for a long time eventually gives you the opportunity to play the game again on a harder difficulty, so Garden Lady must have a similar secret, right? When Hmphry gave me the chance to start over again, I took it, hoping that maybe this time I would do whatever secret voodoo was necessary to win Garden Lady’s approval.

And lo and behold, this time, Garden Lady gave me a figurehead for my boat! It does….nothing, as far as I can tell. So she’s still a totally useless member of the crew, or at least so it would seem. I am, naturally, intrigued. Surely there must be more to Garden Lady than a pointless decoration for my boat. There simply must be more going on than this. Your secrets, Garden Lady, shall be mine. By hook or by crook, I shall know of your true purpose. Yessssssssss.

I don’t actually know that there’s anything more to Garden Lady, and if there is, I’m sure I could just hit up Google or ask on Twitter and have the answer in a few seconds. I’m not going to, though. I like my relationship with Garden Lady just the way it is, with her taking up space on my boat and me not really sure if she’s trolling me or what. It’s a friendly kind of antagonism, one that gives me a solid, if silly, reason to keep playing a fun game that I’ve already technically finished.

Oh, and GL? Your roses could use a little work. You’ve got aphids like mad.

Susan Arendt

Susan was once Managing Editor US at GamesRadar, but has since gone on to become a skilled freelance journalist, editor, producer, and content manager. She is now 1/3 of @Continuepod, 1/2 of @BeastiesLl, co-founder of @TakeThisOrg, and Apex Editor, Fluid Group.