Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes Review (PC)
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the debut project from Steel Crate Games. Originally a concept from the 2014 Global Game Jam, the resulting gameplay video gathered a lot of attention from gamers and press. So Ben Kane, Brian Fetter and Allen Pestaluky formed Steel Crate Games and were spurred into turning Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes into a full formed project. And boy am I glad they did.
The original idea was about diffusing a bomb in virtual reality. A good idea on its own. However, the hook about Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is hinted in the title. This is a multiplayer game, where only one person is actually playing the game. The player is the one that has to defuse the bomb. However, they need a friend. This person is the expert, and they have the manual. The player needs to describe to the expert what they see, and the expert needs to identify in the manual how to defuse the bomb and instruct the player on how to proceed.
The manual is available online. How www.bombmanual.com was still available, I don’t know, but that is where you’ll find it. You can view it on the website, or print it out. Because of this, there are a number of ways you can play the game. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes supports Oculus Rift, and if you have one then playing in the same room as the expert is an easy experience, as the player will be immersed in the VR scene, cut off from the expert. Even if the expert tries to take a peek, the PC monitor just shows a splash screen. (You can however turn on an extended mode for viewing/recording/streaming the VR feed). Using the Oculus, or even without, you can play with the experts in the same room, either working from a printed out version of the manual or the website on another device. Having a party? Print off the manual and give each person duty over a particular section of it. Nobody home and you fancy a game? Then call up a friend on Skype, get them to open the website and work through a few bombs together. Either situation works, and works really well.
It works well because of the variety of the bombs. You can have up to 11 modules on a bomb, though the early levels in the bomb book start you off with 3 and then 6 modules. There are 12 base types of module, with each having a multitude of variations. Even if you replay a level, the bombs are randomly generated, so you are unlikely to ever diffuse the same bomb twice. It’s not just the modules either, there are batteries, serial numbers, ports and other indicators that you may also need to be aware of on each bomb. I’m not going to go into detail about each module, because the fun of the game is working out how to solve them all, but the range from wires and buttons, to Simon Says and Morse Code! All of them are detailed in the manual, and it’s up the player and the experts to communicate efficiently to diffuse each module on a bomb before the timer runs out.
Once you have at least played through the first bomb in the book you unlock freeplay mode. In here you decide how much pressure you want to be under, setting the clocks timer, the number modules, whether to use “Needy” module that can’t be deactivated but instead have to be constantly monitored, and if you want to play hardcore mode, in which the first wrong move will cause the bomb to explode. This just adds further to the replayability of the game. Even if you manage to complete all the levels in the bomb book, you can replay them to try to improve your time.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a great game to play, whether it’s with colleagues at lunch, your other half at home, or your friends over Skype. It works as a team bonding excercise and is quite simply a lot of fun. The concept is fairly simple, but the nature of the theme means the game can be very complex and a tense experience to complete. It absolutely works with an Oculus Rift, especially as the player. The controller layout is spot on and doesn’t ask too much of the player. We had about five people try it in the Oculus and we each said the same thing, that it was the first Oculus experience we’ve had where we actually forget we are wearing the Oculus at all and were completely immersed. That said, playing it without a VR headset is equally pleasing. Using the mouse controls are simple enough that I even managed to be the expert for my five-year old daughter to successfully diffuse a bomb. It was one of the more simple bombs, but she managed it none the less. It was one of those proud daddy moments.
There really is nothing that I can fault this game on. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes absolutely nails what it was trying to achieve, and should be in every VR gamers library, and as many other libraries as possible.
10 bombs diffused out of 10