Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is unlike any game you will ever have played. See, not only do you need to utilise your console and controller, but you also have to settle down and read a manual. Yep, a proper instruction manual. You know, those things that normally get binned within seconds of being seen.
A party title which requires at least two people present to play, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes sees one player trapped in a room with a ticking time bomb in front of them. It is their job to accept the mission and defuse the bomb, all before the timer hits zero and the world is blown to smithereens. Surely if Tom Cruise can do it whilst hanging from the bottom of a helicopter, you can do it whilst lounging around in the comfort of your living room?
The problem is you have no instructions as to how the defusing process of these procedurally generated bombs should actually go about. Instead, this is down to the second, third, fourth – or however many people you can squeeze round a written manual – players, to scour the pages of the bomb manual, before delivering clear and concise instructions to the defuser. Of course, like any good party game, clear and concise is usually swapped out for jumbled and frantic. And this is one game that revels in that type of situation.
Depending on which side of the defusing movement you find yourself, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes will see you doing one of two things. The main event consists of staring at a screen and navigating your way round a multi-moduled bomb. This will mean you need to pick out the finer details like serial numbers, battery types and port inputs, before relaying that information towards the experts (experts who aren’t allowed to look at the bomb), to allow them to get an understanding of exactly what they should be looking for in the manual, before then taking on board their instructions and attempting to defuse the bomb. This all starts off easily enough, with just a few different coloured wires that need cutting, but soon you’ll find the addition of further more complex modules in place, with a variety of push and hold buttons to work your way through, a puzzling set of symbols to understand, a whole range of different word and number based situations, and even mazes and morse code elements to try and comprehend. With a timer present at all times, and a number of modules to defuse before the bomb is made safe, it’s a tense affair that will require a cool head.
That need for a cool head isn’t restricted to just the defuser though and the experts in the room will need to work swiftly, precisely and cleverly in order to deliver the correct button prompts and instructions to ensure the player with the bomb doesn’t fail in their task. This means that not only do they have to hunt down the required disarming instructions from a 23 page manual (one that can be viewed online or printed out for ease of use), but will also need to slowly try and get their head around the puzzles that are found within, all by asking questions of the defuser. Notes will need to be taken for success to occur, but again, with the first few bombs found in Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, defusing is a relatively simple affair. It is when you get further down the line, as you delve deeper into the complexities of the 30+ bombs found within the game, that everything gets just a bit trickier; a little bit tenser; a little bit more manic.
It is no more manic than when the addition of ‘needy’ modules hit each bomb, requiring the defuser to constantly interact with them every few seconds. When you have one bunch of players trying to transmit precise instructions to a player who has lights flashing, alarms sounding and seconds counting down in front of their eyes, that is no mean feat.
Drop in some local leaderboards that keep track of your quickest bomb defusals, and the fact that every single bomb is different every time you play through things, you will quickly find Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes a hugely addictive affair that works brilliantly when you have a few like-minded players to hand. That said, whilst most party games work better once a beer or two has been consumed, this is one experience which will not cater for slackers – especially not those under the influence – and every single member of the team will need to bring their A-game to the table in order for bomb defusing success.
A super simple control scheme that just about anyone can pick up ensures that any instructions shouted out from the experts can be implemented in a cinch by the defuser, and clear, bright, well worked visuals allow for any finer details to be picked up on without a care in the world. In fact, the only issue that I have with Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is that the morse code mini-puzzles are just a bit too tricky to really get to grips with – especially once they start getting integrated into bombs that come with multiple modules and very tight time restraints. Thankfully, the random nature of the bomb creation ensures that a quick jump out to the main menu and restart may well see you luck in with no morse codes to worry about.
Alongside the rather lengthy main campaign also comes a free play option and this does pretty much what it says on the tin, letting you create random bombs to roughly your own specifications – making them as easy or difficult as you deem fit. It’s a great way of building up confidence in each module, allowing for new teams to get a bit of practice in before hitting the main event. However, this is a game that really is focused around working your way through the full campaign which is where you’ll get your bomb defusing kicks, and only once that is complete will you possibly find yourself beginning to tire of the whole affair.
As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is unlike anything else you would have ever played, but it has been created so well by the team at Steel Crate Games that it really is one of the most innovative party titles out there. Printing out the extensive manual may seem like a bit of a faff initially – and I’d be more than happy if the morse code puzzles were removed altogether – but the way the two different gameplay elements have been worked together as one is pure genius. For the relatively low price tag, if you’re planning a party, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes should be purchased immediately.
Just remember to keep the instruction manual, yeah!