It’s possibly the co-op game you’ve been waiting for all your life… or possibly not, but I’ll err on the side of positivity here. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is all about communication and co-operation, and failing to do either is going to get one of you blown up (though not literally). When Steel Crate Games thought about making a bomb disposal game in a VR environment they really hit on something special, this is both simple and complex, immense fun, and you don’t need to be a real life expert to defuse a ticking device.
The premise of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is very simple: 1 player is trapped in a room with a ticking bomb that only they can see, the other player (or players, because there’s no real limit here) has a set of defusing instructions that can stop the bomb from going kaboom. Neither player can see each others information, so being able to accurately describe what’s going on with each is paramount. Throw in the fact there’s a time limit and you’ve a recipe for rapid talking, frantic controller manipulation and seat of your pants decisions. Early bombs ease you into the different types of module which range from simple wire cutting, to number sequence memorisation, and come with a generous time limit. Progress further and things get pretty complex requiring cross-referencing and appendices lookups as well as contending with a ticking clock and other distractions. Getting to the “Exotic” section needs patience, being calm under pressure and a quick and sharp mind.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes can be played in the same room using the second screen manual, through shareplay in the same way, over party chat as long as the “expert” has access to the online defusing instructions, or using the web details on completely different platforms. If you want to phone a friend to get help stopping the clock, you can do. Through my time with the game I’ve tried the different roles, and both same room and remote co-op, and it always works well. The structure of the game and what you’re being asked to do is consistent wherever you are, and the interface via VR is smooth and easy to use. Rotating and selecting the different elements of the bomb is straightforward, and several seconds is usually enough to convey what you have to do. Whilst it’s the modules that get disarmed, there’s still information on the outside of the bomb case, and certain lit sections or the battery type can have a significant impact of which instructions are used. Even the serial number is important, so nothing can be overlooked.
Failure to disable within the time limit or too many mistakes are the failure conditions, which might make you think about being reckless – don’t be. There may be 3 strikes available generally, but each buzzer you sound that indicates a wrong move will speed the clock up. 5 minutes might sound a lot, but it flies by when you’re back and forth with your partner trying to figure out what the right answer is. We even resorted to pens and paper at one point to get through some of the puzzles. With just enough variety to stop things getting repetitive, and randomly generated bombs so that it’s impossible to practice one specific scenario, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is on one hand ruthless in promoting failure, yet hooks you into trying again and again when things don’t go right. It could be simply the fact that games don’t take too long and it’s not like you’re doing exactly the same action all the time. It could also be that with all the answers in your hand there’s really no excuse for not getting it right, it’s all down to how fast you can speak, read and think.
By cleverly mixing real world activity and virtual reality, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes provides one of the more unique games I’ve played in the last few years. It works very, very well, and is entertaining however, and with whoever, you play it. With potential as a great party game as well as fulfilling those Hurt Locker fantasies, this is a wonderfully executed concept that deserves your full and focussed attention.
A PSVR review copy of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes was provided by the Steel Crate PR team, and the game is available now on PC, Mac, Samsung Gear VR and PS4.