Developer & Publisher: Steel Crate Games
Platforms: Samsung Gear VR, PC: Oculus Rift DK2 Optional, PlayStation VR, & additional platforms TBA
If you’re looking for a bonding experience to die for, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the game that’ll keep on giving.
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Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a co-op puzzle game created and published by Ottawa-based company Steel Crate Games. The game was released in 2015—pretty good, given that Steel Crate was established in January 2014—and was originally derived from a prototype made in 48 hours that generated outstanding positivity ratings. The idea of the game is simple: you and one or more friends get to disarm bombs through kick-ass teamwork. Sounds fun, right?
It also does away with all narrative structure, taking players straight to every secret agent’s worst nightmare by trapping the main player in a cozy little room with crap wooden walls (just in case the situation wasn’t flammable enough) and making it his or her mission to defuse a bomb according to instructions given by his or her fellow agents—in this case, that’s your lovely, but highly inexperienced friends.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is thus a communicative enterprise between the main player and his/her teammate(s), who have the responsibility of instructing said player in the delicate method of bomb disarmament; the player isn’t even allowed to look at the manual. Thankfully, the game doesn’t get old as long as you and your friends enjoy puzzles—and absurd ones at that. There is a vast catalogue of situations you can choose to get yourself out of, all varying according to the structure of the bomb, the complexity of disarmament, and the time you’re allotted. You’ll choose this in the menu section when you first open up the program. You will also return to this menu once you have either blown up or prevented the explosion.
The game was designed for pure kicks, for the players’ and probably for Steel Crate’s as well. The graphics are fairly detailed yet cartoony, which emphasizes the video game’s overall cheeky tone. You can tell that the designers were thrilled by the prospect of developing the most absurd bombs conceivable; which, apart from the kitchy, arcade-like bomb components of the bombs themselves, is evidenced by the 23 page instruction booklet that contains fairly opaque instructions for disarmament. What kind of explosive has four battery slots and needs you to key in a color code according to which colored light flashes? It’s like playing Dance Dance Revolution except that you’re probably going to die because your friends are too busy arguing over how to interpret the second part of the instructions—while you sit there with a ticking bomb, unable to diffuse the situation (ha).
The greatness of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes lies in its simplicity. By choosing such a basic premise, the three-person company made sure that, despite their small team, they could not fail. By focusing efforts on re-constructing the concept of bomb defusal in conjunction with the idea of teamwork, they were able to flesh out a well-organized program with fairly detailed graphics. Its structure (or lack thereof) also meant that they could expand the amount of trials (or bomb cases), enabling players to pick from a wide range of bombs depending on the difficulty level they desire. Freedom from narrative structure allows this autonomy, which again only adds to the experience. It’s a game that sets out to be fun, and doesn’t claim to do or be anything beyond a hilarious way to waste time.