App of the week: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes review
Can you and a chum ‘be the bomb’, defusing absurdly complex explosive devices, or will everything blow up in your face?
You know that bit in the movies, where the hero finds a bomb? For giggles, the big bad has inexplicably strapped a massive LED clock to it, counting down to fireworks time. As the seconds tick away, you yell at the screen: “Cut the blue wire, you massive idiot!” But it turns out, as Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes ably illustrates, this fake bomb-disposal lark isn’t as easy as it first appears.
Here, you’re presented with a ‘modular’ bomb. Inside a metal case – along with the aforementioned timer – are a bunch of components, each of which must be dealt with individually. There are the usual wires of varying hues, but also things like big punchable buttons, embedded miniature Simon rip-offs, and keys labelled with words and cryptic symbols. And there’s no indication whatsoever regarding what to do.
Start with a bang
Instructions for defusing the bomb – instructions, note, that were apparently written by a sadist – are available in-app, and also online. The twist is, you’re not supposed to look at them while you work. Instead, a friend helps you not explode by providing solutions to the module you’re grappling with. If you’re playing properly, they’re not supposed to be able to see the bomb.
You can see where this is all going. Even with two people, you end up in a panic-strewn mix of tension, adrenaline and ferocious argument, with one person flicking through a PDF (or, better, a printout of said PDF), and the bomb tinkerer yelling that they have in fact already pressed the button that looks like an impaled carrot, so would their cohort just get on and tell them what to do next?
It’s a blast
In a group, the game heads into the same surreal multiplayer territory as Spaceteam. A cacophony of instructions and requests fills the room as, invariably, everybody finds out if they keep shouting, everybody explodes. In an era of gaming where multiplayer usually means competition, the focus on cooperation in Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes feels fresh – as does, if you print copies of the manual, the mix of the virtual and real worlds.
On Dream VR kit, the Android release can take that a step further that’s ultimately denied to iOS. (You do wonder whether an AR mode might have been a good idea.) Still, just playing on a touchscreen and hammering away at virtual buttons beats using a PC keyboard or gamepad. And with algorithmically generated bombs, there’s plenty here to keep you defusing – and arguing – for the long-term. That’s assuming your friendships don’t blow up in the meantime.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is available for Android and iOS. It was previously released for consoles, PC, and VR systems.
A smartly designed and endlessly replayable multiplayer gem that rivals Spaceteam for shouty cooperative fare
Varied and devious modules
Level-based and freeplay modes
Optional Daydream on Android
Some modules can become a chore
Little scope for solo play
A touch fiddly on smaller screens