By Jen Carman on May 15, 2016 at 8:54pm
In any relationship, communication is important. If it’s not successful, feelings can get hurt, too much or no milk gets bought, and sometimes a bomb detonates because *someone* can’t count how many RED WIRES there are or tell their left from their right. My bad.
Enter "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes" by Steel Crate Games.
To play you need one bomb defuser who is the only one that can see the bomb on the screen and is responsible for manipulating it and then you have one or a team of bomb defusal experts who will only look at the bomb's manual. The two halves of the team need to pass relevant information back and forth without really knowing exactly what that relevant information actually is. The defuser doesn’t know what the manual needs to solve the puzzles on the bomb and the experts don’t know what the puzzles on the bomb look like and all the while the timer is ticking down.
Steel Crate Games has come up with an absolute gem with "Keep Talking.". There are so many great things about this game and even more things that help it stay that way. The controls are simple which is fantastic in the immediately stressful environment that comes with bomb defusing, and the bombs are procedurally-generated, so no matter how many times you need to play a level because “red, yellow, yellow, green” is just way too difficult a pattern to remember (STEPHEN…) it will never be the same solution twice so it never really gets repetitive. AND it is VR compatible, if you want an extra immersive experience.
While the controls to view and interact with the virtual bomb are simple, the bomb manual *is not* so simple. It consists of puzzles inside of puzzles, sufficiently complicated that no average person is going to be able to memorize the answers to the bomb modules. You NEED that second person at the manual. Another brilliant perk is that even if you only have one copy of the game you don’t need to physically be in the same location to play. The bomb manual is a free .pdf download and if you have a decent voice connection then the game works just as well.
The BEST thing is to hand a new player the manual, wait long enough for them to open it and say, “…What *is* all this?? Ok, hold on, gimme a sec…” and jump right into the first bomb. The instant panic is pretty hilarious and mistakes will be made. I’m giving my friend some grief here, but it’s all in jest. We played for 3 or 4 hours straight and we became an extremely efficient team - creating this beautiful machine of nicknames for the modules and abbreviated questions and responses and instructions. We really thought we were awesome…
Then Chapter 5 began and we were introduced to the Needy Module. There are 11 standard modules that get solved and stay that way. Then there are three Needy Modules that can be neutralized but they reset themselves, constantly requiring precious seconds of your attention again and again and again. In Chapter 5, the stress level skyrockets and, for us, both sides found this extreme focus, clicking and reading in a tense silence broken only by clipped questions and instructions and mumbled expletives. As stressful and intense as it was, it really was so much fun.
Play this game. Plain and simple. Experience both sides of the table (and then try not to metagame) and play with veterans and newbies. Play with your parents, play with kids, play as a bomb defusing dynamic duo in an intense marathon speed-run, or gather a group of experts to manage the manual as (hopefully) a team, switching out roles as bombs are completed or failed over and over again.
Pro Tip: The single easiest way to make "Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes" exponentially more difficult is to argue. Keep your cool. Keep your friends.