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Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Platform(s): Android, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Casual
Publisher: Steel Crate Games
Developer: Steel Crate Games
Release Date: Aug. 16, 2018


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Switch Review - 'Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 8, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, one player is trapped in a room with a ticking bomb, and the other players are "experts" who must give instructions to defuse the bomb. The catch is that the experts can't see the bomb, so everyone needs to talk it out – quickly!

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As more people get into video games and the technology continues to improve, we're starting to see games use the platforms in alternate ways that still ensure the offerings are accessible to those who don't consider video games to be their main hobby. Johann Sebastian Joust, one of four games found in Sportsfriends, had the game platform and Move controllers basically keep tabs on who was in or out in a modified version of tag. The Jackbox Party Pack series and the Playlink series still have people crowd around a TV set or monitor, but control for the minigames is handled by everyone's smart device or PC. Most of these were well received and well designed, with some becoming go-to party games. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is similar but requires a cooperative approach instead of a competitive one, and the results are outstanding.

The premise is that one player is designated as the "defuser," who's tasked with defusing a bomb in a locked room. That person can pick up the bomb, rotate it, and view all of the sides to pick up all of the information they can. The bomb can have things like different ports, serial numbers, and battery types powering it up, but the most important parts are the modules themselves. Each module is its own self-contained puzzle, and it can include cutting the correct wire, hitting keys in a specific order, or decrypting Morse code to figure out if a button should be pressed and for how long. The puzzles can be solved in any order, but you're only allowed a total of three mistakes before the bomb blows up. You also blow up if you can't solve all of the puzzle modules in the allotted time.

All other players are dubbed the "experts." They're the ones with the bomb manual (either printed or digital versions), which contains instructions on how to deal with the individual modules. The solutions for each module aren't exactly straightforward, as there are plenty of variations to each puzzle revealed in the convoluted instructions. Some solutions will be dependent on how certain modules look, while other solutions are dependent on other elements, like the serial number on the bomb.

The gimmick is that neither the expert nor the defuser can look at the other party's material. The defuser can only look at the bomb and shouldn't be able to look at the manual, while the experts can only look at the manual but should never see exactly what the bomb looks like. As such, the game requires a great deal of communication between party members to get anything solved. The defuser should be able to accurately describe what they're seeing, and the experts should be able to consolidate all the information they know, confirm the solution, and then pass it along to the defuser without any confusion.

On paper, this seems like it'll produce lots of stressful moments, and the nature of bomb defusal along with a timer does just that. At the same time, those stressful moments lead to loads of laughter when you think about how bad things can get and how determined everyone becomes to make sure the next run goes well. To its credit, the game does a good job of not only randomizing the modules in each bomb but also the layout of the modules, ensuring things are different even when you replay the same stage. The game also throws in a few extra challenges in the form of needy modules, which are activated by some triggers and need to be defused unless you want another strike on your list. If you're playing with the same group all the time, you'll eventually run into some repeat module patterns, but since most party situations have different groups tackling the issue at a time, repetition takes a long while to come up.

Although the Switch is the last platform thus far to get the game, it also happens to be the most ideal way to play it. On the PC, you had the VR option and the ability to play on a laptop, two great ways to ensure that everyone is being kept honest. On the consoles, unless you know everyone isn't looking at the TV, your best bet for honest play is to have everyone shouting from completely separate rooms. The Switch's portable nature means that you get some intimacy with the screen but are still aware of everyone around you, making it a more social experience while providing the option to cheat if you really need to. The relatively low cost compared to the PC means that it isn't too difficult to bring this to any party. The only thing you're missing is the ability to play with custom user mods in the event that you finally solve everything in the title.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a perfect party game, provided your party likes a bit of stress every now and then. The puzzles are deviously fun, and the many permutations for each bomb mean that it'll take quite some time before repetition sets in. The game setup is also brilliant, and it makes the Switch's configuration one of the more sensible ways to play the title. As long as you have a bunch of people who aren't shy about barking loads of information to one another, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a nice addition to your party game lineup.

Score: 9.0/10

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