We have seen it in countless movies over the years. Character A must defuse a bomb with character B (who's the bomb expert) on the other end of a telephone/walkie talkie, guiding character A forward through a tricky, sweat-inducing life or death procedure. The question Steel Crate Games then asked was: how would you best implement this scenario in video game form? Well, via virtual reality of course. The premise is simple; the clueless player defuses the bomb by means of instructions coming from a screaming group of friends who happen to have the blueprints for said bomb, while the diffuser can only see the bomb.
The person who has the VR headset strapped to their head sees the bomb in front of them in a room. The other person/people have a selection of sheets of paper in front of them on the screen containing instructions on how to proceed and disarm the bomb, and thus it's their aim to save our VR hero from the indignity of being turned into mincemeat. It's not quite as simple as it sounds, however, as each bomb has various modules that must be solved, and this means that the person or persons on the sofa need to examine the blueprints meticulously in order to get everything right.
Those who sit with the manuals have 23 pages of text and pictures in front of them, and to locate the right page and the right solution they need to constantly talk to the person who can see the bomb. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes must therefore be played by at least two brave souls, but there is really no limit to how many people can join in on the fun.
From the VR perspective you're placed in a room in front of a table with the bomb sat in front of you. On the table is an alarm clock, and on the walls there are some posters. The first thing you must do is to ascertain what kind of bomb you have to deal with, which modules there are, and what the modules are like. Only by talking about what you can see while your teammates sift through instructions can you solve the challenges one at a time until you can catch your breath and wipe the sweat from your lips and celebrate not being dead.
The bombs come in various shapes and sizes. Some cables have to be cut in the correct order. Some have cables that run vertically rather than horizontally (which also must be cut in the correct order), and there's a variety of other things to keep track of. Among the sheets of paper that make up the manual it says for example: "If the bomb has a wire positioned at the top but it's not yellow, cut the fourth wire. If the bomb has no red wire at all, cut the second wire". In other modules you must place the icons in the right order and sometimes you must even identify the bomb by reading the serial number located on the side. Overlooking a tiny detail can result in disaster, so it pays to be vigilant.
Sounds hectic? It is, at least for two or three play-throughs. After this the game loses its charm and it becomes fairly easy to solve the various modules as they change very little. However, it is hysterically amusing the first few times, especially if you have a bunch of buddies on the couch all trying to decipher the instructions in their own way while you're watching the clock tick down and all you can do is hope that they come up with something sensible in time.
It's clear that Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is meant to be played for a short time, perhaps with friends who may not have played as much VR before so as to demonstrate the possibilities of virtual reality. Sure, it's exciting the first time, to really trust someone who sounds a little unsure of which wire to cut is fun, but there isn't very much to come back to in the long run and perhaps it would fit better in some form of collection of casual titles instead of as a standalone game.