“Which wire do I cut?” shouted Chris as I fumbled through pages of strange diagrams and convoluted instructions. This was the first time I’d ever helped diffuse a bomb and it was equal parts intense, exciting and terrifying.
That’s the experience Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes has been designed to give players and we couldn’t get enough of it. Debuting at the beginning of last year, the title was originally designed on the Oculus Rift dev kit, but as of this week, the game’s creators – Steel Crate Games launched the completed version on Samsung’s Gear VR headset (the one built in partnership with Oculus).
Whilst the game is still on track to make its way to the consumer ready Oculus and Sony’s Project Morpheus for the PlayStation 4 later this year, we couldn’t wait that long and luckily the Gear VR skew doesn’t disappoint.
The game is for two or more players, a rarity in the world of VR experiences, but an essential part of what makes this title so great. Luckily each player doesn’t need their own VR headset to get involved, that caveat falls solely to the one who’s willing to run the (worryingly high) risk of getting blown up. The others are the brains of the operation, tasked with educating the wearer on what to do next.
As the game’s title not so subtly hints at, success is based on your communication skills with each other and your ability to work as a team. The diffuser wears the headset and will find themselves in a room with a bomb in front of them on a table. They can pick the bomb up, orient it and of course interact with the various modules on its sides.
The game randomises the modules that appear every time you play and as each module is effectively a complex puzzle, diffusing the bomb requires that you solve each and every one of them before breathing a sigh of relief. The modules feature wonderfully cliché elements like cutting the correct wire, cracking a coded keypad and even playing a twisted game of Simon Says.
The challenge is that despite being presented with all this information, there’s a high probability the diffuser won’t have a clue what to do. Deciphering the bomb’s modules falls to the task of the ‘technician,’ as we’ll call them. It’s their job to consult the bomb defusal manual and extract the useful bits of information that won’t get their colleague killed any sooner than necessary.
Whilst virtual reality helps up the immersion factor for the diffuser, it’s the bomb disposal guide that really stands out as a touch of genius. Although Steel Crate Games has published the manual on its website, for a true sense of authenticity there’s a PDF version of the handbook, designed so that it can be printed out into a 23-page, A4 document on how to deal with the various modules the game’s bombs throw at your companion.
The guide itself is written in such a way and the puzzles are structured to clearly throw both technician and diffuser for a loop. The rules and behaviours of certain puzzles change depending on small details like whether the bomb’s serial number features a vowel or the number of batteries mounted on the casing. The difficulty doesn’t let up and the only real key to success relies on the diffuser offering good descriptors and the technician understanding the convoluted mechanics of each of the bomb’s modules as written in their handy guide.
From a gameplay standpoint, there are a number of qualities that make Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes so fantastic. Similarly to how CGI effects should be used to augment and not replace practical effects in big Hollywood films, here the fact that this is a VR title isn’t technically an essential part of the gameplay, but rather a tool to help sell the illusion, improve immersion and ramp up the tension in the best way possible.
Many, including the game’s developers have theorized on other mediums beyond VR through which the game could be played. The technician could be feeding actions over the phone or via Skype and screen-sharing or live streaming the bomb and its current state to your team could happen essentially anywhere.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes deftly handles how to offer up a compelling multiplayer experience, brings one of the strongest VR titles in the business to the mobile space and teaches us all a thing or two about game design. If you can handle the $9.99 price tag and either own or intend on owning Samsung’s Gear VR, there’s little reason why this title shouldn’t be in your library.
You can buy the Gear VR from O2 right now for £79.99