Have You Played… Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

There aren’t enough games with manuals any more. The smell of a new game’s glossy information booklet is a sensation lost to the ages. But Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes joins the Zachlikes of this world in keeping this tradition alive, even if it means printing out your own manual. It’s a co-op game of disarming bombs and shouting furious nonsense at your partner. It’s brilliant.

I fear many people dismissed it as gimmicky, and I can see why it gives that impression. But the set-up is so perfect that it deserves re-recommending. One person has only the manual, the other person only has a screen with a ticking time-bomb. I played it with my girlfriend, who fell into the habit of deconstructing each stage of her directions into specialist words and shortcut phrases, as I dutifully clipped away at wires and toggled switches. Like any good party game, it’s a test of communication, logical inference and understanding.

We exploded several times.


  1. Da5e says:

    This in VR is just splendid.

  2. CMaster says:

    It is a bit of a gimmick, as it’s only fun until everybody knows how it works. Once both the defuser and the manual readers know all the puzzles, it wears off pretty quickly.

    You could probably lengthen the interest by not swapping out, keeping the two groups entirely separate, so the manual readers never really know what the puzzles are like, but still.

    It’s great fun while you’re still working on communication though.

  3. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    I’ve seen this game played differently at two different parties.

    One was regular people. They blew up a lot and got frustrated. The other was full of IT engineers and technical writers. They crushed it and loved every frantic minute.

    (Liberal alcohol consumption was roughly the same in both cases.)

    • MajorLag says:

      Yeah, one doesn’t get very far in IT without learning how to deal with poorly written documentation. Actually in that regard the BOMB MANUAL is super refreshing because it is 100% accurate, unlike most documentation.

  4. tehfish says:

    This is a game i immensely dislike actually playing myself but find it very entertaining to watch :)
    (was being played at the last two new years parties i went to)

    So i’m glad it exists, even if i’ll never willingly attempt to play it again.

  5. mechavolt says:

    Spouse: Okay, the next module is a radar screen.
    Me: A radar screen? Okay… –starts frantically skimming the manual–
    Spouse: C’mon! It’s a radar screen!
    Me: There…there isn’t a radar screen in here. Are you sure it’s a radar screen?
    Spouse: Yes! It’s clearly a radar screen, look again!
    Me: Okay…–keeps skimming–…nope, still no radar. Can you describe it in more detail?
    Spouse: It’s a screen, with green radar stuff on it. You know, like a radar screen.
    Me: Yeah, no, not seeing that in here. Anything else?
    Spouse: It’s got green grid marks all across the screen.
    Me: That is NOT a radar screen, then. Please describe what it looks like in detail.
    Spouse: It’s a screen, with green radar stuff on it. It’s a radar screen.
    Me: Look, that’s not a radar screen. If you keep insisting on describing it as a radar screen, I’m never going to be able to find it in this manual.
    Spouse: Then I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a radar screen.
    BOMB EXPLODES, I look at the computer screen. Totally not a radar screen. We don’t play that game together anymore.

    • Herring says:

      Much the same experience the one time we’ve played as a family. The component that needs you to start at a grid point and move to other grid points. I started using Cartesian co-ordinates and my wife thought that was needlessly obtuse.

      Cue row while the bomb ticks down :D

      We are going to play again but I have to promise to stay calm :D

  6. April March says:

    I haven’t had a chance to play it. But it’s funny to watch Let’s Play’s (argh, that plural). Especially to contrast the usual shouty youtubers going NO NO IT IS A THING THAT HAS A TAIL AND FOUR THINGS and then you flip to the dudes that have mastered it and the player goes “Davis, maze, entry five two exit five six splotches four three and five five. Melissa, get ready for complex wires. Sam, code, kitty-omega-face-aicht. Davis, give me the maze solution.” (AND DAVIS DOES)

    • beleester says:

      The best part of this game is definitely the shared language you develop, once you get tired of hilarious communication mishaps. You invent common names for the button symbols (My friend started using “left boob” and “right boob” for two of the symbols). You standardize on how you want to read off rows and columns. You create new ways to read “Uh uh” and “Uh huh” so that you can’t confuse them.

      And once you’ve traded off a few times, you learn what the other person really needs to know and how to report it more efficiently. Your speech becomes very terse, since you don’t need to ask as many questions and you don’t have time anyway.

      We never got as crazy as the Youtube professionals, but solving the Memory puzzle ended up sounding like this for us: “Memory. Screen says 3.” “Press 2.” “Position 3. Screen says 4.” “Press 3.” “Position 1. Screen says 2…”

  7. second_hand_virgin says:

    Friendly Warning: every game of KT&NE with adults has a tendency to be a remake of “f#ckity f#ck” scene from The Wire, so better put your kids to sleep before playing.