Systemic Games, a small independent Maryland-based game studio, hit Steam Greenlight with the puzzle-simulation game Bomb Squad Academy in late 2016 and after a successful campaign, readied the title for release. Systemic Games founder, Jean Simonet, is a seasoned developer who worked on such titles as Fallout 3 and Skyrim, and originally created Bomb Squad Academy, which was an entry in the 1GAM game jam.
With the theme of “30 Seconds,” the electronics enthusiast knew the concept was sure to blow up.
Bomb Squad Academy is exquisitely implemented, and Systemic took a great idea and created fourteen tutorials and fifty-five bombs of increasing difficulty. In the beginning, you spend your time understanding the basic electronics of the bomb. Here, you encounter switches, buttons, toggle knobs, and wires leading to timers and detonators. These are pretty straightforward, but as you move onto dealing with logic gates and capacitors, the boards quickly become more involved. The timers build suspense, which increases the intensity of solving the puzzles. At the end of the day, that’s what the title is: a puzzle thinly disguised with a neat theme. It’s not incredibly realistic, though. For starters, you don’t actually die from the bombs, which could be a relief or a disappointment, depending on how your Monday is going. Systemic Games is a team that knows its craft and is comfortable balancing realistic simulation with enjoyable puzzles; in a comment-section feud with an angry fan who complained about the lack of neutral wires to complete circuits, Systemic Games responded that while logic gates typically require their individual power source, they decided to leave those out so the puzzles would be more manageable.
It’s clear from the setup distribution of the components across the academy sections and the layout of each puzzle, which includes the bomb package underneath, that significant time and attention was given to each level. One of my favorite things to see is the detail of the thought. The small details excite me, like when you cut a wire and it doesn’t sever at a general point but at the exact point you aimed your cursor, which was incredibly satisfying.
As you progress, the timers shorten, the boards complicate.
While you may fail once, there’s enough time that you get through each explosive without too much frustration. Of course, there’s a detonation, but each time it elicits more of a face palm from your own actions than from poor game mechanics, a rare find in the genre. There’s also little in the way of consequence – you have an unlimited amount of retries, though I would suggest players fail a couple of tries at least, if only to read the fail text which is quite amusing at times.
Bomb Squad Academy is more fun than it is challenging. Negative feedback, other than the bomb blowing up (of course), is thin, but you get an unlimited amount of tries and can even review what you got wrong before restarting the puzzle. As such, very few will take you more than one try. This is a fantastic puzzler with a playtime nearing two hours and which hits Steam at $6.99: it’s cheaper, and more entertaining, than catching a flick.