Bomb Squad Academy (opens in new tab) sure is cheery for a game about defusing an array of increasingly complex bombs. “Flip flops are so much fun... Let’s use more!” your faceless instructor chirps before revealing a mess of switches, wires, and the beeping that signals your impending doom. The ticking sets your heart racing, your brow starts to sweat, perhaps your hands are a bit jittery. Of course, all of that stress is fleeting—if you successfully disarm the bomb, you feel a brief sense of relief and pride before it’s on to the next one. If you lose, well, you might jump in your seat a bit, but then it’s back to the drawing board. This is a game that teaches you to delight in learning from your mistakes.
Bomb Squad Academy is a high-stakes educational tool cleverly disguised as a game that teaches you the essentials of electronics. It walks you through eight different electrical concepts, gracefully adding layers of complexity to each of the puzzles as you progress.
It feels like tinkering with an electronics set. You’re taught each concept, like AND and OR gates, for example, with simple tutorial levels to cement your knowledge before testing you. These practical tests task you with disarming bombs, as you use all of the know-how you’ve gleaned by that point to keep things from going boom.
This slow drip of new ideas skillfully raises the difficulty level while making you feel like a real smarty-pants in the process. Bomb Squad Academy teaches by example, before letting you loose to apply your newly-found skills. Presented with an electrical board, it’s your job to redirect current away from the detonator and towards disarming the bomb. This is complicated by switches, capacitors, flip flop boards, and complex wiring.
Because the challenges are driven by logic you have to unravel, I didn't feel frustrated by an unfair or poorly crafted puzzle. At the same time, the ticking timer adds a sense of urgency that ensures you speed things along, while maintaining diligence at the same time. When presented with jumbled switches, wires, and multiple timers, it takes concerted effort not to surrender to the beep, beep, beeping and simply start pushing buttons and trimming wires at random.
In this way, Bomb Squad uses a light hand to guide you through each puzzle—it leaves you to your own devices for the most part. There are no real hints you can fall back on if you’re having trouble, though you’ll notice conveniently placed notes scribbled on the circuit board—“Split the current” or “Closed Loop”—that offers subtle guidance in the most desperate of times. You’re typically given anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes before the bomb goes off, though there are options to extend that time if you’re having trouble.
Boom goes the dynamite
With that said, a detonation isn't the end of the world, though the game may laugh at you. “You didn’t need that arm anyways,” the faceless text blurb teased after one of my failures. You’re given the opportunity to examine where you went wrong and poke around with the board before restarting, making it easy to plan your next strategy—a small touch that helps immensely as you progress to more difficult levels. You can retry as many times has you’d like without penalty (not counting the jump scare that is), which may lower the impact for some.
It’s a simple concept, quickly jumping from one circuit board to the next. That’s all there is to it, really, which may get repetitive for folks who find the puzzles more or less challenging than others. I had a wonderful time with Bomb Squad Academy, but as someone who gets frustrated with feats of logic after a while, I found I best enjoyed the game with a few breaks sprinkled in between the game’s tricky tests to upset the repetition (and the incessant beeping).
At $7 (opens in new tab), Bomb Squad Academy is priced proportionately to the hour or two you'll spend with it. It's encouraging that the developer also has plans to create a circuit board editor that will allow players to create their own puzzles and share them with others, adding much more replayability. Bomb Squad Academy is a refreshing, cerebral puzzler that might just teach you a thing or two about electronics in the process. That’s some cheap and easy knowledge right there.