Exploding Kittens Review - Explosive Online Fun

It's not the deepest game, but it's wacky fun with great online multiplayer

Exploding Kittens 1
Exploding Kittens

The Oatmeal is one of the most popular webcomics on the internet, thanks in large part to its highly-sharable comics with a goofy edge to them. That goofy edge is part of what made Exploding Kittens so compelling and such a massive Kickstarter success. A mobile app followed, and now you can play Exploding Kittens wherever you want, against whomever. No more having to physically get together to play this wacky card game, now you can enjoy it on your Android device.

Exploding Kittens puts up to 5 players in a game, with the goal being to be the last player standing. You draw cards from the deck, trying not to draw one of the exploding kittens that are in the deck. If you draw it, then you have to defuse it by playing one of your defuse cards or being eliminated from the game. Now, if you defuse the card, you put it back in the deck and can do so as either one of the next few cards, or on the bottom of the deck. This can instill a paranoia in other players – just where is that kitten? And one of the power-up cards that players can use draws from the bottom of the deck – it can be a trap!​

The various powerup cards bring a real sense of wackiness to the game. From cat diarrhea that prevents an opponent card from being used to cards that let players see further into the deck, to slap cards that force someone else to take a turn, all sorts of goofy things can happen. And that's part of the fun of the game – screwing over your opponents as you try to stay alive and not draw the dreaded exploding kitten. There's a persistent tension from the unknown, and the comedy from the game itself, and its goofy effects.

Originally, the game only supported local multiplayer, but that was rectified well before the Android release, which has online multiplayer. Thankfully, the iOS version of the game dramatically improved when the online functionality was added. And that's in the Android version as well, with the addition of cross-platform multiplayer to boot. It's pretty easy to find a game, as you can either join a random public game or start a private lobby that friends can join with a certain code. The code system actually makes this something where you could easily stream games with people watching a stream by having them see the code as you stream. There's not really any way to find people just by Google Play Games ID, but you can still get games going easily enough by communicating with your friends. Also, this system ensures that cross-platform play can happen.

Matches are short enough that you can enjoy this game on a bus ride if you so choose. The wait timers for each player are long enough that some thought can be put into moves. This just makes sense as a tablet/phone game, and it's great fun to have the online multiplayer. A thoughtful feature that's worthy of mention is the chat system. You can only send pre-made messages, yes. But if someone's being obnoxious or annoying, then you can mute them. This is a simple feature that makes the game feel so much better because it prevents players from being annoying without recourse. Clash Royale has a taunt limit, but still, if you don't want to hear anyone's taunts or messages at all, then you can just mute everyone and go on with the game. Of course, the ridiculousness of the game is tempered somewhat by not letting people send silly messages, I suppose, but that's your choice. Sadly, there's pretty much no singleplayer options at all, so it's multiplayer all the way down.

I wouldn't regard Exploding Kittens as much of a serious competitive game, though. There's no sort of leaderboard for when you join the random public games, so you're just playing for fun, no glory. That seems like a shallow thing to bring up, but having that compelling hook can add a lot to a game. Also, the game feels a lot like it's designed around chaos and the fun that comes from it. So, while there are perhaps guides you can read to do better at the game, I think that's kind of missing the point of the game. Of course, there are professional Smash Bros. players, and I think that misses the point of the game as well, so who am I to judge? But, there's just something about the way that, say, the slap cards work that feels like this game was built around it being funny that a player would have to take 7 turns in a row, instead of balancing out the game. Thankfully, imbalances can be addressed by the digital version, thanks to the developers already introducing new cards that aren't in the tabletop version.

Exploding Kittens is a ton of fun. If you go in expecting chaotic fun centered around the online multiplayer, you're sure to have a good time. It's not the most serious or deep experience, but it is enjoyable nonetheless.