Retro Review: Night Trap
Platform: Sega Mega CD
Developer: Digital Pictures
There are a lot of words that could be used to describe Night Trap; camp, boring, cheesy, hilarious, or just plain crap, but words like shameful, ultra violent, sick and disgusting simply don’t fit the profile of this game. Yet, these were words used by highly educated people when Night Trap, amongst other games, were being discussed at the United States Senate in the 90’s.
Night Trap was one of the first Full Motion Video (FMV) games on the market and as such was seen as a huge leap in terms of technology. Before FMV games came along we were perfectly happy playing colourful cartoon style games, but the idea of actually being in a movie and controlling the outcome of what you were seeing had many people, (including myself), salivating at the prospect.
The promise of these games and what was actually delivered were two entirely different things and people soon began to see games like Night Trap, Ground Zero Texas, Corpse Killer and Sewer Shark as nothing more than barely playable gimmicks. Also, the technology wasn’t very good at all, especially on the Mega CD and instead of crisp visuals you were faced with a tiny grainy image which wasn’t particularly pleasant on the eyes.
Believe it or not Night Trap began its life in 1987 for a failed Hasbro computer called Control-Vision, with the idea being to use VHS tapes instead of traditional cartridges. This brings back memories of the board game Atmosfear which I always thought looked really cool. The game was placed on hold due to the cancellation of Control-Vision and later revived when CD-ROM became a viable option.
The plot of Night Trap is that you are a member of Sega Control Assault Team or SCAT for short. I recently found out that scat has an entirely different meaning and let me tell you that it is completely horrifying compared to anything featured in this game. Trust me when I say that you really do not want to type scat into google images.
A number of girls have begun to disappear and the last place they were seen was at the seemingly normal household of Mr & Mrs Martin and their family. SCAT know that more girls are going to the house and send in an undercover agent (Dana Plato) to keep an eye on things. As it turns out the Martins are vampires complete with their own personal army of bloodsuckers. The house is filled with enemies called Augers which are absolutely hilarious and are in fact men dressed in black net jumpsuits. The way they move and shamble around the screen is so funny that I was smiling the whole time. Sick and disgusting indeed!
The game plays out in real time and your job is to watch the cameras placed in different rooms around the house. As you watch you see the action take place and learn clues about what the hell is going on. The “gameplay” happens when you see the Augers creeping around the house resembling monkey men rather than intimidating monsters. On the main screen is a bar which moves from green to red. The trick is to activate the traps at exactly the right time to capture the Augers in the increasingly inventive traps. Seriously, they must have used ACME from The Road Runner cartoons to install these traps as they range from beds that fold up, stairs that turn into a slide sending the Augers into a pit and even a spring on the roof of the house catapulting them into the bushes.
This all sounds easy enough, however, the traps are colour coded meaning that you have to listen to the Martins as they change the codes at various points otherwise you are completely defenceless. The problem is that you barely get any time to watch the plot let alone capture the Augers and it can turn into a game of trial and error changing the codes.
I owned Night Trap on its release in 1993 and I didn’t think it was particularly scary or controversial then. Playing the game now it is utterly baffling to me how such a game could garner the type attention and receive the level of notoriety which eventually led to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) being formed.
Night Trap will rightly or wrongly always have its reputation and as such I think it is an important piece of video game history. Whilst I would barely consider it to be a game, I also think it is well worth playing because it is cheesier than a lump of Stilton!
There is a short documentary about Night Trap available on YouTube called Dangerous Games. It explains some of the controversy surrounding the game and is well worth watching especially if you don’t have access to the game.
Graphics – The FMV is very grainy indeed but somehow it adds to the charm of the game. 4
Sound – The sound effects and dialogue are cheesier than a bag of Wotsits but I can’t help but smile when the Augers music is played. 4
Playability – The gameplay is minimal at best and it comes down to just pressing a button at the right time. 3
Re-Playability – There is re-playability to be had if only to see if you can get a bit further in your next play through but you won’t be playing for longer than a few hours 4
Overall – I enjoyed playing Night Trap after all these years. It’s not a very good game but well worth checking out if only just to see what all the fuss was about. 4