Sometimes a game can give you problems. Not “I don’t know how to get past X boss” sorts of problems, but more like “I don’t know how I should feel about this game” sorts of problems.
Night Trap is a game that has been quasi-famous (or quasi-infamous, if you like) since the mid 90s primarily due to being used as an example of sex and violence in video games. In fact, along with titles like Mortal Kombat, Night Trap is part of the reason we have a video game rating system. On top of this, there were a slew of court hearings about video game violence which cited Night Trap as a sick and twisted mess, something anyone who had actually played the game would be surprised to hear considering how incredibly tame it was, even by 90s standards. In fact, it was once admitted that the person behind the hearings had never even played the game in question but claimed that he ‘didn’t need to’ in order to see that the game was trash.
The game is an ‘Interactive Movie’, one of the first of its kind. Using real footage, it tells the story of a family of vampires who’ve turned their home into a trap designed to capture victims so their blood can be drained and bottled. The reason for this odd process is to feed a group of toothless vampires called ‘Augers’ who cannot hunt for themselves as they have no teeth to suck blood with. The name Augers comes from a strange drilling device they use to extract the blood from their victims. You play as a member of the hilariously named S.C.A.T. (in the original Sega Control Attack Team) who have taken control of the house’s defences and cameras to try and protect the next bunch of innocents.
The gameplay mainly focuses on viewing the 8 cameras that are placed in different rooms of the house and activating traps as bad guys walk over them. The traps can only be activated when a flashing indicator turns red, and on top of that, you have to have the correct colour code selected, otherwise the traps wont work. This colour code changes at predetermined points throughout the story, although the colour it changes to is random. This colour changing mechanic causes the first issue with the game, because although it isn’t hard to learn when the colour code is going to change, the code doesn’t actually change straight away. Instead, without telling you, the game expects you to know that the code changes a few seconds after the bad guys have left the room.
Because you need to have split second timing when it comes to dropping bad guys into traps, this confusion means that getting a perfect run, something that is required if you want to unlock all the extras, is an exercise in constant frustration. Furthermore, there are also times during the story where you have to trap a bad guy to save a character and other times where you absolutely cannot activate the traps because it’ll catch an innocent victim, and in a lot of these cases, a single failure can give you an immediate game over.
Luckily, there is something which can help to counteract the frustration and difficulty present in the game. Instead of icons which represent each of the rooms in the house, you’re presented with a tiny video feed of the CCTV for each room. This makes it easier to spot when a bad guy is sneaking through the house and means that you can catch the odd straggler here or there to keep your bad guy tally up. This feature might not help you to avoid sudden surprise game overs, but at least they can stop you missing bad guys your first few times through the game.
Once you beat the game, you do unlock a cinema feature which allows you to watch through all of the game’s footage as much as you want. Strangely, this is the format in which Night Trap works the most; an interesting curio to be examined. Along with this cinema mode, there are also documentaries about the making of the game and its impact on the industry. These extras are easily the best part of the entire package. Night Trap is only interesting because it is unusual, and when it is presenting itself as a part of gaming history and an interesting experiment in interactive fiction, it becomes infinitely more enjoyable.
Visually, the game looks insanely better than the version from the 90s, but then again, how could it not look better? Instead of being presented in grainy bit-crushed FMV, everything is crystal clear, or at least as crystal clear as video footage can get. Although the aspect ratio remains at 4:3, the HUD has been tidied up and given an HD lick of paint, even if the footage is far less than HD resolution.
In keeping with the ‘museum’ style of the game, as well as the HD HUD and moving room icons, you can also use any of the HUD elements from any release of the game. While this is an interesting addition for fans of the game, it adds very little. Having said that, changing the room icons back to static images does mean that there is more of a challenge to the game (not that it needs it).
Developer: Screaming Villains
Publisher: Screaming Villains
Platforms: PC, PS4
Release Date: 11th August 2017