Genre: Interactive Movie
Original Release: October 15, 1992, August 15, 2017 (25th Anniversary Edition)
Developer: Digital Pictures
Platform(s): Sega CD, 32X, 3DO, MS-DOS, Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Playstation Vita
Played On: Microsoft Windows (Steam)
I wasn’t old enough to remember much of anything about Night Trap’s original release. In fact, I didn’t even know that it existed until a few years ago at most. A fair number of you folks reading this might be in the same boat.
Night Trap is one of those weird games that put a lot of emphasis on full-motion video intermixed with some basic gameplay. It’s not a particularly complicated game, so a lot of the charm comes from the film that plays on each of the eight screens, depending on whether or not something is going on. Apparently filming began in 1987 and took place over the course of 16 days, but due to hardware complications related to the Super NES CD-ROM going unreleased, the game wouldn’t come out until it was released on the Sega CD in 1992. Understandable, but what really sets Night Trap apart from other FMV games like Sewer Sharks or Space Ace is the controversy that happened within the next year.
In December 1993, the United States Senate assembled a committee to perform a hearing on violence in video games. Two games in particular were focused on during this time: Mortal Kombat, released on October 8, 1992, and Night Trap. Interesting that they released within a week of each other, and in the spookiest season to boot!
Anyway, this particular hearing resulted in the games industry creating the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, or ESRB, in 1994. So if you’ve ever wondered about those ratings on game cartridges of old or, more recently, disc cases, wonder no more!
History lesson aside, Night Trap is surprisingly tame, though I never ended up seeing That Scene™. You know the one…maybe. Check the wikipedia entry on the game, they mention it there. Well anyway, that scene aside (which again, I never saw, and can’t talk about as a result), the scenes that play out in front of you are super cheesy, like you would expect of a late-80’s, early 90’s B-movie. You can tell all of the actors knew what they were making and decided to have fun with it, but in a way that’s what makes the game stand out in my mind.
Night Trap’s gameplay is incredibly simple: You watch a house through eight different cameras, and activate traps when the antagonistic forces, the Augurs, line themselves up in order to protect the teenagers roaming the house. The challenge comes from the fact that the code used to control the house’s traps is changed periodically, and if you miss the conversation where they mention what they change the code to, it’s possible that you’ll find yourself struggling as progressively more Augurs find their way into and around the house.
The 25th Anniversary Edition also includes each of the layouts from over the years: 1992, 1993, 1994, and finally, 2017, the latter of which I used since the video feeds in the bottom left will update if something is happening, as opposed to earlier feeds where it would only show a static image. Seriously, the 2017 layout makes things significantly easier. More a quality of life improvement over previous iterations than a difficulty reduction, but it still helps make things a lot more manageable.
Anyway, while the most remarkable thing about Night Trap is probably the controversy that reared its head a year after its initial release, I still had fun over the hour or so it took me to play through it. The 2017 release also includes a survivor mode where you simply have to capture as many Augurs as you can while the security code frequently changes and you progressively lose more of the camera feeds, as well as a theater mode where you can watch all of the scenes as you unlock them and several other extra features.
Honestly, I’m going to give this a recommendation. If you can, pick it up on Steam on a sale, it’s fun, if a bit clunky as a result of its age. Just be warned, it’s super cheesy.