Playing Night Trap after about 15 or so years away from any version brought back a few sour memories. Not those about the game’s campy/cheesy vibe and still somewhat clunky gameplay that’s better if you don’t use a walkthrough to blow through your purchase within the first hour of the day you buy it. Nope, I ended up thinking too hard about how a bunch of overly zealous politicians lied their asses off to the public (and themselves) about an intentionally silly videogame being a potential root cause for real-life violence and mayhem.
Just as they did with comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, and Hollywood movies before that (I’d include Prohibition in this as well, but let’s not get too carried away today), Night Trap was made an easy scapegoat back in 1993 along with Mortal Kombat and a few other games deemed inappropriate for kids who very likely knew they weren’t being brainwashed into axe murderers en masse. As a result, it ended up selling out in spots, was briefly taken off the market but eventually reemerged on 3DO, Sega 32X, MS-DOS, and Mac OS, turning absolutely no one into a sex fiend or blood-lusting serial killer (well, the last time I checked, at least). In terms of the remaster/re-release, Screaming Villains has definitely delivered the definitive Night Trap experience, which is kind of like saying you’re getting dented canned tuna for dinner, but it’s the best damn dented canned tuna you can buy.
While the original game was released for the Sega CD in 1992, the full-motion video (FMV) footage was actually shot in 1987 for a canned Hasbro home console and acquired by Tom Zito who formed Digital Pictures with the goal of getting the game along with another FMV title called Sewer Shark (which was a lot more fun to play in my opinion) into the hands of Sega CD owners. You’ll discover this and more fun stuff as you play through the game and unlock bonus content, but you’ll have to put a tiny bit of effort into things as this isn’t that easy of a game to play at first.
Granted, if you’re a fan of the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise, you’ll probably pick up fast on what needs to be done and if you hate those (much more frightening) games there’s a chance you’ll very likely not like this all that much. The plot has you as some sort of special agent working hard to keep five teens (or late teen-looking young ladies) safe in a house full of traps while they’re trying to have a slumber party. Add in Augers, shambling non-scary goofball vampires and the Martins, a family transforming into vampires who somehow manage to keep inviting girls to slumber parties where they disappear and yeah, you’re ready for action. Nope, the story really doesn’t make sense, mind you. But the camp and cheese on display plus those 80’s gals in “danger” work well enough to make the game at least interesting if it gets you in its clutches.
The game isn’t all that long, clocking in at about 30 minutes for the first play if you don’t count retries and mistakes you’ll make. Granted, if you want to see every drop of content, there are six endings to discover as well as clips you won’t see at all if you play through too quickly. Newbies might get caught up on the real-time elements and quick button presses required to activate traps to save the girls, so there’s that to consider as well as the game doesn’t hold your hand like too many games do these days. You’ll also need to quickly flip through the house’s camera system to eavesdrop on conversations that will provide clues required to progress and accidentally trapping one of the girls or other guests is a big no-no. By the way, there’s ZERO nudity here, even less gore (as in none whatsoever) and the overall effect is like a playable PG flick that only has the late Dana Plato as anything resembling “star” power.
In addition to the original game done up right with different interfaces from each previous version and a nicely updated newer one, you’ll also get a Survivor mode new to the experience. It’s a randomized set of rooms you play until the Augers take over the place that’s fun diversion that adds some replay value. You’ll also get the chance to play Scene of the Crime, the prototype of what eventually became Night Trap. For those wondering what the heck the fuss is because this all looks like a bad 80’s cable flick, well… that’s indeed the draw here.
Your appreciation of this game will heavily depend on its nostalgic appeal as well as your intent on actually playing it at some point. I’ve read of those who can afford it double-dipping on the hard to find Limited Run Games physical edition (which is already reselling for major bucks on auction sites) to keep sealed as well as a digital download they’ll play, but I’ll just tip my cap their way and smile (former huge collector here, so I “get” that mentality when it comes to certain things). I’m guessing this game currently is enough of a sales success that we may see more FMV “classics” get the remaster treatment. Sewer Shark seems all too obvious as the next game up, but I’m gathering any of the Digital Pictures catalog that don’t involve complicated music rights are going onto the plate at some point. As usual, we shall see, but my bet is Screaming Villains will go for the gold over running for the hills.
Score: C+ 70%
Review code provided by the publisher