Halloween RetroSpective – Night Trap
Halloween is over for another year. However, at Rings & Coins there’s still time for one last Horror themed piece of content, and this one truly is terrifying. Though not for the reasons you’d think.
Night Trap is one of the most controversial games of all time. Accused of being “shameful”, “ultra-violent”, “sick”, and “disgusting”, it was in part responsible for the set up of the ESRB. In this respect, it shares its infamy with some of the greatest gaming series ever made, including Mortal Kombat, Doom and Grand Theft Auto. Sadly though, this is the only similarity between Night Trap and these giants of gaming. Night Trap may be remembered for its infamy, but there’s many other reasons why this game was better off forgotten.
Now I won’t go deep into criticising FMV games. However, back when FMV was all the rage, you were generally presented with either, live-action acting, as is the case here, or fully animated scenes, such as those found in Road Avenger. One of these has held up better over time than the other, and sadly Night Trap falls into the category that hasn’t done so well. That’s not to say the game wasn’t poor when it first came out in the 90s, because it certainly was.
The first thing you’ll notice is the acting. Quite simply, the acting on display here is some of the most wooden and stiff you will ever see. Something that is certainly not helped by undercover agent, and Night Trap’s lead character Kelly (played by Dana Plato), constantly breaking the fourth wall. However, if the acting is wooden, then the story is no better.
The premise of Night Trap is simple, in fact you’ve probably seen it a million times before. A young group of girls are spending the night at a house, one that has recently been at the centre of a number of unexplained disappearances. Not only that, but the family who own the house aren’t all what they seem, and a mysterious group of intruders (later revealed to be Vampires) have begun making their way into the house. This has caused S.C.A.T. (Sega Control Attack Team) to be called in, all in the hopes of working out what exactly is going on, and stopping anything untoward from happening to these girls.
It really is as though Digital Pictures were trying to cram in as many B-Movie Horror tropes as they possibly could, and if all this was a parody of the genre, then that’d be fine. Yet this isn’t the way the game was developed, meaning that you’ll spend most of your time laughing at the game and its ludicrous characters and plot, rather than with it. To put it bluntly, the story and acting do absolutely nothing to keep you engaged, and given that this is the main part of the experience, you’re really left wondering what the game does do right.
On a gameplay front though, Night Trap does do one thing right, by creating a functional overlay for you to control the game’s minimal gameplay. This overlay houses your command system, and is where you will be able to scan through the eight CCTV cameras, change the access code, and activate the traps. This display is easy to navigate, and even easier to control. Well, in theory anyway, as activating the traps requires some of the most precise timing I’ve even seen in gaming, and to be quite honest, a considerable amount of luck as well.
Sadly though this is the only thing the gameplay does right. For the main part, gameplay will see you spending the whole time rapidly scanning all of the different cameras, desperately trying to find intruders which are lurking around the property. There’s absolutely no clues as to where these enemies are, and you’ll more than likely find yourself constantly missing them. When you do finally find them though, your job is to activate the trap once they get close. This is monitored by meter which turns red when they are on top of the trap, but don’t expect them to stay there long.
What’s more, you shouldn’t necessarily expect the traps to work. You see, to activate the trap, you must have the correct coloured access code. The game always starts with “Blue” activating the traps, but this code will be repeatedly changed as the game goes on. This sounds good in theory, and should have added some detective work and variety. However, what this actually does is add unending frustration, and even more randomness and luck to the gameplay. Essentially, because you spend most your time scanning all of the cameras, you’ll inevitably miss the point where they change the code. Moreover, this code changes randomly each time you play, meaning that repetition won’t help you here.
Constantly scanning the channels, also means that you should expect to miss just about every part of the storyline. This quite honestly is inexcusable, and is the biggest criticism of the gameplay. Thanks to this players are near enough forced into missing key story elements, such as the police’s arrival to talk to the house owners, just to go and attempt to take down some bumbling idiots tiptoeing around like they’re in some Looney Tunes cartoon. This all from a supposed Horror title.
What hurts the most about Night Trap though, is that it actually had the rough core foundations of a good game. The idea of utilising CCTV cameras and traps in order to save an innocent group of people from meeting their demise, is actually not that bad. Additionally, if this had played out like a a lot of modern games such as Until Dawn, with every decision having a consequence, then this really could have been good.
Nevertheless, Night Trap is remembered for the controversy it caused, with a lot of this pointed at its infamous shower scene. For this it certainly deserves its place in the gaming history books, and the scene in question is definitely worth checking out from a historical point of view. However, this really is the only reason we should be remembering Night Trap.
Night Trap may be classed as a Horror title, but the only terror that comes from this game is how bad it is. What the game misses in scares, it delivers to players through a myriad of terrible elements which include, wooden acting, poor presentation, distracting gameplay, and a missable story that we’ve all seen played out before. Make no mistakes, Night Trap sure as hell is scary, but not for the right reasons. You have been warned!