Genre: FMV Developer: Digital Pictures Publisher: Digital Pictures Players: 1 Released: 1994
If you remember Night Trap from the early ’90s and read video game magazines, then you probably remember it was dealt a certain degree of controversy. Initially the game was mocked and laughed at, thus widely ignored. Senator Joe Lieberman went on a whiny tirade about violence in video games and pined for a ratings system to be developed, which ultimately came to pass. Night Trap was his poster child for “offensive entertainment.” He called the game “disgusting, offensive, a game that should not be shown to civilization.” After his remarks, Night Trap became a best-seller for the holiday season, and copies of the game started to move off shelves! So, let’s find out what put our little senator in such a tizzy.
What I remember about this game was the artwork on the box, showing a scantily clad woman in a bra. That would be the original Sega CD version, which is harder to find nowadays. The 32X version was re-released later in 1994. This version has several newly-filmed versions of certain scenes, although the game is virtually the same. The video has been cleaned up nicely to 32-bit standards, and although it’s still a tad pixelated, it far surpasses the original’s quality. The 32X version also has a prettier, more colorful user interface during gameplay as well.
Anyway, Night Trap is often thought of as the first major full motion video title from the now-defunct Digital Pictures game label, a company that gained its claim to fame by developing various game titles for the Sega CD that always utilized real movie actors with movie-like scripts, with some bland interactivity thrown in for good measure. Night Trap feels like eight movies playing at once that you switch between, although they’re all connected together like a surveillance system and the game plays out in real time with an actual clock, so there are no continues or save points. You do it all in one go.
In the game, you’re part of the S.C.A.T. team, a secret special ops group that is here the night in question to scope out a vacation home by a strange family known as the Martins. Your mission is to watch over the five girls staying there for vacation and make sure nothing happens to them. One of the girls is played by the infamous Dana Plato, cast as your undercover agent. The place has been put on red alert by this group because various other girls in the past have been disappearing after spending a “night at the Martins.”
The intro scene gives you a quick low-down on what you need to do, although you really need to read your instruction manual before proceeding. You are able to switch between eight cameras in eight different rooms with the A button, are able to trigger traps with the B button when an intruder gets close to it, and you’re able to switch the color code of the trap system when you have to. This is basically the only gameplay throughout the game, just switching constantly between all the rooms, listening in on the story and characters, and hitting the traps when you can.
Night Trap plays out like a regular movie might. The girls laugh, have a really weak party, and act like gimps. You have a weird neighbor who walks around in the dark, you have the family always coming out of the woodwork, and you have to maintain a good idea at all times what’s going on in each room. The Martins themselves stay out of the picture most of the time, but every now and then, they get together on camera and say they’re going to change the access code. So you have to be sure to be there to hear what color to switch it to, otherwise the traps will stop working for you.
The game is definitely not without its charm. It does have all the factors of a pathetic B-movie, which granted, can be considered a plus. These factors include bottom-notch acting, cheesy special effects and sound effects, laughable characters, and being able to control a bad movie is actually kind of fun. The downside is that you often don’t have time to sit and watch some of the fun things because you have to be switching all over the place to catch intruders. Then again, you are allowed to miss a number of bad guys so you have time for a few.
You have eight buttons on the bottom of the screen for each room, but each button is just an image, and not a video, so you can’t see what’s going on in each room without going there. Moreover, the Sega CD drive is sometimes a tad laggy when loading up a room, and once in a while this can cost you a kill! There are only so many intruders that you are allowed to miss before SIMS, the commander, breaks through and tells you you’re kicked off the project for letting the place get overrun. He also kicks you off if any of the girls get killed. The violent sequence where one of the girls gets blood-drained is the defining reason that Senator Joe Lieberman spoke out against this game. Looking at it today, you might scarcely believe it was considered offensive instead of just hokey. You also can’t let something happen to Dana Plato, your undercover agent, or let someone cut the cord to your security override in the 1st hallway.
As an FMV game, Night Trap certainly is an interesting story. And the experience, tedious and difficult as it may be, will have you coming back again and again to take another stab at completing the film. If you’re looking for top-notch camera work, you’re going to be intensely disappointed. Continuity errors and improper physics disgrace the game throughout its entirety. But if FMV games are interesting to you, you could do much worse than this one. The problem is that if you beat it, there’s not much reason to ever play it again.
SCORE: 6 out of 10