Everyone has heard of Night Trap, right? It’s a game that was wrapped in controversy for its scantily clad teenage girls and dark tones back in its day, but also one that’s known for being… well… pretty bad. Given its reputation I’d always been intrigued to try it out, but only being three when it released and the lack of actually owning a Mega CD has always made it impossible.
Now, twenty five years later, I finally have the chance to play it thanks to the brand new release of the Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition. This isn’t just some flimsy port either, but a remastering that offers an all new layout to the game’s HUD, some additional content, and some surprisingly sharp FMV footage. Don’t get me wrong, it’s as cheesy as ever and it’s not a particularly good game from a design standpoint, but there’s something oddly charming about the whole thing that you rarely find in modern releases.
As mentioned, I haven’t played the original game, so I probably can’t appreciate some of the changes that are on offer. I can recognise that it has got all the hallmarks of a remastered release, but I can’t really compliment the improvements that have come in the process; I haven’t even played Five Night at Freddies, which is meant to play very similarly to the game, so I’m actually going in completely fresh. If you want to see a review from someone who knows Night Trap inside out and recognises these improvements, I’d probably recommend reading Chris Scullion’s excellent review instead.
Night Trap is an interactive FMV game that sees you taking control of an intricate security system that’s made up of multiple cameras and traps around a big house. You’re acting as a surveillance officer for SCAT (hehehe), the Special Control Attack Team that are monitoring a strange situation involving teenagers and vampires. Oh, and there’s some strange evil folk known as Augers who’re sucking the blood out of these teens too, so you’ve got that to deal with. The game tasks you with monitoring the house for an evening whilst an undercover SCAT agent tries to get to the bottom of it all – it’s not going to be an easy task for you though, with a constant stream of threatening situations coming your way from start to end.
How much detail of the plot that you’ll actually discover is technically up to you. You flick between different cameras all around the house to see the different interactions that are taking place, meaning you’re bound to miss out on certain plot points if you stick to just the one playthrough of the game. Whilst you can technically see everything that’s going on at all times thanks to your view of the security monitors, actually dividing your time between watching them and taking out the vicious Augers means a lot of the story has to be missed – I was livid that I had to miss out on what I can only imagine is a stunning singing segment because of those damn Augers early on in the game, but hey, at least it makes multiple playthroughs feel more worthwhile.
Night Trap is only around twenty five minutes long though, so those multiple playthroughs aren’t too big of a deal. I was actually surprised when it was over – whilst I didn’t go in expecting some feature length FMV experience, the ending seemed to come around quite quickly. Somehow, that feels just right though; having it roughly the length of a TV show episode feels quit fitting, with the cheesy scenes never outstaying their welcome.
As mentioned, your time in the game is spent switching between cameras, keeping an eye on every going on, and activating traps whenever the villainous Augers step near them. It’s clearly shown to you when you have to activate each trap though, with a small coloured notification that’s constantly on show turning red when an Auger is in range. A quick button press will see them fall, get pushed, get launched, or even covered in a glass prison. This is all you do – monitor cameras and press buttons at the appropriate times. Admittedly, this could wear a little thin over time (especially with limited videos of the traps in motion) but the short length of the game means you shouldn’t feel too fed up of them by the time you reach the end.
It should be noted that the game doesn’t actually teach any of these mechanics to you though. I was completely stumped as to how you actually did any of these things when I started playing the game – it doesn’t even say what any of the buttons on your controller actually do. I had to go onto a video game forum to see how to play it, despite how simple it might seem to those who have played Night Trap before. I can see this being off-putting for some, with the absence of any form of instructions an incredibly odd design decision. I’m not a fan of hand-holding in games and the colour notification should be obvious, but unless you know exactly what you’re doing or what button to press it can be difficult to get to grips with.
There’s a counter on the bottom of the screen that tells you how many Augers have been spotted and how many you’ve trapped, showing you how successful your stint as head of security has been so far. There’s the added pressure that letting too many of the Augers escape will result in you getting disconnected from the cameras and kicked from the team by the SCAT leader, forcing you to restart the game all over again. This could actually be frustrating; there are no checkpoints of any sorts, so having to play through potentially twenty odd minutes worth of gameplay again could be a pain. I suppose it does allow you to do things differently from a narrative perspective, but the fact that gameplay just consists of you pressing buttons to activate traps and following the same formula of flicking between cameras over and over again could make it less alluring.
The pressure of failure demands you to be constantly aware of what’s going on. Thankfully, all of the cameras are clearly on display so you can typically notice the sight of an Auger on-screen. However, with multiple Augers going through different rooms at the same time, you’ll often get into a rut trying to determine which order you need to trap them in. It led to plenty of situations where I wasn’t quite able to capture one Auger just yet, but by switching between cameras to capture another would end up accidentally missing that one too. It’s something you used to with time, but my initial attempts at the game could be frustrating with plenty of Augers escaping my grasp. Worse yet, one of the outdoor cameras was so dark that it was difficult to even see when the Augers were on it.
Whilst Night Trap’s gameplay is pretty simple in design, it does have some neat ideas that vary things up, such as applying a colour code to the security system. As you get further through the game you’ll hear the villains talking about changing the colour of the security code, meaning you’ve got to match your display colour if you want the traps to work. It’s a simple button press so it’s nothing tough, but it does mean you’ve got to be switched on and carefully listening to what people are saying; if you miss the characters talking about changing the security code because you were busy with another scene, you’ll be left with traps that don’t work and meeting a quick end to your time as part of the SCAT team.
Outside of the revamped main game, there’s some neat additions on offer such as the Theatre where you can see each story sequence in all its glory, the deleted scenes that have now been worked into the main story, a new game mode that sees you taking on a countless stream of Augers, as well as an extra game called ‘Scene of the Crime’ which acted as a prototype for Night Trap years ago. I haven’t actually unlocked everything yet and I’ve spent a good few hours with the game, so it shows there’s longevity there for those who stick with it. Not bad for a remastered 25 year old game…
There are two ways to judge Night Trap: as a game and as a remastered release. If we’re talking about just the gameplay itself then there’s nothing on offer to be particularly excited about – it’s incredibly simple, has some frustrating aspects of design, and is over quite quickly. It’s certainly charming and has some endearing elements to it, but as a whole it’s easy to see why it’s never had that great of a reputation.
As a remastered release though it’s absolutely superb. You’ve got a revamped look to the game’s HUD, some fantastic FMVs that look surprisingly sharp for a 90s release (you’ve only got to look at some Mega CD screenshots to appreciate this), a host of additional content, and some brand new modes that even the most dedicated of Night Trap fans wouldn’t have seen before. Screaming Villains have done a fantastic job in putting together what has to be considered the ultimate Night Trap package.
Whilst the game as a whole is always going to be a polarising one that you’re either going to love or hate, Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition is so lovingly crafted that you won’t be able to help but get swooned in by its charm. It’s not an essential release that you simply HAVE to play, but it’s one I’d recommend anyway.
Developer: Screaming Villains
Publisher: Screaming Villains
Release Date: 15/08/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), PC