It might come as a surprise if you haven’t been following the hobby for awhile – or if, perhaps, you’re not old enough to remember – but the modern era of people telling you what you are and aren’t allowed to play and enjoy when it comes to video games isn’t just a contemporary thing. Back in the ’90s we saw the same sort of situation: some games were “bad,” some were “good” and there was no shortage of people ready to try and enforce their views on which was which.
The big difference back then, of course, was that these were actual elected officials, not self-appointed Internet arbiters, so the stakes might have been just a wee bit higher.
Yes, in the ’90s, there was a lot of focus on violent video games and how they might be affecting kids; these were the days when people were open about how they thought video games were toys for children instead of just thinking it when they see you on the train with a 3DS. Games like Mortal Kombat were the focus of Congressional hearings regarding the possibility of censoring certain games and controlling who they could be sold to. One game in particular got a lot of attention around this time, a game that might not have been on the radar otherwise: Night Trap, an FMV game for the Sega CD that was central to the 1993 hearing that led to the creation of the ESRB. One assumes it’s this notoriety that led to the release of Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition, allowing modern gamers to see what all the hubbub was about.
Night Trap, of course, isn’t especially gratuitous by today’s standards. It’s a fairly standard B-movie slasher flick in video game form: a bunch of girls have a sleepover at a local estate, but, gasp, the estate is infested with vampires, and the family who lives there is working with the vampires so the girls can be captured and drained! As a member of the local special police force, your job is to stop the vampires, known as Augers, from drinking up. Oh, did I mention this game stars Diff’rent Strokes actress Dana Plato? Yeah, I didn’t know who she was either, but apparently she was pretty hot stuff at the time and her presence was significant when it came to marketing the game.
Anyway, normally you’d expect that would mean busting into the estate and gunning down the undead, ideally by teaming up with Wesley Snipes, but that’s not what happens here. Instead, you’re going to be monitoring the action from afar, patched into the estate’s security feed. This means you can view the goings-on through a number of security cameras placed all over the joint. More importantly, you have remote access to the many traps strewn throughout the estate, allowing you to stem the tide of Augers sneaking in; activating a trap at the right time results in your target getting the boot, though you’ll have to be careful not to trap your fellow cops or any of the houseguests.
Swapping between cameras to both catch Augers and see what’s happening in the plot is central to Night Trap’s gameplay, and you’re given an idea of how many Augers have been in the house compared to how many you’ve actually captured – it can be a little disconcerting to see how they’ve been infesting the place like cockroaches, and after a certain point one wonders how any more of them could fit. As the baddies start to get a handle on what you’re doing, you’ll also have to manage switching security frequencies so you aren’t locked out of the traps.
As with most FMV games from the era, it’s not the most engaging experience. Success revolves largely around memorizing which camera you should be watching when; you can miss some Augers here and there, but missing too many or missing them at the wrong time will result in your being kicked off the force for incompetence. Seriously, just give me a crucifix and a shotgun and I’ll probably have better luck. You won’t be getting through this one in one try, in other words, and you’ll probably need a few playthroughs to get everything just right and save everyone to get the best possible ending.
As you might expect given how much people knew about games back in the day – which, really, hasn’t advanced much to the present if we’re talking about the mainstream – Night Trap isn’t really all that violent or suggestive. If an Auger catches someone, they use a little hypodermic needle contraption to drain their blood while dragging them off; that’s about as intense as the violence gets, and given that Mortal Kombat was a thing back in the day, it’s a little hilarious to even compare the two. As for suggestive scenes, uh…there’s some extremely PG shower action, I guess? Bottom line: games were new, new things are scary, scary things need to be controlled so they aren’t as scary anymore. The fact that a lot of the controversy we see today boils down to much the same reasoning is proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
This version of the game is surprisingly robust for what could have been a simple comedy re-release. You’ve got much more high-quality video, for one; trying to play the original game via the Sega CD is, well, painful, so this alone is a huge plus. You’ve got a couple gameplay mods, some deleted scenes, developer commentary and even a sort of pre-Night Trap game called Scene of the Crime that was used to demo the technology used in this game to potential investors. There’s a lot going on here, and despite Night Trap itself being kind of meh in action, there’s certainly some value for fans of gaming history.
With that in mind, the intended audience for Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition is pretty clear: if you’re interested in how the industry has gotten this far, then you can’t consider your studies complete without taking a look at Night Trap, and this is the definitive version of the game. Likewise, if you’re a fan of corny B-movie shlock, that’s basically what this is, so you’re going to have a great time here. $15 is a surprisingly comfortable price for the amount of content you’re getting here, so it’s an easy recommendation.