Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Review
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Developer/Publisher: Screaming Villains
Platform: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC
Through the years, a rare few games have captured the attention of the nation. Sure, many have been able to unite the thoughts of all gamers, but in the 90s games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap caught the attention of the US Government and led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, whose ratings are prevalent on all retail releases to this day. Night Trap was heralded as a wretched tale where you were in charge of a series of traps that killed teenagers and forced rape upon hapless women. While the game put the teens in mildly revealing clothing (read: modest nightgowns), there was no sexual intent involved and you were actually charged with protecting the girls from a legion of semi-vampires. Night Trap was created at a time when realistic graphics were being achieved by actual realism through true full-motion video that was controlled like a choose your own adventure. Pushing the right button at the right time would change a cutscene in your favor. Other games with such simplistic gameplay would find themselves lost to the annals of history, but thanks to the national attention it got, Night Trap remains in our memories a lot longer than the likes of Ground Zero Texas.
For this, the 25th anniversary of the title, a strange set of events transpired culminating in this release. Night Trap has been remastered from a set of original videos instead of pulling them off the low resolution releases, resulting in a crisper image than we got back in the day. The change in medium to modern consoles allows for some quicker transitions between scene changes, as gameplay consists of switching between several security cameras to catch the intruders and protecting the teens. Additional scenes have been found that add extra story and some surprises for fans. If someone was a diehard fan of the game back in the day, this is the penultimate edition of the game. That being said, this review really needs to come at the game from two angles: that of a diehard, and that of someone coming into the game fresh. Unfortunately that causes me to give two separate review levels.
I was a child of the 80s, and even though I was old enough to make my own video game choices, but I also in general was not into "inappropriate" games. I missed out on playing the game itself back in the day, yet I was a gamer enough to have heard of the basic story and what you do. I felt this made me ideal to review the game for what it was. In the days before DLC, and with the game filling discs with video data, gameplay value was found in repetition. This was one of the game's fatal flaws: trying to pay attention to the cameras where plot was happening meant you would miss the chance to take out enemies; miss too many and it's game over. Focus on the enemies, and you lose the point of the storyline.
Perhaps my biggest frustration came from the "bonus" of the deleted scenes. In the original release, your team laid out their plan in a van near the home in question. It happened in real-time, so even watching it prevented you from catching a good chunk of enemies. It is replaced in the remaster with a deleted scene that happens before the clock starts in the game, and your team is in some kind of basement. As I said, I didn't play the game back in the day, but researching found a glaring problem in both owning the game in digital format and in the recut first scene: nobody mentions the "color switch." The villains are able to change the security of the monitors and traps your team has hacked into through multiple different color codes that are randomly selected through the game. The new initial scene does not mention this, and the instruction booklet for the original release that discusses this is missing as well. I repeatedly died during my initial reviewing because I was too busy trapping enemies to understand that core mechanic, as well as how the alert bar worked, flashing red when a trap could be pushed, and how it stalled traps out if you mash the button. The new cutscene simply states you are the person responsible for the monitors and the traps, nothing about enemies coming in to capture. Simple instructions that are basic logic for a fan can lead to frustration for first-time players. If you were lucky enough to snag one of the physical copies from Limited Run Games, you got an instruction manual, but those sold out in mere minutes, meaning most people reading this review will rely on the digital edition.
That being said, the game is a treasure trove for original fans. The videos are crisp and clear. The acting (and original song!) are as cheesy as ever, and it's never been easier to control. There's even a crutch for new players, as the camera selection panel can run full FMV of the separate rooms. I can't believe the game was ever meant to be played with static buttons you had to basically guess your way through and hope you caught all the enemies! The game can be played in several ways, involving all of the different interfaces that the game went through in it's original releases. Add to that a treasure trove of documentaries, discussing the phenomenon of the original release as well as catching up with the developers years later make this more than a game, but really a museum piece of history for true fans of gaming in general.
Then, we boomerang back around to the new gamer side. A lot of things, such as the prototype game that inspired Night Trap, are hidden behind unlock walls. The game shows you menus discussing all of the history, then requires you to finish the game to see most of them. You can't even play the original game, Scene of the Crime, without getting a 100% perfect on Night Trap itself, and even the trophy system centers around you playing the game in each of the separate viewing modes, meaning to platinum this one, you will have to do the same game multiple times with slightly different borders, which borders on insanity.
Night Trap is being rereleased for a very niche market of people, and for them, it's bound to be an amazing walk through history. Even people who remember the game from news channels will enjoy the documentaries that show how America (in most opinions) overreacted to out of context scenarios in games never intended for children. Unfortunately, your average gamer who just wants to see what the game is about is going to be drug down in the mire of repetitive gameplay that isn't part of modern gaming anymore, and will likely be confused as to why they keep losing ten minutes in because the traps stop working thanks to an unknown play mechanic. I was able to get over that hump thanks to an internet search for the old manual, but that shouldn't be a necessity. Night Trap is a flashback to the excess of the 90s, and a wonderful trip through history. Just be prepared to deal with the issues that plagued games of that era. Protect Kelly and her friends at all costs, and don't get caught in the Night Trap!
Thanks to Screaming Villains for allowing me to review this anniversary edition! Be sure to check out my interview with Screaming Villains regarding remastering the game for modern audiences.
-Clearest, best way to play for fans of the original
-Amazing set of bonus features including impact on gaming and the original inspiration game
-Extra scenes to entice old players with fresh content
-Still falls into the old 90's tropes like repetition, simplistic gameplay, and repetition
-Doesn't explain enough for individuals fresh to the title without original opening or instruction manual
-Many bonus features are hidden behind unlocks, some requiring a perfect run of the original game