Night Trap - 25th Anniversary Edition
Night Trap - 25th Anniversary Edition may have had a mostly quiet release in 2017, but the original’s release in 1992 created quite the uproar in the media. Night Trap was pinned as "ultraviolent, sick, and disgusting" by former Senator Joseph Lieberman in a U.S Senate hearing regarding violence in video games. This led to the eventual creation of the ESRB, or Entertainment Software Rating Board, which to this day is responsible for assigning age and content ratings on video games. Night Trap played a huge part in the games industry for its questionable content, but how does it stand today?
Night Trap - 25th Anniversary Edition was my first encounter with the title and I was sure to keep the game's controversial origins in mind. What I was greeted with was something akin to an early 90s action movie, complete with low budget costumes and effects. The over dramatic characters and plot felt charmingly cheesy, and I found myself laughing at each silly death scene. I was amazed that Night Trap had ever sparked such controversy in the early 90s. Perhaps one can view my perspective on the matter as the reaction of a desensitized gamer in 2017, but I suggest that Night Trap was never as violent as it was accused of being. Surely the reactions of people like Senator Joseph Lieberman were just as overly dramatic as the overacting cast.
For those who have never played the original Night Trap, the premise is simple: it's an interactive movie video game in which the player must prevent a group of blissfully unaware teenagers from infiltrating attackers by springing traps at just the right moment. The most modern example of blending gameplay and film I can think of is Her Story (2015), but Night Trap controls more like something out of the Five Nights at Freddy's series in that the player must watch video feed from the rooms of the house for any sort of suspicious activity and react accordingly. There's an interesting blend of film and gameplay at work, in which the player must watch each room to either gather more crucial plot points or to stop oncoming attackers.
The controls in Night Trap are astoundingly simple, and for the most part the player only needs to use two buttons. However, the gameplay itself can be tricky because Night Trap is always out to catch the player off their guard. There's a color code which changes throughout the game, but the announcement of the change can easily be missed. Moreover, there are plenty of times where the player can accidently entrap one of the teenagers instead of the attackers, resulting in a game over. It's a game that asks the player to be on their guard, but I found this nearly impossible to do if I wanted to enjoy the actual story of the game.
Many times, I would be watching one group of teens, only to learn that another had since been captured and I lost. And perhaps this wouldn't have been too bad, but each time you get a game over you have to restart unless you have already hit the one and only checkpoint in the middle of the game. It was frustrating that one little mistake could set me back all the way to the beginning, and this could have easily been corrected by adding more checkpoints throughout.
That's not to say that Night Trap - 25th Anniversary Edition hasn't gotten a fair share of modern polish. The thumbnail view of each room now features moving elements, which removes the guesswork of where action is happening in the house. The amount of attackers can become so hectic at times that I can't imagine getting very far without this new feature, so I'm extremely grateful for its addition. Most importantly, however, the game's video has been cleaned up and is displayed in as high of a resolution as it can be. The game still shows its age, but at least it can be experienced by a modern audience with respectable clarity.
My biggest disappointment with Night Trap - 25th Anniversary Edition comes from some of the extra features packaged in with the game. There are deleted scenes, an interview with the co-creator/director Jim Riley, and a documentary...but whenever I tried to access these the game crashed. I tried multiple times to get these features running to no avail. I'm extremely disheartened that these wouldn't work, because I was very interested to hear how the people behind Night Trap felt during the game's controversy versus how they felt now all these years later. At the very least, the game comes packaged with Scene of the Crime, Night Trap's prototype, and that seemed to work just fine. It's the first time it has ever been available, and its inclusion with such a historically infamous title is much appreciated.
Historically Important Yet Surprisingly Fun
Night Trap is a cheesy old game, and its 25th anniversary re-release embraces that fully by keeping what made the game charmingly low-budget while making it more accessible to the modern-day player. Sadly, some of the extra features that make this game such a special re-release remain, for me, unwatchable, but the inclusion of Scene of the Crime is a truly special addition that can't be overlooked. Night Trap's infamy and historical importance in the games industry should not be forgotten, as it represents the struggle games have had with being recognized as a serious form of media. Night Trap - 25th Anniversary Edition is a good reminder of this, and it's a good bit of fun to be had too, even if you've never experienced the title before.