I like horror. Be it movies, games, books, or creepypasta, I’ll be interested in it. In spite of that, Halloween has never been all that special to me, simply because the season of horror is all year round for me. I do like a good Halloween party though because dressing up is fun. Having said that, I decided to pick out a horror game from the collection this year specifically for Halloween, and I went with…
I remember this being released on the Sega CD when I was fairly young. I couldn’t really cope with horror too well back then and I found the idea of monsters sneaking around a house killing people a bit too much! I didn’t own a Sega CD though, so I was pretty safe. Anyway, Night Trap gained something of a cult following in subsequent years due in part to its campy horror movie stylings and somewhat unconventional mechanics. Thanks to Limited Run Games, who release physical editions of digital games, I’ve acquired a copy of the game on Switch and it’s better than I thought it would be!
Night Trap is a live action horror game in which you need to protect a group of teenagers from monsters in a house in the middle of nowhere. You do this by watching video cameras and activating traps at the right time to deal with the invaders whilst catching snippets of the various characters revealing more of the plot. The traps are tied to a colour code which characters change over the course of the game, so you need to keep your eyes and ears open so you know what colour to use when activating the traps. It isn’t something I’ve seen before, although I didn’t play a great many games from the FMV era so there could be others like it.
The problem with this is, if you don’t catch enough of the monsters by a certain time then you lose the game. This would be fine, but the monsters start appearing on some of the cameras within the first few seconds of the game starting. If you don’t know where to look, you’re already on the back foot before you’ve even begun. Worse, if you don’t know where and when to be focusing on then you’ll miss the colour code change and none of the traps will work anymore. It’s a game of memorisation and perfect execution – be in the right place at the right time or fail and start again! You can also fail by missing specific captures or by capturing the characters you are meant to protect.
Whilst it is a little frustrating to watch all the stuff you’ve already seen over again, it’s still satisfying to finally figure out the right order to do things in and carrying it out flawlessly. Additionally, the game is actually pretty short, and you can complete the story in about half an hour once you know what to do, so this trial and improvement gameplay makes sense to an extent. It’s very much like Dragon’s Lair in that regard – lots of failures until you work out exactly what to do. There are extra features as well, including game modes, images, and documentaries, so even if you finish it quickly there are some other things to do and it’s not bad for the price of the digital version.
Now, the story is camp as you can imagine which is great. The silly song and dance routine, the absurdly macho facial hair, the cheap looking monster costumes, it all comes together to make a ridiculous experience. It’s not scary though, in spite of the controversy that came along with it during one of the earlier “video games are evil” campaigns. It’s silly, funny, and more entertaining than it has any right to be. If you’re someone who’s willing to watch a “so bad it’s good” horror movie then you’ll probably have a good time with it.
Sadly, the camera switching mechanic is also the game’s greatest downfall. The story plays out in real time across the different rooms you can see via the cameras. You can only watch one at a time, and you can only activate traps in the room you’re looking at. This means that you often miss conversations because you’re busy setting off traps in other rooms. Whilst the plot is incredibly simple and it’s pretty easy to work out what’s going on, you miss out on a lot of fun, cheesy dialogue by being stuck in other rooms. Still, failure doesn’t set you back too far, so sticking around to watch a whole scene isn’t a huge issue, but the timings could have been much better.
Night Trap was originally developed by Digital Pictures and published by Sega (in 1992, and it shows!) and the rerelease was developed and published by Screaming Villains. I played the game on Nintendo Switch (a perfect system for it) and would recommend giving it a go as a piece of gaming history. You may find that you have a lot more fun with it that you might expect. The physical release set me back more money than I would have liked, but for under £11, it’s not a bad deal.