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Night Trap (Sega 32X) artwork

Night Trap (Sega 32X) review

"Making Up Infamy - Night Trap vs the U.S Congress"

Hereís the thing: the most notable aspect of Night Trap doesnít actually have a lot to do with Night Trap, but rather how people hugely overreacted to it and the legacy itís forever left in video gaming. Go look at one of your fancy Dan modern video game cases. See that age-appropriate rating slapped on the box? Youíve Night Trap to thank for that. Even though games with considerably more questionable content had been slipped onto the market beforehand, this was the game that had the hilariously misinformed U.S Congress up in arms enough to finally do something about protecting our kids from all of that readily-available, hyper-realistic violence and sex.

Whatís particularly baffling Ė make sure you prepare yourself for bafflement Ė is that Night Trap contains very little in the way of actual violence, exactly nothing in the way of sex and is only hyper-realistic in the loosest possible terms. The game is more or less an hour of recorded Full Motion Video, meaning that what you basically have is a low-budget film that offers some basic elements to interact with. You,as the leader of the very unfortunately -named commando group, S.C.A.T., have gained access to the high-tech security systems of a well-to-do familyís mansion, which you use to keep tabs on a bunch of highly annoying teenage girls doing their very best to drown themselves in everything that was wrong with the late 80s. Youíve done this because of unconfirmed reports of a previous group of girls vanishing after an overnight visit. And itís just as well you did; turns out the entire family are a secret collection of bloody vampires who use their daughter to lure groups of girls over for a slumber party, and then eat them.

Except they donít call themselves vampires Ė how gauche that would have been! They call themselves AUGERS, and creep around the house dressed up as bargain basement ninja. Lucky for you, the creepy guy spying on unaware teenage girls during a slumber party, the security system is also tied into a bunch of traps that wouldnít look out of place in a Road Runnerô cartoon. As such, every now and then, you have to pull yourself away from the pre-filmed shenanigans, switch to a different camera, and time a trap to trigger at exactly the right moment. Doing this will, for example, slide open a trap door or cause a bed to spring up and catapult a sneaky sneaker. Get the timing right and you capture them. Get it wrong, and they slip further into the house. Let enough of them slip through, and you doom one of the girls and suffer a game over.

Hereís the kicker: despite everything youíve heard from people who have probably never played Night Trap, though the game is not particularly good, itís also not awful. Itís even somewhat self-aware in that way that all of the good low-grade horror flicks are. Itís filled with little goofy moments that make me think whoever came up with the script knew exactly what they were doing. One of the girls (played by Dana Plato, the daughter from Diff'rent Strokes) is an undercover agent who will stop and talk to you via the cameras while everyone accepts the strange girl holding a long one-sided conversation with a random wall as perfectly normal.

If you manage to somehow scrape together a perfect ending (achieved by capturing every single Auger) you can even sour your happy ending by triggering a trap as she walks past it, capturing her for no other reason than giggles. One of the girls has brought along her annoying younger brother, who has no interest in the typical slumber party goings on like making sandwiches very enthusiastically and singing (?), and so slopes around the place and shows himself as the brightest character in the game as he effortlessly works out all the mansionís secrets. This leads to him hooking up with the suspicious neighbour, who arms him with a hyper advanced ray gun he just invented which looks like and works exactly the same as a TV remote control. That same neighbour later dresses up as an Auger, and sneaks around the house exactly as an Auger does, offering very little clue that heís actually not an Auger. No, heís suspicious, super-genius neighbour, Eddie. Donít capture him, or youíll never get that perfect ending!

But Night Trap isnít known for these things. Itís known for that one scene where a girl dressed only in the skimpiest negligee is brutally murdered and sexually assaulted for your viewing pleasure. Upon hearing of such a scene, the U.S Congress gathered to condemn video games as the next wave of whatís corrupting the youth of today (Hail Satan!). Millions of dollars' worth of expensive lawyers and clucking politicians (but exactly no one who had played or worked on the game) gathered around to condemn it. This makes for a weird conundrum, because having age-appropriate ratings on games is a good thing that keeps bumbling grandparents from buying things like Manhunt for their seven-year-old niece. Whatís weird is that such a positive step is ultimately founded on the back of a scene that doesnít even exist.

Hereís what actually happens: one of the girls is in the bathroom wearing a nightgown that hides considerably more of her flesh than the halter top/skin-tight leggings ensemble that Plato rocks throughout the entire game. If you fail to save her, an Auger drags her off-screen and she screams. Thatís it. Furthermore, this deprived scene completely lacking in depravity isnít a reward for a job well done; itís a punishment for failure. You sucked and now the girl is dead. Game over. But no one bothered to actually look at what they were wholesale condemning, and every time the scene got described, it grew more nefarious, like a macabre game of Chinese whispers. The director of the game was barred from speaking, and any instance of people trying to correct this mistake was met with haughty harrumphing or nonsensical retorts of little sense.

While the misinformed taking up the non-existing moral high ground on a subject they have no understanding in has long since become an every day occurrence, the sheer scale of this particular charade and the manner in which it helped to change video gaming as a whole is woven into the industry. It was a shambles; the media didnít bother with little things like fact checking and reliable sources (so we know some things have never changed), and so just printed everything that came out of the hearing as fact. And so the fire spread. The imaginary, completely made up fire, leaping from your T.V. sets and printed page.

That case and the fallout surrounding it are the most interesting things about Night Trap. DID YOU KNOW that there is a decent amount of backing to the theory that it was all a Nintendo conspiracy intended to scupper SEGAís new machine, to try to claw back some of the ground theyíd lost in the home console market? It was Nintendo who produced -- and highly edited -- all the videos heard in the hearing, after all. Itís more interesting to talk about that. Itís certainly more fun, as well, so thatís the way people will go. Because while Night Trap certainly doesnít belong on the list of worst games ever by people just as misinformed as Senator Joe Liebermann was all those years ago, itís also not a whole lot of fun.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 29, 2016)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Nightfire posted December 29, 2016:

Ooh, this reminds me. The debate of how video games were ruining America also continued on when Mortal Kombat came to consoles - in particular, in regard to the Genesis version that could have the gore enabled if you used a cheat code. As I recall, those hearings and legal shenanigans also had an element of Nintendo's meddling with respect to providing the supposed "videos" of the Genesis version, which were actually taken from the arcade version that was much more violent and graphic. Makes ya wonder, don't it?
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EmP posted December 29, 2016:

It's funny, because I touched a little on that in the original draft of this review, but Jason "Nintendo is love; Nintendo is life' Venter censored me on the commands of his overlords. (or just edited it out as it was a bit of a ramble). It was actually the same hearing, and what the congress watched -- old people who had never played a video game in their lives, mind, who were very keen to take everything they saw as fact so long as it backed their views that video games were the new Satan -- were all Nintendo made. The Night Trap videos were highly edited, there were Mortal Kombat comparison videos shown between the (mostly) uncut SEGA version and the commercial bomb that was the family-friendly SNES strain of the same game. Night Trap's directer or anyone from SEGA were barred from speaking at the hearing, yet Nintendo employees were inviting to speak freely. It's all really interesting the deeper you dig into it, which is just as well as without all the suspected corporate espionage and misinformation being spread in the most hilarious of fashions, I wouldn't have a lot to say about Night Trap.
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Nightfire posted December 31, 2016:

Yup. Night Trap was really just a dumb game, and aside from the fact that you get to see some girls in sports bras and nightwear, there's really not a lot edgy about it. It basically just has the look of a campy straight-to-video B movie, which is the exact opposite of terrifying. The only thing that set it apart was the fact that it was presented in video game form, which apparently made all the difference. >.>
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hastypixels posted January 02, 2017:

I remember being immediately disinterested in the SegaCD when a friend of my mine tried to show his off back in the day. I noticed the music was ... better. Anything else? Smoother animation, sort of.

Anyone remember the Rap video maker title they tried so hard to push in comic ads? Good gravy people. Those games.

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