Also available for Sega CD, Sega CD 32X, 3DO, Xbox One, Mac OS, MS-DOS, and Windows
Night Trap is both one of the most recognizable as well as one of the most infamous FMV games of the early 1990s. It was actually originally filmed in 1987 and planned for the Control-Vision, an unreleased game system that used VHS tapes rather than cartridges, but the footage was shelved until 1992 when it was revived for Sega CD. It was ported to 3DO a year later and to MS-DOS, Mac OS, and Sega 32x (still requiring Sega CD) a year after that. In 2017, a 25th Anniversary Edition that no one asked for (or really wanted) was released on Windows and PlayStation 4 with an Xbox One port coming at some point in the future.
The basic premise of Night Trap is that teenagers have started going missing around one particular house, and the SCAT (Sega/Special Control Attack Team) is planning an operation to investigate and bring those responsible to justice. To do this, they take control of the house's suspiciously elaborate camera and trap system and plant one of their own (bizarrely young) agents in with a group of teenagers staying in the house overnight. The player controls the six cameras as well as the traps and must activate the traps at the right time to catch the "Augers" (vampires) and keep the teenagers safe. Missing too many Augers will result in a game over (I think you get a game over at like 20 missed or something like that).
The reason for the game's relative notoriety is not that it's actually all that risque by today's standards but rather that it - along with Mortal Kombat - was the catalyst and major focal point of the Congressional hearings on video game violence spearheaded by Senator Joe Lieberman (CT-D) and Senator Herb Kohl (WI-D). The claim was that the game portrayed extreme violence and promoted sexual aggression against women. If you actually play the game, you'll see that the only "violence" is pretty mild, and the claims that it promotes sexual aggression against women is completely ridiculous (unless, of course, we're implying that pajamas are somehow inherently sexual). Folks today tend to remember the claims that the game was horribly offensive more than anything actually questionable or controversial in the game.
Given that the game uses film from the late 1980s, the video quality is obviously not great, but in my opinion, that's part of what makes it great. It's the most gloriously cheesy 80s thing I've ever played. The hair and outfits are both just dripping with the 80s, and the entire style and premise is the type of experimental "this is probably a bad idea but let's do it anyway" gameplay that games these days just don't attempt anymore. Despite all this, though, the game is actually really fun and addicting. In terms of overall quality, I only have two real complaints. There are times when you have to change the color code to control the traps, and you get the code you need by listening to dialogue between the homeowners' family in the right room at the right time. Unfortunately (as this really breaks my immersion), these code change dialogue clips are significantly lower audio quality than the rest of the recordings. The other issue is that there are major audio bugs usually resulting from pausing the game. Pausing the game several times to pee, get another Coke, answer a text, etc. led to my game's audio and video being a full five or six seconds out of sync by the end of the game. On my attempts where I didn't pause, though, I'd either have less than a second or only a second or two of sync issues by the end. It's not usually a big issue for the actual gameplay, but it's extremely irksome and kills your immersion.
The actual gameplay involves switching between six cameras in six different rooms of the house. There are often different clips with characters in multiple rooms at a single time, so if you really want to see and experience all of the glorious 80s cheese, you'll have to do multiple playthroughs. There are also six endings, so there is a bit of replay value here. You have to switch between the various rooms (this mechanic influenced the vastly inferior Five Nights at Freddy's, I think) and keep an eye out of Augers entering the house. When the Augers walk by a trap, you have to activate it at the right moment to catch them and keep the teenagers safe. There's a color coded bar to help you with your timing; it's green when no one's near the trap, yellow when someone is approaching the trap, and red when you need to activate the trap. There are a few instances when you can catch good guys in the traps accidentally, so you need to be careful with your timing (and, honestly, be willing to put up with a bit of trial and error).
Unfortunately, once you have seen all of the endings and such, there isn't a whole lot of reason to come back to the game. The timing and locations where the Augers appear are all set; the only thing at all random about the game is what color allows control of the traps. There is, however, a wave mode that I haven't personally tried out but seems to give some extra content for those who just can't get enough Night Trap. In addition to that and the main mode, there are some unlockables that you can access by beating the game under various conditions including Scene of the Crime, a prototype that was originally used to pitch the game's concept.
By today's standards, Night Trap is a pretty simple game. At the time, though, it was fairly revolutionary. It's not an amazing game, but it's definitely fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it and plan to revisit it later one (probably while drunk at a party). The various scenes that play throughout the game and trying to keep an eye out of Augers and time their capture right is a lot more fun than it sounds, and I was actually extremely surprised by how much I enjoyed the game. That said, while it's definitely a good game, I can't say that it's a "great" game. It does tend to get rather told relatively quickly, and there's isn't a whole lot of variety with it. While physical copies are a bit pricey - around $50 for PS4, $60 for Sega CD and CD 32X, and $80 for 3DO - you can get it digitally on PS4 or PC for $15, and I'd definitely say it's worth the $15 asking price.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.