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Night Trap

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Released: 1992

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: Sega CD/Mega CD

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Digital Pictures

If there’s any game that has become a victim of revisionist history, it’s Night Trap. The much-maligned game is most commonly cited as Mortal Kombat’s partner in crime during the 1993 US Senate hearings on violence in video games, and is today regarded as being quite a bad game. But this wasn’t always the case, as Night Trap scored some pretty impressive reviews back in the day, and was described by Mean Machines Sega as “the most advanced and innovative Mega-CD game yet.”

The truth, as always, lies somewhere between these two extremes. Night Trap casts you as a special operative monitoring a household where teenagers have recently gone missing. With another batch of girls arriving for a sleepover, your job is to eliminate any threats by remotely activating the house’s unusual security system, which comprises a variety of traps. As a piece of technology, it’s hugely impressive – you can switch between a selection of real-time video feeds and the action stays in sync. Granted, the video quality is horrible, but in 1992 we’d never seen video on a console at all.

While the cheesy teen horror pastiche is quite entertaining if you love B-movies, and nowhere near as horrific as rent-a-quote politicians suggested at the time, the game design means that you’ll spend most of your time watching the least interesting thing going on in the house at any given time – a major flaw. Additionally, the use of live footage naturally restricts interactivity. The game has to play out in the same way each time, and with only 80 minutes of video the difficulty has been cranked up to off-putting levels to avoid players finishing the game too quickly.

Though Night Trap is far from the best game ever made, it certainly shouldn’t be denied its place in history. FMV might have largely fallen by the wayside, but this game is one of the most interesting attempts at doing something original with it.