Night Trap (Digital Pictures/Sega/Hasbro, 1992)

I can't tell if I'm reviewing a game or a movie with this one, RetroFans. I'll leave that up to you.

When the CD-driven generation of consoles and console add-ons hit in the early 90s, they offered unprecedented opportunities in terms of home console gaming. More data, better data, could be stored on the new medium. This included actual video footage and live-recorded audio, not just pixel-mapped images and digitized sound effects. One of the less esoteric devices on the market was the Sega CD (called the Mega-CD overseas), which hooked up to your Genesis or Mega Drive and lent it astounding capabilities. At least in theory, that's how it worked.

After a while, it got to be more like playing with Transformers than hooking up a video game system.

After a while, it got to be more like playing with Transformers than hooking up a video game system.

The vast majority of titles released for Sega's CD ROM attachment were simply gently-retooled incarnations of Genesis titles, usually with expanded gameplay options, slightly better sound, or touched up graphics.

Then we had games like Night Trap, which blurred the line between console and cinema.

You left the screen door open again, the house is full of bloodsuckers, and Dana Plato is pissed.

You left the screen door open again, the house is full of bloodsuckers, and Dana Plato is pissed.

Night Trap was originally filmed in 1987 for Hasbro, who had something called Control-Vision in development at the time. Codenamed “NEMO” during its development, the system was to use VHS tapes instead of cartridges. The quiet death of NEMO is its own fairly boring story, but it resulted in Night Trap's footage being shelved for four years, until it was bought in 1991 by a company called Digital Pictures... who just happened to know what to do with it. Some extra trimmings were added and the final product was released in 1992, quickly followed by a version that also utilized Sega's 32X attachment for even better graphics. The title was eventually ported to the 3DO and the PC later on.

The film footage stars two notable Hollywood names (at least, notable to us Retro nerds): Dana Plato, whose notoriety comes from Diff'rent Strokes and her tragic end; and Andras Jones, known to horror fans as Rick from the fourth Nightmare on Elm Street installment. The third notable star is you, the player. You star as the pivotal member of the SCAT (Sega Control Attack Team). Your job is complicated, to say the least; you see, girls have been disappearing at the Martin house (which is described as a winery as well as a residence). A new group of young ladies will be arriving soon, one of whom is an undercover agent (played by Plato). You must watch through a set of cameras (one at a time, or how would it be challenging?) to keep an eye on them, find out what's happening to them, and neutralize threats using a strange set of Scooby-Doo style booby traps throughout the house that you've covertly been given control of. It's possible for the hosts to find the cable connecting you to the trap system and unplug you, so you have to defend against that as well. Your hands, literally and figuratively, are full.

I never want this dude as my boss in real life.

I will straight up tell you: this game is not a casual one. Gameplay is borderline stressful, but it can be very fun. Constant vigilance (or elaborate memorization) is required. If you're off by even a few seconds, you get the privilege of watching helplessly as the young women are kidnapped and drained by Augers. 

What are Augers, you say? Well, they're sort of like vampires, but decidedly less pleasant, if that's possible (it is).

Those dudes in the right-hand picture? The ones all done up like Dracula's Olympic fencing team? Those are Augers. 

And what does the Martin family have to do with this? Well, I don't want to spoil anything, but let's just say if they unplug your trap control cord, it's not just because they think someone's stealing their cable.

Oh. Good.

Oh. Good.

Along with Doom, Mortal Kombat, and other video games from the time period, Night Trap figured strongly into the early 90s Senate hearings on video game violence that eventually brought us the ESRB. Night Trap was cited as having, among other qualities, “an unprecedented level of realism” and as depicting “an effort to trap and kill women.” Sega went so far as to take it off the shelves after its initial release, making the original version a relative rarity to this day. The CD/32X and subsequent ports were released after the outcry had died down, along with a reissue of the base Sega CD version.

In 2014 the original producers made an effort on Kickstarter to reinvigorate Night Trap, claiming they'd even look into doing sequels if the project was successful. To keep that story short, it wasn't. However, the original footage remains popular on YouTube and elsewhere on the web, and most conversations among gamers that touch on the Sega CD inevitably involve Night Trap. Other games in a similar vein followed, such as 1994's Double Switch, but by then these elements of gameplay were more commonplace. Night Trap was the one that made the waves.

As one of the more innovative and memorable titles for the Sega CD, not to mention an overall decent game, I give Night Trap 8 out of 10. It's worth taking a look at, and it's definitely worth playing if you find yourself so fortunate as to get a chance.