PS4, PC, Xbox One (PS4 version reviewed)
This review is available in both written and video form. The video version is below, the written version can be found underneath it.
While I personally think the video version is the best way to enjoy this review since it offers comparisons with the original game and other nifty wee tricks, the written version below offers a similar ‘script’ so you can choose either.
Right, here’s the deal.
You may have noticed that the heading of this article has ‘review’ in quote marks. That’s because anyone who knows me already knows what I’m going to say.
I have a great love for Night Trap. In the two and a half years since I launched Tired Old Hack I’ve tried to shoehorn it into as many articles as I can, almost as a running joke.
What was one of the things I wanted to see on the Switch? Night Trap. What was one of the honourable mentions in my best DS games list? Night Trap (even though it wasn’t released on it).
And when I did a weird comedy article on the rumoured characters in the next Mario & Sonic game, I decided Night Trap was going to be one of them even though that made no sense at all.
The running joke, then, is that I have an unhealthy obsession with Night Trap, and so anything other than a comedy review that ends by saying it’s the greatest game ever made would seem oddly out of character for this site.
However, I do genuinely love Night Trap. It was one of my biggest childhood pleasures (I was around 10 or 11 when it came out) and I regularly play the Mega CD version to this day.
That’s why one of the first YouTube videos I made when I launched this site was a retro review of Night Trap.
It’s why I got in touch with indie developer Tyler Hogle back in June 2016 when he made a mobile prototype of a Night Trap remaster for fun, and why he subsequently gave me a copy of it so I could put a video on the site.
It’s why he generously agreed to record a podcast with me about the 25th Anniversary Edition a good two months before it was announced, meaning I had the world’s first interview about the game once it was eventually publicly revealed.
And it’s why yer man Scullion has now played it to completion and has the first review of the remaster that you’ll find anywhere in the world.
For the first time in my career, I blatantly have a vested interest here. My interest has more vests than Sports Direct. It’s vested to fuck.
In the interest of transparency, then, please do bear all that in mind before you read on. This review may indeed end with an inevitable “it’s the greatest game in the world” joke, but I’m still a professional and it’s still my job to critique this game honestly and fairly.
My comedy ‘love’ for Night Trap is well documented but my genuine love for the game is real too and had this remaster been a shoddy effort I would have had no problems in saying so.
After all, it may be remembered more for the controversy it raised and the FMV genre it belonged to, but it’s an important milestone in gaming history and deserves a respectful, definitive special edition that won’t disappoint its fans, many of whom have been waiting many years to see the game in the quality it was originally intended.
Thankfully, those fans (including myself) can breathe a sigh of relief, because the Night Trap 25th Anniversary Edition is a fitting tribute to a cult favourite.
For those still not familiar with it, I’ve already written a massive retro review of the original release, but let me recap really quickly.
A bunch of teens have been disappearing near the mysterious Martin family home, and a special ops team – the unfortunately named SCAT – has decided to put you in charge of investigating said domain.
A recent investigation uncovered a high-tech security system in the house, consisting of a bunch of cameras and traps. SCAT has overridden the system, meaning you’re now in control of it.
There’s a couple of twists: firstly, the house is regularly infiltrated by Augers, a bizarre group of sort of disabled vampires who lack the teeth necessary to bite their victims and so use a weird extraction syringe instead.
Secondly, there’s another group of teenagers headed to the house for a slumber party, but one of them is Kelly, an undercover agent for SCAT. She’s played by Dana Plato from Diff’rent Strokes but she’s been dead for 18 years now so don’t get too excited.
The aim, then, is to use the house’s surveillance system to spy on the residents and find out what’s going on, while using the traps to capture any Augers who could harm the visiting teens.
This is all explained in the game’s intro but, interestingly, it’s a completely new one that’s never been seen before. You see, Night Trap was filmed in 1987 for a VHS gaming system that ultimately never happened, and the footage remained in storage for five years until CD-ROM technology came around and the game was finally made.
All the previous versions of Night Trap used a new intro that was shot specifically for the CD versions, meaning this is the first time players get to see the original VHS version’s intro.
It’s an arguably better one too, because it actually shows you what the traps were originally designed for: capturing unsuspecting teenagers.
What made Night Trap so interesting to me and many others two and a half decades ago was the way it used the limitations of the FMV (full-motion video) genre in a clever way, working with the linear nature of video rather than against it.
Each of the eight rooms you switch between is essentially a separate ‘video feed’, made up of shorter clips that trigger at certain points in the timeline.
These clips are perfectly arranged so that each of the rooms appears to be interlinked. If a clip has a character leaving one room, if you switch over to the next room you’ll see a clip of them entering it.
It’s a subtle thing but one that regularly makes you forget you’re just switching between non-interactive videos: you genuinely feel like you’re watching someone and following them through the house.
Trapping is another trick that makes you feel more in control of a linear experience. When an Auger walks over a trap a little bar on the screen changes from green to red: when it does, hit the trap button and you’ll catch them.
Miss one and you can kiss your perfect score goodbye. Miss too many and you’re fucked: the commander will appear on your screen and disconnect you for putting the teens in danger.
Then there’s the security codes. The trap system runs off a colour-based access code: if your control panel doesn’t have the right colour the traps don’t work.
As the game progresses some of the residents realise the security system has been hacked and so they start changing the code on a regular basis: you therefore have to make sure you hear any code changes so you can stay on top of things.
So that’s Night Trap, but anyone familiar with the game will already know all this. Let’s talk specifically about this 25th anniversary revamp.
For starters, the obvious main feature is the vast improvement in picture quality. Let’s not kid ourselves, this isn’t an HD remaster, but developer Tyler Hogle was given the original tapes used to store the footage so the quality’s still bloody good for its age: similar to a low-budget DVD, I’d say.
Considering the previous versions on Mega CD, 32X, 3DO and DOS all launched at a time when CD-ROM technology was still in its infancy, I have distinct memories of the video quality being criticised even back then. “It’s so grainy you might as well be watching the sand at a beach”, I remember one mag saying about the Mega CD version.
The difference here compared to those grainy days is remarkable, not just in terms of detail and resolution but also aspect ratio: it’s now the full 4:3 picture instead of the fake widescreen which was used in the older versions so there was less video to process. This means you get to see much more of the picture, so even familiar scenes have a degree of novelty to them.
Speaking of novelty, there’s a few minutes of deleted scenes that were cut out of the original game for various reasons and these have been reinstated: not just as bonus features, mind you, but actually slotted back into the game where they were supposed to go. You’ll get a trophy or achievement every time you see one, so newcomers will still know.
It’s a better experience for newcomers in general, actually, in that some of the game’s mechanics have been tweaked to make the game a little easier to play.
Most notable are the room icons in the bottom-left of the screen. In the ‘90s versions these were static icons, meaning players had to constantly switch from room to room to see if anything was going on.
It led to a sort of trial-and-error situation that may have been fine back in the day but these days attention spans are lower and that sort of thing can frustrate, so now the icons show real-time thumbnails of all eight feeds. This makes it a lot easier to see when something’s kicking off in another room.
There will be some Night Trap purists who’ll balk at the idea of being able to see what’s going on in all eight rooms at once, but I like it. It’s more realistic: if you were in charge of a bank of eight security cameras, you WOULD be watching all eight at once.
It also has another benefit: if you’re watching a room and can see at a glance that there’s nothing going on elsewhere, you can stay in that room and enjoy the conversation rather than constantly feeling the need to jump around in case you’re missing something.
Also affecting the difficulty is the change to the game’s capture count mechanic. There are two scores in Night Trap: Possible and Captured. Captured is self-explanatory, while Possible tells you how many Augers have entered the house since the game started. In other words, if you were going for a perfect game, you’d want both numbers to be the same.
Pay attention because I’m about to get nerdy. In the original versions, the Possible counter goes up by one after a potential trapping situation occurs, whereas now it goes up as soon as a trapping scene starts.
Here’s an example. Say an Auger enters the bedroom, wanders around for 15 seconds or so and eventually walks over to where a trap is, at which point you can either trap them or miss them.
In the original game, the Possible counter will only go up at the point of the trap: when you’ve either trapped or missed the Auger. In the remaster though, it goes up as soon as they enter the room.
Why should you give a seventh of a fuck? Because it gives you more of a heads-up. Before, if you were watching a scene in one room and the Possible counter went up, it meant you had missed an Auger and had fucked your perfect game.
Now if you’re watching a scene and the Possible counter goes up, it means an Auger’s just entered the house: this gives you time to go looking for them before the moment they have to be trapped comes. It’s just another way of making the game a bit easier and more approachable to newcomers.
By now hardened Night Trap nuts may be worried at the possible ‘nerfing’ of their favourite game, but other changes have been made to make sure things aren’t too easy.
The ratio you need to maintain to prevent a Game Over has been increased, for starters. At various points in the story the game will check how many Augers you’ve captured and if it isn’t enough (i.e. you’ve let too many go) you’ll trigger a Game Over. In the past this was fairly lenient but now it’s a bit harsher: you’ll need to catch around 75% of the Augers to keep playing.
The addition of the deleted scenes will also throw off seasoned Night Trap players. I know this game inside-out and have completed the original countless times, but found myself shouting “FUCK” at the screen when Danny was killed.
You see, in the ‘90s versions, Danny wasn’t killed. He’s just a young lad so it was considered too dodgy to have him getting his neck drained of blood. 25 years later it’s no problem – drain away, mate – which means Danny’s potential death is reinstated in the form of another of the game’s numerous insta-kills.
Fail to trap the Auger during this scene and Danny will be killed and it’s an instant Game Over. That’s fine for new players but when you’re used to the specific beats of the old game, something completely new slotted in like this can completely throw you off.
Of all the things I was expecting from a Night Trap remaster, getting caught off-guard wasn’t one of them. It happened more than once, too. And each time I loved it.
“That’s great Chris,” I hear you say, “but I’m the most dedicated Night Trap fan out there. I’m such a die-hard that I got a tattoo on my penis. It usually just says ‘RAIN’ but when erect it expands to say ‘REST IN PEACE DANA PLATO, YOUR ROLE IN NIGHT TRAP WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN’.
“What I’m trying to say is two things: firstly, I have a large penis. Secondly, I’ve seen everything there is to see about Night Trap and while these new deleted scenes are great, once I’ve learned how to master them too I’ll be dropping perfect games all over the shop again. What else is in it for me?”
Well, the penis thing is none of my business, but thankfully there’s some nice extras to keep you busy once you’re done here.
Beat the game once and you’ll unlock Theatre mode, which lets you watch the full versions of any story scenes you stumbled across while playing (I give it a week before someone makes Night Trap: The Movie on YouTube using these scenes).
Even better though, get a perfect game by trapping all 100 Augers and you’ll unlock Scene Of The Crime, the unseen VHS prototype for Night Trap about a robbery in a mansion.
This is an obscenely brilliant extra feature for fans of the series: for years all we’ve seen of Scene Of The Crime is a handful of seconds-long clips, and all of a sudden we get to play the entire thing. Granted, it’s only about five minutes long, but it’s a piece of gaming folklore made real.
Add to that a Survivor mode where you have to catch an endless stream of Augers to go for a high score and two lengthy documentaries and you’ve got one hell of a package here.
As a massive Night Trap fan, I couldn’t be happier with this remaster. If you’d asked me two years ago what I wanted to see from something like this I’d have requested a huge improvement in picture quality, some content I’d never seen before, a documentary explaining its importance for newcomers and – as a wild off chance dream – some footage of Scene Of The Crime.
With this 25th Anniversary Edition we’ve been given all that and more, making it not only the perfect celebration for long-time Night Trap fans, but also the best possible way for younger gamers (and those who missed out the first time) to discover part of gaming history.
Yes, we all know it won’t be for everyone. Some magazines rated it poorly even back then. But some things get better with age, and Night Trap’s cheesy ‘80s presentation is more endearing these days. Back in 1992 the footage was only five years old and was considered shit, now it’s 30 years old and has charm.
If you’ve never played Night Trap before and want to know what the fuss was all about, there’s really no better way. The FMV genre has been as good as dead for a long time and as such there’s not much like Night Trap out there these days.
Even the best recent games that also use video – I’m thinking the likes of Her Story and The Bunker – use it in such a different way to how Night Trap did. There wasn’t much like it at the time, there’s nothing like it now.
Which is why, of course (drum roll), it’s the greatest game in the world.
Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition is available on the PS4 and Steam digital stores on 15 August. It’s also coming to Xbox One in the very near future.
In order that I could write this review, I received a copy of the game from its developer. The content of my review and the opinions therein were in no way positively influenced by this.
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