Thanks to Screaming Villains for the review code
Title: Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition
System: Playstation 4
Release Date: 08/15/2017
In this remastered version of the FMV cult classic, you take control of someone operating the cameras and trap system of a mysterious house where teenagers have been reported missing from, as you help out SCAT team member Kelly unravel the secrets of the Martin household, all while trapping the strange Augers that try to invade the house in search of humans to capture. The game was known for having a cheesy story that at first seems like it’s a poorly made horror movie, but after playing through and getting every single ending for this review (along with reading some of the behind the scenes stuff) I have a feeling this story was made less as a serious horror movie and more as a non-serious interactive thriller. Whatever the case, this whole game is not scary in the slightest, so that’s something which people should be aware of before you experience it.
For the first time ever on the Seafoam Gaming website, I’m covering a video game that really doesn’t use a specific artstyle… Mainly because the entire game consists of recorded, real life footage that’s strung together across eight different rooms, and the main interaction comes from using the indicators on screen to know when and where you can trap the augers that roam the household.
Outside of the aforementioned full motion video bits, (the majority of which looks great and MUCH better than any prior version released for older consoles, save for a very, very small scene at the end that’s lifted from one of the older versions due to missing original footage) the actual visuals related to the gameplay can all be changed through an options menu before you start a new game. You have two choices for the thumbnails used for the eight cameras, with Retro being static thumbnail images, (which are sadly not the amusing, poorly made drawings used in the original Sega CD version) and Revamped being fully animated thumbnails.
Both thumbnail options work great for the type of experiences the game wants you to have, (With the Retro thumbnails being to emulate the original feel of not knowing what’s in a room until you actually go there, leading to constant camera switching, while Revamped is meant to make things easier for newcomers) although I did find that the Revamped thumbnails didn’t help much when it came to the Driveway, as the lighting is so dark compared to the rest of the home that I’d still miss Augers even if I looked at the thumbnail when they appeared. This isn’t really much of a fault on the developer’s part however, since the Augers are still hard to see even when you actually visit the driveway. The only real way to get good at identifying them is by simply listening for their theme music when you visit the Driveway and memorizing the exact times they appear in that area.
Outside of the two thumbnail options, you have four layout options for the HUD. 2017, 1994, 1993, and 1992. Each of them (save for 2017, obviously) is based off the HUDs from the older versions of the game, with the 1992 one being based off the Sega CD version, the 1993 one being based off the Sega CD 32X version, and the 1994 one being based off the 3DO version. While some HUDS do add things that HUDS from other years can lack, (for instance the 2017 hud completely omits the names of each of the rooms you’re looking at, which makes the 1994 one my preferred HUD of choice) they all share the common trait of listing how many Augers are currently alive and hiding somewhere, along with the amount that have successfully been captured into a trap. There’s also a nice color bar right above the thumbnails/map that shows the current access code color, which can be changed on the fly with the L1/R1 buttons, along with a flashing light that changes from green, to orange and to red whenever an auger/someone else steps over a trap area, and that’s the cue to hit the trap button. (or not, in some cases)
Unfortunately, despite the addition of the old map for the 93/94 HUDS, the color and trap indications remain the same across all HUDs, which means changing to the 1992 HUD will not get you the weird measuring tube display for the trap indicator. This is a minor omission, along with the original icon artwork for the older HUDs, but it may be something that could upset those who really want to make this game play exactly like it did back in the day. Another thing to note is that the video quality is also locked at the highest possible regardless of the HUD, although the border will obviously adjust accordingly. Why anyone would want to play the game in a ultra choppy video format like on the Sega CD is beyond me, but there’s another thing to note.
Last but not least, let’s not forget about the music and audio portions of the game. Considering that they all came from the master tapes used for filming, the audio quality manages to be really good for a game of this type, and there was never a moment where the background music (as generic and weird as it can be) was louder than the voices, which led to a good audio balance. Even if you go and constantly mash the trap button like I do, the actual game is still easy to hear even with the constant beeping of the trap going on, so kudos for proper audio balance. When it comes to the actual compositions for the soundtrack, though… There’s really not much to say. Outside of the surprisingly good but cheesy Night Trap theme song, most of them have a generic “bad dude is coming” vibe, save for this really, really out of place theme that takes place in Hall 2 shortly after the beginning of the game, which is a slow, lazy song that sounds like it came out of an episode of Ed Edd N Eddy, despite that show airing on TV long after the original game came out.
Also included as a bonus in this game is a very short prototype game known as Scene of the Crime, which has as much content as a typical DVD menu game. Like with Night Trap, the video quality is really good and taken from master tapes, with only minor VHS damage here and there, and the same top-notch audio balancing kicks into play once again, although there seems to be more stock tracks used here than actual compositions. There was one track that played in an upstairs bedroom that I found rather catchy though, sounding as if it was a Redbook Audio song, although I found the quality of the acting to be a bit weaker than Night Trap, but I suppose that’s to be expected from an interactive movie.
You might have noticed that compared to most of my other reviews, I went into immense detail in the presentation section, rather than here in the gameplay section. The reason for that is rather simple, as outside of all the cool HUD options and bonus content in the basement, the actual gameplay consists of little more than monitoring the cameras, enjoying the story that you can see and hitting the O/Triangle buttons at the right times to capture the Augers when they pass by a trap. That’s literally it, and outside of moments where the trap access code will change, (which can throw someone who happens to miss said cutscenes entirely off guard when the color code stops working) the entire game is simply monitoring cameras while you walk silly guys in black suits waddle into each room acting as if they’re doing the walk cycle from the Hotel Mario intro. This sounds like a perfect recipe for a very boring game, but surprisingly, I found myself getting hooked, as the game can actually be really tough to newcomers like myself who’ve never actually played the game before now.
You see, if you happen to miss a certain amount of Augers, your entire game will be interrupted by the commander and disconnected for failure to monitor the rooms correctly, which means you’ll have to redo the entire game from scratch if you hit the checkpoint. This sounds annoying and you’d think I would just wait a while before doing all that over again, but in actuality, it just motivated me to flip around more frantically to ensure that I would see more of the story, and see how long I could last. Throughout my many playthroughs of the game, I noticed that the first half of the game (that goes up to the checkpoint at around the 14 minute mark) mostly revolves around you stopping the Augers from invading the house, with only one of the teenagers to save during that timeframe. From the checkpoint onwards is where the game gets really interesting, and the game overs will be more or less caused not by you missing a lot of Augers, but rather you letting one of the teenagers or SCAT members die, as everyone else in this second half is in danger, and the stakes are a lot higher.
Thankfully, dying after the checkpoint will simply send you back to the checkpoint, Auger count from before the checkpoint completely intact. The whole game is 26 minutes long in-game time, and the second half moves at a much quicker pace than the first, especially if you’re going after a perfect game, so constantly restarting at the checkpoint didn’t make the game a repetitive borefest. In fact, after I used a guide for multiple perfect playthroughs of the game, I got so good at going through the second half because of me having to retry constantly, (you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to screw up because of four attempts the game throws at you where using the trap button will actually lead to a game over, one of which is required that you do not mess up in order to get the normal ending) to the point that I can now get 30-40 of the post-checkpoint augers without a guide. It ends up being a fun game of memorization, and as the story gets more and more crazy, Night Trap ended up being a fun game that I’d show to my curious friends, who found it entertaining to watch my playthroughs and failures.
So earlier I mentioned the perfect ending, and the unlockable bonus game Scene of The Crime. What exactly is a perfect ending, and what’s so special about the game you unlock from getting one? Well, a perfect ending requires you to capture all 100 Augers, save every mandatory AND optional character from being harmed or captured, and prevent one character from being thrown gently to the ground or accidentally trapped in the end of the game. At first, this was something I was convinced I couldn’t do even with a guide, as the task sounded intimidating, especially with trophies that require you to do it all without retrying once. Yet, when I actually used a guide/bits that I memorized myself, it was surprisingly easy, since the augers always appear in the same locations at the same times with every playthrough.
Nevertheless, after unlocking the respective trophies for the Perfect Ending, I was finally able to play this long-lost prototype game, Scene of the Crime. I mentioned earlier how I considered it no more interactive than a DVD Menu game… And that’s because it honestly is. The entire game lasts around five minutes or so, and outside of checking every room to see what the other residents of a wealthy household are doing, there’s nothing to do but watch, and check the room with a safe in it every now and then to see who commits the crime, which ends with a multiple choice selection at the very end where you point out who committed the crime. Outside of some amusing moments and acting, this game is really only noteworthy as a novelty and nothing more, but it is nice to see a piece of formerly lost media publicly accessible for the world to enjoy, and for that alone I’ll give the developer credit for including it despite how uninteresting it is compared to the main attraction.
Next to getting all the story related trophies and unlocking basement material, there is one more mode that this rerelease features that’s meant to break the repetitive and unchanging nature of the main game, with Survivor Mode. In this mode, you’re forced into the 2017 HUD with animated thumbnails as completely random scenes from across the main story play at the same time in multiple rooms, with the main goal being to capture as many augers as possible before you’re disconnected. It sounds like a fantastic way to make the gameplay an arcade experience of sorts, but unfortunately a few flaws with the mode drag it down a bit, and make it pretty undesirable to play for anything but the trophies. For starters, the leaderboard doesn’t seem to have any options to scroll down past the top players in the lead or to check what the scores of your friends were, so if you get a low score (which you probably will unless you master the 2017 HUD) then don’t expect to find yourself at 2000th place or whatever. The game does keep track of your highest attempt locally, however which helps stop this from being entirely pointless.
Speaking of being locked to the 2017 HUD, that’s also a major issue with this mode. Even if you go and try to change to any of the other HUD options beforehand, you’ll be forced to play Survivor mode in the 2017 layout, which has some minor disadvantages to the earlier layouts that I mentioned earlier. This means if you happen to be good with an earlier layout but not so good with the 2017 one, well you’ll have to practice ultra hard with that one, even though I honestly don’t see any reason to lock you in a certain HUD outside of an attempt to make the leaderboards more balanced. It just makes me wonder why they didn’t make separate leaderboards for each HUD or give the player the choice to begin with. It should also be noted that unlike the main game, the difficulty of this mode is insane, with split second timing required when switching from one room to another. Memorization of random Auger scenes is required to make it past the fourth round, but it is possible and the mode does end up being a lot of frantic fun when you jump over that hurdle.
Finally, to discuss some minor technical issues I encountered with the game. The biggest one by far is the load times that take place when you go from the main menu into a new or continued game. Compared to most other games I’ve played, these load times are rather stupid, lasting a good twenty-seconds or more depending on what the game feels like doing. Retrying after a game over also sends you to a long, black loading screen, but it didn’t feel quite as long as the earlier load. Surprisingly, I once found myself going into Survivor mode and it loaded within seconds, so it seems the game engine is capable at loading the actual game a little faster than it does right now. It’s not a gamebreaker, but it’s mildly annoying. Other minor issues come from two particular scenes near the end of the game, one of which is a game over, and the other is a misc capture sequence.
The Capture sequence I’m referring to takes place in the driveway, right after the SCAT team invades the living room. Two Augers will be wandering on the rooftop, and the natural instinct is to mash the button and fling both of them off like you would earlier in the game. However, upon launching the second one, the sound effect plays, but the video keeps going as if I failed. It forces you to keep on mashing it/wait a second after the first one before it’ll properly catapult the Auger off the roof, which could mess up a perfect run if you weren’t expecting that to happen, but it’s also rather easy to correct by just sticking around some more.
The Game Over glitch on the other hand appears to be a bug that the developer is already aware of, where an alternate ending that can take place in said living room will end up softlocking the game after the cutscene plays out, with retry prompt popping up, along with no way to pause the game. This can be really annoying, but thankfully it doesn’t take place too long after the autosave so little will be lost because of this (however it won’t unlock the scene in the Theater as a result)
In conclusion, finally getting a chance to try this game for myself was well worth the wait, especially after many years of hearing about it through numerous reviews of the Sega CD itself. What was passed around and shared as a boring camera flipping game with little depth that caused a lot of controversy somehow turned into a cheesy interactive thriller that I found plenty of reason to replay multiple times, either to aim for the next obscure trophy, unlock everything in the theater and gallery modes, and constant attempts at improving in Survivor Mode. While there are a few minor flaws that do make the game a bit hard to get into for newcomers, (from the aforementioned long load times and minor bugs to the odd difficulty balance in survivor mode) I felt that the overall package was really solid, serving a job as both an interesting look at gaming history while also containing a very fun game that’s actually enjoyable!
Whether you want to come here for the campy yet interesting story, or a fun gaming experience that you won’t come across that often, the one-man dev team at Screaming Villains did a fantastic job at porting and improving upon the original game, and I hope this version is successful enough to kickstart other ports of promising FMV games, since this title does prove that these games have a place in history and are more than a curious footnote. (Perhaps Double Switch or heaven forbid, the Power Rangers Sega CD game?) I give Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition an 8 out of 10, and recommend it to all fans of cheesy thrillers, arcade style gameplay, or just someone who loves to collect trophies as they experience a game that isn’t as interactive as what you’re probably used to.