Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Guilty Pleasure: Night Trap (Sega CD/32X CD/3DO/PC)

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Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD, 32X CD, 3DO, PC
Released: 1992
Developer: Digital Pictures
Publisher: Sega (Sega/Mega-CD, 32X CD), Virgin (3DO), Digital Pictures (PC)
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Difficulty: Easy
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $25.00-$50.00 (used) $50.00 (new) ( – Prices for various platforms
Price: $25-$50 (used) N/A (new) on eBay
Digital Release? No

Oh Night Trap, your reputation precedes you.  In actuality this game has received far too much press than it’s probably worth and constitutes an odd sense of rarity about the title.  It’s too bad because had this title fallen into the $5-$10 category that its brethren Sewer Shark, Corpse Killer, and Double Switch dwell, more people would probably appreciate the title.  Unfortunately due to some senate hearings and the fact that this game was alongside Mortal Kombat and Lethal Enforcers for why the ESRB ratings needed to exist in the first place, people think they are going to see some explicit content.  That, friends, is simply not true.  Putting all that publicity aside, there is a meaty cult-style game here that perhaps suffers less than other full motion video (FMV) games.  It’s not great, but it sure is fun to watch at least once.

The story of how Night Trap came to be is just as entertaining as its fame after release.  It started life as a part of a title known as Scene of the Crime, which was slated for release in 1987 and was never released.  Given the time period, it was probably one of those board games that was accompanied by a VHS tape but I’m hard pressed to see how in the world this would integrate into anything but a cd-based video game.  Either way, the cancellation saw the footage shelved until it was utilized in a new form for the planned Hasbro (another indication of a board game) console known as the NEMO that was going to use VHS tapes instead of cd-roms.  This explains why Dana Plato, the only actor even resembling notability, looks different and younger in the footage than she did upon the game’s release and why everything just looks a lot more mid-80s than early-90s.  As development proceeded with the NEMO, the footage was reprioritized to be called Night Trap and the building blocks of the game that released were put into place. Can you imagine how brutal this game would have been on both gamers and hardware/VHS tapes had it required you to jump to random moments on the tape with each decision made?  Horrid.

Through various considerations, most likely logic and practicality, the NEMO was scrapped and Sega convinced Hasbro to migrate the game to cd-rom and it became a launch title for the Sega CD in 1992.  I had a friend who got a launch Sega CD and at that time there were only like 3 games available, which meant anyone dropping $400 on a Genesis add-on had no issues shelling another $120 to have every launch title.  Night Trap was unlike anything we had seen before and our 11-year-old minds were blown by the manipulation of full video and the campy “vampires in the woods” plotline.  In short, I loved this game from the date of release.  As time passed and the Sega CD quickly dropped to clearance status and Night Trap along with it, the game would have probably fizzled into even greater obscurity had a particular scene not been called into question (see link above for that story).  While I must admit that I can’t even accidentally mistake what happens for rape, it brought new attention to the game and probably explains why it was later ported to various other platforms and can be found with little effort.

Night Trap on Sega CD

The original Sega CD game was slightly different from the other versions, especially with the opening scene where your commander, Simms, makes the events of the game sound like a covert SWAT (or shall I say SCAT) mission that’s going full force.  The footage of the house, little icons and animations, and even the video quality are dull and grainy.  It was the first time a project like this had ever existed, so I can definitely excuse the game especially when the only competition was Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, which shrank a scene from Star Wars so small and pixellated that you can barely tell what’s happening.  Everything is Sega specific as well, from SCAT standing for Sega Control Attack Team to the Genesis controller in the tutorial.  After the publicity, the game was re-released with a Mature rating from the ESRB and came out on the Sega/Mega-CD (again), a port for the 32X CD, the PC, and finally the 3DO.  Despite the new rating and rumors that the “Director’s Cut” marketing on the new box was actually a ruse for the controversial scenes being cut, the game is identical to the original release save for a few enhancements.  In the re-release SCAT now stands for Special Control Attack Team, the Genesis controller is replaced by a “Night Trap” remote, Simms sounds like he took a sedative and is speaking to people with learning disabilities, and all icons/fonts and footage are updated and improved (except for the Sega CD version).  The footage below is from the 3DO version as it has the biggest footage resolution, sharpest resolution, and fastest response time when swapping rooms (thanks to the x2 speed cd-rom).

Night Trap on 3DO

Night Trap is fun if only because it has a voyeuristic nature where all you seem to do is help people in peril.  Normally the basic plot would be boring and repetitive, but because you’re only capturing bits and pieces at a time (you won’t get very far if you hang around to see what’s going on with the main characters).  The strength of that is also the greatest fault, though, because you leave all the interesting moments (especially at the end) to go capture another enemy in a replayed scene you’ve already watched a dozen times.  In addition there are small moments where you have to pay attention to what the characters are saying in order to change the “code color”, but additional variables involving when the colors go into effect and exactly when they are mentioned is something you can only learn from playing the game a lot.  There’s also this total dick move where you can get a game over by trying to initiate a trap as the main character Kelly screams at you to do so – it’s the only time in the game that this happens and with no indication.  In short, all of these steps are there to trick you into a game over so you can write down the time (all events happen exactly the same in all scenarios, although colors do change each playthrough) and make sure not to make the same mistake twice.  Yep, replays of movies, screwing you over, and pen & paper, just another day at the office with the early cd-rom FMV titles.  Fortunately for everyone reading this I have captured a playthrough from start to finish for your viewing pleasure.  I have done my best to capture all of the interesting plot points and little nods to the player, but because the game requires you to leave those moments for arbitrary work it’s tough to get everything.  Also excuse the frantic nature of the gameplay, it’s what you have to do to get a perfect run solely from memory.  Either way, have fun and enjoy, and be sure to look for my favorite part: two enemies high-five each other after sneaking past Kelly while she speaks to you in the camera, classic.

Night Trap is still one of my favorite games of all time and I waste an hour every six months or so going through it again and again.  What about you guys?  Anyone else a fan or is this game really just a horrible mess that doesn’t even have cult value?  Let us know in the comments below and enjoy the gameplay video!

Written by Fred Rojas

October 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm

One Response

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  1. Like most kids, a buddy of mine down the street had this game and as bad as I wanted to play it through I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Long load times after a game over meant there was always another kid waiting his turn. Even so it’s always been one of those games that stuck with me and when I got older and had the means I finally got a real crack at the game and it’s one of my all time favorites. The camp, ridiculousness, all of it has a special place in my heart. I have no doubt this is because I still play it through the eyes of a 12 year old.


    December 26, 2016 at 7:21 pm

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