by: Dr. Boogie
Back in the Best Sega CD Games piece, I told you about how the Full-Motion Video craze reached its peak with one of its earliest examples, and then began an almost instantaneous slide into the depths of utter crap.
That game was Night Trap.
The whole of Night Trap is you watching a house full of slumber-partying coeds through various security cameras. Unfortunately, whereas most slumber parties had little to worry about aside from the occasional panty raid, this one is about to be assaulted by vampires! And not sparkly, whispering, Alaskan pederast vampires, either! And also not "Carpathian warlord with an impaling fetish"-type vampires.
No, these vampires are the kind that dress like someone tried to make a ninja costume out of garbage bags. And they don't go for blood by biting necks, no sir. They prefer to nab their victims with blood-draining collars! Thank goodness the homeowners, in addition to stocking their home with some impressive video equipment, installed a number of trap doors, rotating walls, and other such traps to capture intruders.
Yes, it's all quite silly, particularly vampires using collars instead of their own fangs. The collar bit was actually an attempt by the devs to mitigate the PG-13 violence that appears in the game. In spite of that precaution, the game did manage to capture the imaginations of our most senile government officials. For many moral panic-y months, getting those awful video games off the market became a crusade for them. By now, we know that such efforts were as impotent as they were ignorant, but it was quite a big deal back then.
But I'd hate to think I was being totally one-sided about the issue. Allow me to take you on a trip through Night Trap so you can judge for yourself whether this is the kind of sick filth we need to hide from our stupid, impressionable kids, or if it's just a silly B-movie about clumsy vampires and the world's worst special ops team.
(note: I'll also have a very special Night Trap surprise for you at the end of this article, so be sure to read on 'til the end!)
Speaking of which, the first team member you meet is Commander Simms. He immediately undercuts the seriousness of the situation be stating that he is the leader of the "Sega Control Attack Team." Once you've fully engaged your suspension of disbelief, he goes onto explain that five girls have gone missing at a house owned by Mr. and Mrs. Victor Martin. As you start to ask why this isn't being handled by the police, Simms brings up the "remote unit," which is just a Sega controller.
During some kind of preliminary excursion into the house, another SCAT agent discovered a host of cameras and traps. Being an electronics expert, he went through the surveillance footage from the cameras to find out more about the missing- Ah, I got you! None of that shit happened, screw those missing chicks! No, he just wired up the house so you could you those cameras and traps yourself with an override wire:
Running a giant-ass cable through a window by the back door of a home they broke into isn't exactly discreet. That's why, in addition to trapping intruders, you'll also have to cover for the agent's sloppy work by trapping anyone who tries to pull the cable. Oh, and the traps are color-coded and, "anyone inside that house can change that code at any time." This is a terrible, terrible security system.
Thankfully, you have one ace in the hole:
Undercover agent Kelly Medd, played by actress Dana Plato. She's been planted among the latest round of girls who are just itching to go sleep over at a place where five other girls recently went missing. She'll help out in subtle ways, and if you get into trouble, you can always call in the rest of SCAT to come in guns blaz- nah, I'm just messing with you again! They can't do shit, and if you can't shove vampires into spinning bookcases, you're fucked!!
Then Simms starts berating you for listening to him talk. After about five more seconds of abuse, he decides to pull the plug. Literally:
And just like that, the game's over. Maybe you'll get to join them next time, when they'll be trapping mummies in an apartment building.
You really have to wonder about SCAT's jurisdiction, especially since they don't seem to know anything about what's going on. At this point in the story, all they know is some girls went missing. Is that really enough for them to break into someone's home and drop a few more girls into the victim hopper? Well, it doesn't matter because the intro starts again, and now you realize you can skip it. Time to dive in and start looking at cameras.
Nothing going on at the front door. This in contrast to the box art's declaration of "Non-Stop Action!" You'll actually see a lot of this if you don't pick the right cameras to watch. How do you know which of the eight cameras to watch? Why, by playing through the game over and over again to figure out where you screwed up and what you missed by not looking in the right place at the right time. For instance, the first time you start up a game, you'll be looking around the screen, trying to make sense of everything you're seeing, like the fluctuating gauge above the camera icons:
This is your sole indication of when to trigger the traps, as you have no idea ahead of time where these things are placed, nor what they do. All you have to go on is knowing that you have to trigger the traps when the gauge gets high enough. What's "high enough"? I'm not sure. It seems to be when it's mostly full, or totally full, but it varies from one scene to the next.
And then there's the timer on the left, and counters for "possible" and "captured". And what are some of those icons supposed to be? The bottom left looks like a toilet and sink, but the second in on the top row looks like a penguin holding a revolver and smoking a cigar. And just two over from that is some moldy bread. Is that the kitchen?
No, it isn't, but in the few seconds it took to figure that out, you've already missed two vampires, so... mental note there. Let's start over and say, just for the sake of argument, that you knew to immediately check the camera for Hallway 1:
Oh shit, there they are! A pair of arthritic vampires that shambled by while you, a brand new SCAT agent with no familiarity with this house, the cameras, the traps, or even the SCAT system itself, were trying to figure everything out. I feel bad for the girls in that other timeline who got attacked by the vampires you missed, you noob.
Anyway, at this point, you've figured out where to look and when to hit the trap button:
All the traps use steam to confound the vampires, but I'm sure you're tired of hearing that old trope. Time to celebrate your first victory. Just don't spend more than a couple seconds doing it or you'll miss the next ones sneaking into the bedroom! Oh wait, while you were catching them, you missed some that were simultaneously entering via the living room. Well, let's grab them first next time:
First of all, the owners of the house didn't even shut the damn sliding door. They say vampires can't enter a house unless they're invited in, but I'm pretty sure something like this counts as an open invitation.
Let's fast-forward a bit:
Look at those counters. It hasn't even been two whole minutes since the game began, and you've had to trap TEN vampires! You, a guy who doesn't know anything about the layout of this house, nor about what traps you're using, nor anything who you're supposed to be trapping. The commander of SCAT put the lives of his best agent and a handful of other girls in your hands, and he expected you to just figure things out on in your own time, but also in less than twelve seconds or you'll miss the first vampires and thereby doom everyone at that house.
We haven't even seen the arrival of the goddamn girls we're supposed to be protecting!
Well here they are. The whole crew piles out of a station wagon, oblivious to how much vampire ass you've packed into the walls already. The Martins' daughter, Sarah, greets the girls and introduces them to her parents:
They're a lovely couple, and I'm sure you'd like to hear all about them, but you can't because you'll miss more vampires if you watch this scene unfold. How did the Martins miss these all these vampires penetrating every single room of their home?
Elsewhere, one of the vampires with the blood-training collar, wand, and backpack is sneaking through the hallway. Of all the vampires, this guy at least has a reason to be shambling about like he's got a minivan on his shoulders.
This helpful fellow had the foresight to lift up his collar gun to avoid it getting caught in the rotating wall that catches him. How sporting of him to play by the rules.
It should be noted that not one of the vampires reacts at all to seeing a compatriot get snagged by one of these traps. They don't stare in bewilderment, they don't try to free their friends, they just move right along like who cares about those guys. In some cases, they even witness one vampire get caught by a trap moments before they blunder into it themselves!
And while you're busy catching these myopic bloodsuckers, the girls are doing stuff and other people are showing up, but you can't stop scanning cameras long enough to see much of it. It gets to a point where you can't even watch the capture videos because you'll miss another capture. Worse yet, if your timing is off by a couple seconds, you'll soon discover that your traps aren't working anymore. That's because you missed a very brief conversation where the Martins announce that they've changed the color access code, and now you'll have to start over yet again! It's a mad house!!!
And shortly after changing the access code, the Martins leave the house through the front door out to an area that still has at least two vampires crawling around. And yet the game doesn't say that you've missed those two. I hope they'll be okay.
Later, the vampires stop sneaking into the living room long enough for the assembled girls (and a couple guys) to start dancing and lip-syncing to the Night Trap theme. It's a neat song, but you can only catch it in parts because otherwise you'll miss more vampires. Up to 30 by now.
Here's where things get more confusing: the Martins explained to these guys how to change the access color code, and they change it by walking through the revolving bookcase trap. And despite doing so, they are not mauled to death by the half dozen or so vampires you caught with that trap! Nor are they killed by the vampire who enters through the still open sliding door shortly after they go through the bookcase.
Somehow, the girls overlook the countless vampires and near constant sound of steam jets on their way to the bedroom. Therein, Sarah explains that her family has a large house because "you never know who might drop in." Kelly shoots a knowing look at the camera. I don't know why. I mean, she has no idea that 45 vampires have been detained prior to that line, and if she did, it sure doesn't seem like she knows they're vampires instead of a vast cabal of kidnappers.
In this same scene, one of the girls locates a belt similar to the kind worn by the vampires in the closet. Sarah explains that her dad, "collects weird things."
Now things are starting to heat up: Danny (if you're catching vampires, you never learn his name, but since this is probably your 15th or 16th attempt, you know it) runs into one of the vampires with the collar, along with three of his buddies. He screams and bolts out the back door. He screams go completely unnoticed, even as Tony Martin, one of the guys who changed the alarm code, comes onto the scene mere seconds after Danny flees in terror.
Here's the infamous scene that really got this game some negative attention. Lisa is in the bathroom fixing her hair while wearing a nightgown which, thanks to the video compression, almost seems to hint at something resembling cleavage, but isn't. Meanwhile, a vampire hides in the shower. He could not have picked a better hiding spot. Lisa eventually spots him and assumes it's one of the guys, even though he's dressed like a shitty alien. It's only when his buddies show up with the collar that she starts realize she ought to be screaming.
Watching this scene, you can't believe how doomed this girl must be. Incredibly, however, all you have to do is trap one vampire and the rest just lightly swipe at her as she fights her way into the bedroom and out the window, where she will undoubtedly be caught by the dozens of other vampires waiting to sneak in.
What follows is a shotgun blast of scenes where Sarah reveals that, "the Augs are here, " the heretofore largely unseen groundskeeper Eddie tells Danny about the nature of said Augs, and a few of the girls go out to check out Lisa's screaming, so I guess they aren't ENTIRELY deaf.
In a scene that you'll miss because you're catching vamp- I mean "Augs", Eddie gives Danny a weapon he calls an "Auger Blaster". Sure enough, it turns out to be just that. He runs to the kitchen to tell Cindy and Megan about this, but they brush him off. "Augs," they smugly laugh. Cindy takes a bite of a big red square thing she got from the freezer and remarks that it tastes a lot like blood. And then Megan finds a corpse in the pantry. I'm beginning to think the Martins are hiding something. Cindy and Megan are probably thinking that too, but they get chased out of the kitchen by an Aug.
In spite of his rapid pursuit, the girls escape.
The same cannot be said of SCAT agent, Mike:
Mike had the misfortune of crouching down in an area with no handy traps to trigger. If I knew any more about him, I might feel bad about letting him die. But then again, there's no penalty for that, so forget him.
Once again, through events you cannot see because that would mean missing vampires, the girls reunite in the bedroom and Kelly reveals that she's an undercover agent trying to protect them from the vampires. Then, because no one shut the door to the bedroom, the Augs bust in. Nothing new there, except for this:
This Aug brought an axe with him. Clearly, if their goal is to harvest blood with the collars, an axe is going to be counterproductive. He never actually swings the axe, so it's possible one of the other Augs lectured him about it just prior to the ambush.
Now it's just chaos. The Augs aren't going for stealth anymore, but they're so weak the girls are able to escape by shoving them over. Cindy actually gets her leg caught by one of the blood collars, but I guess it doesn't count unless it gets your neck.
Then, just as the Augs have Kelly cornered, Tony emerges:
So it turns out the Martins are vampires. Who knew. Not only that; they have actual vampire powers that put them way above the crappy Augs. It's not enough to save Tony from getting captured by the trap on the stairs, but it's still kind of impressive. If only his power included remembering where the traps were IN THE HOUSE WHERE HE LIVES!
Eventually, SCAT decides to move in with guns and such to fight the Augs instead of dicking around outside. They mow down a couple Augs and move into the house. Inside, they encounter Mr. and Mrs. Martin, who demand to know why a group of armed strangers has burst into their home. Simms, oblivious to the danger, says that they are the "Special Control Attack Team." I guess Sega isn't a sponsor of theirs anymore. Obviously, you can't tell Simms they're vampires because SCAT has no budget for radios, but Kelly probably should since she's seen one of them in action. Instead, they all go to the living room to hash things out.
Therein, the Martins explain that Augers, or "Augs," are weak vampires with barely enough blood to keep themselves alive, but not enough to become full vampires. They were just trying to help them because hey, vampires can be philanthropic too. Collins, the black SCAT agent who comes THIS close to calling someone a jive turkey, suggests they bring the Martins in. Again, what is SCAT's authority like that they're policing vampires like this is no big deal?
Well it turns out vampires don't respect law enforcement. They attack and rend the team asunder with ferocious violence:
Incredibly, while the climax of the game is going on, you still have to keep pulling away to bag Augs as though they were more important than trapping actual full-bore vampires. You'll even miss one as Mrs. Martin is bearing down on Kelly, if you're not fast enough to guess the right camera, trap the Aug, and switch back in time to trap her.
As you've seen it do a dozen times before, the closet trap pushes Mrs. Martin onto the bed. "A closet trap!?" she exclaims. Mr. Martin jibes, "But it was going to be a surprise!"
What does that even mean? Where do these traps even go? Why is this guy so calm about his entire vampire operation being taken down by one guy with a Sega controller? Why didn't he change the access code when he was next to the control panel in the living room? Why does he walk after his pray when he's already shown that his entire family can teleport? All good questions, and no one interested in answering them.
"The wall trap! AUGH!!!"
As she works her way through the upstairs dodging Mr. Martin and Sarah, Kelly actually starts calling out when you should trigger each trap. How the hell does she know about these things? Are you the only SCAT agent who didn't get a full briefing on this crap?
Anyway, Kelly leads Sarah out into the hall, and wouldn't you know it, she doesn't remember any of the traps in her own house either.
Why is she freaking out so bad? I thought we were just capturing with these traps? Are we actually killing all these vampires and beta vampires? Maybe she's just really, really frustrated? Ah, whatever.
With Sarah out of the picture, Kelly thanks you and says, "Alright, you were perfect! Nobody's ever done that!" Done what, Kelly? Captured a load of vampires before? No, Kelly, no one's ever done that before. Because you NEVER FUCKING KNEW VAMPIRES EXISTED UNTIL NOW!!! And no, you weren't perfect because you see at least two Augs flee Mr. Martin as he pursues Kelly. So, you know, watch out for those guys.
For bonus laughs, you can trigger the same trap that got Sarah on Kelly when she walks over it.
So you get the best ending to the game. Well, relatively speaking: We have no idea what happened to the girls you were supposed to be keeping safe, Danny and Eddie are MIA as well, and it seems like the entire SCAT team was wiped out except for you and Kelly. I don't think you'll get a Medal of Honor for that particular victory.
Oddly enough, in spite of the game basically being just a cheesy B-movie, it's probably Dana Plato's second most recognized role. She kind of struggled to find other work post-Diff'rent Strokes, and she continued to have trouble after Night Trap. I'm not suggesting that the stellar performance she gave in Night Trap hurt her career, but it certainly didn't catapult her to superstardom.
More on the game itself, it was ported to a number of other platforms after the big congressional stink over it cooled down. The most noticeable difference was a steady increase in the quality of the video. The devs even tried a Kickstarter campaign to re-re-re-RE-release the game, only this time with HD video and a new title - Night Trap: ReVamped (get it?). After the Sega CD version, I would have settled for SD video, but hey, aim high. Sadly, they aimed a bit too high in asking for $330,000 for a game largely remembered for being a dumb thing parents were mad about in the 90s. There's still interest in relaunching the campaign with a lower goal, and frankly if there's room in the world for a remake of Shaq Fu, there's room enough for Night Trap: ReVamped.
The devs also talked about similar remakes of other FMV games from the company that made Night Trap. Let's not do that. I do not need to see a remake of Tomcat Alley.
SPECIAL NIGHT TRAP GIVEAWAY!
We're doing a special Halloween giveaway to tie-in with this Night Trap article! You see, back when Night Trap was released, many of the copies were recalled due to the aforementioned controversy surrounding it, and that included copies that were sent to video rental stores. Well, we have one such copy up for grabs today! Our friends from Gamers Anonymous (an awesome video game store that you should all check out if you're ever in New Mexico) came into a haul of recalled Night Trap copies that came from an old Blockbuster Video warehouse, and they sent us one to give away! It still has the original box and even the Blockbuster rental sticker on the back of the CD jewel case. Yes indeed, this is your chance to win an actual recalled rental copy of Night Trap from Blockbuster Video; quite an awesome little piece of horror video game history!
So what do you have to do in order to win this copy? It's simple. Just drop a comment in the section below sharing your thoughts about Night Trap. Have any favorite moments in the game or particular memories of playing it? Feel free to also include details about some of your other favorite games to play during the Halloween season each year.
NOTE: Please, only one entry per person, and be sure that you're logged in to your Disqus account or one of your social media accounts when you post so we have a way of contacting you if you're the lucky winner. That's all there is to it!
The giveaway ends at 11:59pm PST on October 29th, 2014. Any comments posted after that won't be in the running for the Night Trap prize. The lucky winner will be selected by using a random number generator. Thanks for reading and good luck to all of you who enter!
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