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This Is Your (Extra) Life: ‘Trap’ped In History

by on August 26, 2012
 

Every gamer has been the victim of a bad game. Not just a good game gone wrong… I mean a truly bad game. I remember telling my parents in the early 1990s that I was going to take a cartoon-style mallet to my copy of Broderbund’s Raid on Bungeling Bay. (I don’t care that the game editor eventually led to the first version of SimCity – it was a bad game!)

Each person’s criteria of a bad game differs; what bothers one person to no end may be irrelevant to another player. But, there is one game so massively wretched, so horrible, that it revolutionized the whole gaming industry. While we try to focus on the great games and characters in video game history, we would be remiss if we did not also investigate the failures and train-wrecks in it too, if for no other reason to stop them from happening again.

Therefore, Night Trap, this is your extra life.

This all started when I was looking through my co-worker’s extensive retro game collection, looking for a classic game to cover. As I was looking through his Castlevania collection, his friend goes, “He should play Night Trap!”

I had never played it. “Oh, then you must play that one,” said my co-worker.

Night Trap was an interactive movie released for the short-lived Sega CD in 1992. I was strictly a Nintendo kid growing up, which meant I never had a Sega anything. It was a survival horror game, which sounded promising. And hey, it had Dana Plato in it! Come on, sweet and wholesome Kimberly from Diff’rent Strokes, who was certainly not a drug and alcohol abuser. Who could pass that up?

So, boy howdy, was I excited to try out this game. I sat down, grabbed the controller, and started my mission…

….wait, what?

I watched the cut-scene and it was already game over? Of course! I should have known… cut-scenes are not for watching, cut-scenes are for SKIPPING!

What is this tom-foolery? Screw this game! No, no, said my friend. You must experience this. So I cooled myself off, and sat down and sat through the cut-scene again, pressing START at the appropriate time.

Rewarding that button press was a gallery of eight rooms in the Martin house, including their driveway, a kitchen, a living room, a few hallways, a bedroom, and a bathroom. As you scour the house, mysterious black-clothed figures start sneaking into the house. Who are they? What are they here for? You have no idea, because the story is taking place in the driveway, while you’re stalking these guys in the kitchen! Who needs story? Pshaw! Story does not bring you exposition, it brings you DEATH and GAME OVERNESS!

When you find these black-clad figures, you are supposed to activate this unusual “security system” by waiting for an on-screen meter to fill to red, and pressing the correct button to activate a trap in the room you’re observing, leading to horror scenes such as this:

That’s about as horrifying as the oil monster from Ferngully. Apparently the people who designed the Martins’ house were the same people who designed the set from MTV’s Remote Control.

So that’s what you do. You go through the house, trap these guys, and eventually you trap enough to win or you miss enough that Sergeant Impatient from the beginning of the game takes over and tells you to shove off, by which point I was more than ready to.

This game is miserable. It’s designed to keep you in the dark as much as possible. The trap that is most dangerous in Night Trap is the one your brain is put into when you turn this game on. It’s not even that interesting of a story if you can figure it out. The shadowy figures are called “Augers,” and are out to suck the blood of young women who stay at the Martin household; if you capture enough of them, it turns out (spoiler alert! Not that anyone cares…) the Martins are vampires themselves.

Zoinks! Sounds like a Scooby-Doo plot, not a video game platform launch title.

So why even mention this festering pile of dung? Why give this disgusting, hideous game full of upchuck any mention in this article, let alone anywhere?

Because it belongs in the same category as Mortal Kombat, Lethal Enforcers, and Doom.

Yes, I said that with a straight face. Same category. Same caliber.

Night Trap, along with the other three games, were directly responsible for the creation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Due to what was perceived as “shameful” and “ultra-violent” encouragement of “trapping and killing women” (in fact, the goal was to protect the girls), the games prompted a ratings system akin to the Motion Picture Association of America’s film ratings system. The scene prompting all the controversy was a scene in the bathroom with a girl in a skimpy (not really) nightgown being attacked by a group of Augers. Be advised, the following material is exceptionally realistic and happens all the time in real life. Viewer discretion is advised.

Yes, that was controversial and horrific in the ’90s. And yet, only seven years later, the Macarena would be introduced and no one would bat an eye.

Although by and large the ESRB is a good thing, it doesn’t warrant the fact that Night Trap still exists. This is your one and only Extra Life, and hopefully your source code will slide down the stairs in some fog-filled vault, never to be seen again.

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