Night Trap 25th Anniversary Edition PC Review / Rant
This should be one of my favorite releases of the year. And it almost gets there.
It’s about one patch away from being good. And as a big fan of the original Sega CD release of Night Trap…I can’t help but feel a tinge of frustration.
I bought the game on Steam, so I have no idea yet if the console version has the same issues.
Night Trap 25th Anniversary is largely the work of one-man studio Screaming Villains, working in conjunction with James Riley, the original writer/director of Night Trap. So know before I complain that I wasn’t expecting the equivalent of a multi-million dollar huge team production or anything.
In fact, for a game made mostly by one person, the re-release is still decently impressive. It runs in Unity, and the interface seems to be rendered out as a fully 3D environment. And there’s a fun camera zoom out at the beginning that gives the game a little more polish than I was expecting.
It’s cool that the legacy interfaces are included here. It’s cool that the interface features the real-time video window icons that Screaming Villains developed for the mobile port of Double Switch. It’s cool that there’s a full collection of extras with the classic Dangerous Games documentary, some new materials, and a playable version of the Scene of the Crime prototype.
But the bugs. The obvious bugs.
AT LEAST IT PLAYS WELL NOW
Night Trap has never been this playable. In the game, you’re a person watching security cameras, working for the Special Control Attack Team, who are basically a fake law enforcement agency. Some women are trapped in a house owned by vampires, and other vampires with garbage bags over their bodies are sneaking into the house. When they get into the right position, you can press a button to trap them with some elaborately goofy devices.
Every now and then, the vampires that own the house change the access code for the trap system to a random new color, so you’ll have to pay attention in order to stay in-control of the game.
There’s a cheesy story. There’s some great/bad nineties effects. There’s a scene where the girls sing a ridiculous theme song. And the game can actually get pretty intense since the whole thing is on a real-time clock.
Thanks to the new real-time video window thumbnails, it’s much easier to play the game than it used to be. You can see what’s going on in each room without clicking manically around or using a cheat sheet with all the timings written on it.
BUGS AND NITPICKS OH NO
On PC, the options menu for controllers doesn’t work totally right. But I had no issues with the mouse control.
Sometimes, the music that plays over the Augurs (the dudes in the trash bags) would get stuck playing, and start playing over the tops of other scenes that didn’t feature guys in trash bags.
Sometimes, a camera feed would straight up stop working in one room. I’d still hear audio coming from that room when I clicked on it, but the video feed was stuck on a single frame permanently, forcing me to restart the game. That’s frustrating.
The first time I hit a game over screen, the game just froze. I couldn’t exit to the menu at all.
Even if I could have exited to the menu…on PC the main menu doesn’t have a quit/exit to desktop option. So, you have to force the game to close with Windows keyboard shortcuts.
Sometimes, when I hit the trap button, the display briefly flickers as it switches video feeds. This never happened in the old versions of the game.
The video for this re-release came from a master tape copy of the original 35mm footage that James Riley happened to keep. The tape has some minor damage on it, but that’s fine and actually adds to the flavor of the game. And the footage generally looks really great… aside from some compression issues I’ll get to later.
Although the game now has some footage that was never used in the released versions of the game…other scenes are missing from this master tape, including the game over videos. They decided to use Sega 32X CD footage for these moments…scaled down into a tiny window.
And when I say tiny, I mean absurdly small.
I’m not sure if this tiny window decision was so that players wouldn’t notice the drop in quality, but I’d rather that they just blew it up to the full game window and allowed it to be a bit chunky.
It’s really weird and jarring.
Speaking of windows, it’s impossible to run the video from the game truly full screen. Even the theater mode in the extras menu that allows you to watch clips from the game runs in a cropped smaller-than-it-needs-to-be window. Yes, the footage is 4:3, but the video window could have been bigger with the interface around the left and right sides of the screen, without stretching or distorting the aspect ratio.
The new interface and the recreations of classic interfaces are both really nice…but I don’t understand why there isn’t a mode that stretches the video to the biggest possible non-distorted size.
Maybe they were worried about the quality of the tape…or maybe they were trying to hide the iffy compression.
Although the tape they were working with isn’t in HD quality or anything, there’s still some obvious modern compression artifacts in the video that wouldn’t have been present in the raw footage. The file size of the game on PC is just 3 gigabytes…and it seems like they could have gone with higher quality encoding for these home versions in a world where games regularly top 20/30/50 gigabytes.
The audio/freezing bugs are fixable. And I hope that happens soon! They could even probably deliver a higher-res video encode, or a bigger window scaling option… though I wouldn’t expect that.
So, this is still the most playable version of Night Trap ever released, and it has some new footage which is great and so awesome to see.
But the weird problems are just enough to irritate me while I’m playing it. With the bugs fixed, it’ll be better…and I guess this is still the definitive version of Night Trap, and I’m still really happy it exits.
But this documentary made in conjunction with the game’s release has betterfull screen encodes of the video from the master tape than the actual game does. What’s up with that?
(This Documentary is great and you should watch it)
Night Trap 25th Anniversary is worth the 15 bucks that it costs whether you’re a new player or a fan of the original…but it’s not quite in the absolute best shape it could have been in, even for a low-budget affair.