Original North American Sega CD cover art, note the content advisory on the far right.
|Publisher(s)||Sega (Sega Mega-CD and Sega 32X Versions)
Virgin Interactive (3DO version)
Digital Pictures (DOS/MAC)
|Release date(s)||Sega Mega-CD
|Genre(s)||Survival horror, Interactive movie|
Night Trap is a survival horror interactive movie video game that was released in North America on October 15, 1992 originally for the Sega CD. It was filmed over a three-week period in 1987 for an unreleased game entitled "Scene of the Crime". The footage was placed into archive when that game failed to materialize, but the footage was later used to create a game by Digital Pictures which in total reportedly cost US$1.5 million to produce. This game became Night Trap, which was originally developed for Hasbro's NEMO system, which used VHS tapes instead of ROM cartridges. However, when Hasbro scrapped production on the NEMO, Night Trap was moved to the Sega CD and later brought to the Sega 32X, 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, and PC platforms with higher-quality video. The game utilized full-motion video scenes entirely and is notorious for the controversy it brewed in 1993, resulting in US Senate hearings and withdrawal of the game from the market and the creation of the ESRB. 
A group of young women are staying at Mr. and Mrs. Martin's for the night. The Martin family seems like a normal American family; however, odd things have been occurring at this house. Five girls who previously stayed at the place had disappeared, so the "Sega Control Attack Team" ("Sega" changed to "Special" once the game was ported to other consoles) is called upon to protect the new guests and find out what happened. As the new wave of girls arrive for a slumber party (one of whom is undercover SCAT agent Kelly, played by Dana Plato), the vampiric Augers begin to invade the Martin family house. Later on near the end of the game (if the player manages to capture all the Augers and save all the innocent victims), Kelly finds out that the Martin family are vampires themselves.
- Dana Plato as Kelly
- J. Bill Jones as Simms
- Deke Anderson as Jason
- William Bertrand as Eddie
- Arthur Burghardt as Collins
- Suzy Cote as Sarah Martin
- Roy Eisenstein as Jim
- Christy Ford as Megan
- Blake Gibbons as Mike
- Joshua Godard as Danny
- Andras Jones as Jeff Martin
- Jon R. Kamel as Victor Martin
- Giovanni Lemm as Tony
- Tracy Matheson as Cindy
- Debra Parks as Lisa
- Allison Rhea as Ashley
- Molly Starr as Sheila Martin
- Heidi Von Brecht as Swanson
Referred to as "control", the player views events via hidden cameras set up in eight different locations, which can be viewed one at a time. As the aforementioned Augers creep into the house, the player has to spot them and use traps to capture them. At the bottom of a screen rests a small meter; when this meter fills, it is the player's signal to activate a trap in the room being viewed (i.e. a revolving bookcase or a faux seal on the floor) and capture the Auger(s) on screen, adding to the score.
The player must also have the correct security access color code selected on screen in order for the traps to work. The code is changed four times throughout the course of the game, and keeping up with the accurate code requires listening in on key conversations. Ultimately, high performance requires repeat plays in order to gain complete knowledge of the story and capture all Augers possible. Time always moves forward, cannot be rewound, and if too many vampires are missed, the game ends. The game will also end if certain characters are taken away or if the hosts of the slumber party disconnect your access to the traps.
All references and depictions of Sega related products were eliminated from the 3DO and PC versions. In order to do this, the introduction and some of the other videos were replaced with the original footage made for the game's originally scheduled release on the canceled Hasbro NEMO video game console.
Versions released after the Mega-CD version differed slightly in presentation. Later versions utilize more advanced hardware, allowing for the video in Night Trap to play in a box nearly twice the dimensions of the one in Mega-CD edition and have higher resolution. Also, an on-screen map with each room color-coded appears at the bottom of the player's screen at all times in the 3DO version. The PC version includes a save feature, from which the player can access a new pause menu with a large map of the house. This version also included Dangerous Games, a brief documentary about the game and the controversy that surrounded it.
Footage of the never released VHS-based NEMO can be viewed in the Mega-CD version of Night Trap by entering a button code when the credits read "In Memory of Stephen D. Hassenfield". This footage shows Hasbro executives taking a look at Scene of the Crime (the prototype for Night Trap) in December 1987.
Night Trap is now infamous because of its part in the 1990s Congressional hearings on offensive video game material. Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Lethal Enforcers and Doom are cited as primary factors in leading to the development of the ESRB game industry ratings system.
On December 16, 1993, the SEGA CD version of Night Trap was removed from store shelves at Toys "R" Us and F.A.O. Schwarz locations in the United States in direct response to a December 9, 1993 joint Senate Judiciary and Government Affairs Committee hearing on video game violence. The hearings were covered heavily by the media and were co-chaired by Senators Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut) and Herbert H. Kohl (Wisconsin), during which Night Trap was cited as "shameful", "ultra-violent", "sick", and "disgusting", encouraging an "effort to trap and kill women". Contrary to such claims, players are not trapping or killing women, but saving them from harm.
The Congressional hearings were covered in major newspapers including USA Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times. In particular, a game over scene in which the character Lisa is wearing a nightgown while captured by Augers attempting to drain her blood was found to be very offensive. In defense of the game, Tom Zito (President and CEO of Digital Pictures) attempted to explain the context of the nightgown scene during a hearing session, but he claims he was silenced. In the short documentary Dangerous Games (included with the PC version), the producers and some members of the cast explain that the plot of the game was to in fact prevent the trapping and killing of women. In addition, the blood draining device was intended to look very unrealistic and would therefore mitigate the violence. Despite scenes in which the girls are grabbed or pulled by enemies, no nudity or extreme acts of violence were ever filmed or incorporated into the game.
Additionally, the Night Trap box art was criticized by interest groups for what many believed to be a sexist depiction (see above). In 1994, after the controversy died down, the game was ported to the 3DO and Sega 32X, and for PC and Mac in 1995. Each of these versions was released with a different cover, but all of them incorporate actual photos of Dana Plato, thus differentiating them from the Sega CD version, which is purely illustration.
Due to the controversy over the game, Night Trap only sold through an initial print run, but was still considered financially successful, being a bestseller in the UK. Today, many[who?] consider the game to be a classic of the FMV game genre. The game's quality, however, was criticized for its single unfolding of events, which led to stale gameplay after only so many plays. Advancing in the game often meant missing out on numerous scenes by focusing on other rooms to capture Augers.
The game was reviewed in 1993 in Dragon #195 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 4 out of 5 stars. Conversely, Night Trap was ranked the 12th "Worst Video Game of All-Time" in an Electronic Gaming Monthly article by editor SeanBaby. He and other game journalists also featured the game in a 2007 episode of their comedy web series, Broken Pixels. Yahoo! Games listed it as one of the top ten controversial games of all time. Game Informer listed the game among the worst horror games of all time in 2008.
- "GameSpy.com – Article". Archive.gamespy.com. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
- "Sega to Withdraw, Revise `Night Trap' – The Washington Post – HighBeam Research". Highbeam.com. 1994-01-11. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
- "Night Trap Cheats, Codes, Unlockables – Sega CD – IGN". Cheats.ign.com. 1994-06-12. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
- "Sega to Withdraw, Revise `Night Trap'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
- Dangerous Games – The 1995 documentary on Night Trap. (QuickTime)
- The Milwaukee Journal, March 9, 1995
- The Ultimate History Of Video Games, Stephen L. Kent, October 2001
- Official Gallup UK Mega CD sales chart, January 1994, published in Mega (magazine) issue 16
- "Broken Pixels Episode 08 from GameVideos". Gamevideos.1up.com. 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
- Lesser, Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk (July 1993). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (195): 57–64.
- "EGM's Crapstravaganza: The 20 Worst Games of All Time". Seanbaby.com. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
- Ben Silverman (2007-09-17). "Controversial Games". Yahoo! Games. Retrieved 2007-09-19.
- "The Wrong Kind of Scary: Worst Horror Games Ever", Game Informer 186 (October 2008): 121.
- Night Trap at the Internet Movie Database
- Night Trap at Game Rankings
- Night Trap Retro Corner – XLEAGUE.TV/TGWTG's retro video feature on the title.
- "A History of Video Game Controversy" article on Duke Nukem and Night Trap from GameSpot
- "VHS: The Future of Gaming" from GameSpy
- SeanBaby's (of EGM) 20 Worst Video Games of All-Time
- "R18+ and Video Games: A History of Violence" a North Sydney TAFE Film/TV Production by Alexander Gabbott addressing the lack of an R18+ Rating in Australia, heavily focusing on Night Trap as being the Catalyst for the introduction of Classifications within that Country