Released rather quietly in Europe by Take Two alongside Project Zero 3, Trapt isn’t really the game you might expect it to be. Playing as Princess Allura, a young woman accused of murdering her father, you flee to an abandoned mansion in an attempt to hide from your evil stepmother’s henchmen. Things soon take a turn for the worse though, with Allura discovering the mark of the ‘Fiend’ on her arm – a mysterious presence that is locked away in the mansion. With new trap-laying powers at your fiendish arm’s disposal you’re ready to take on anyone who attempts to capture you.
The opening fifteen minutes don’t exactly inspire confidence in the game, with some rather hammy Japanese acting and what I assume to be some badly translated subtitles. During this time you’ll press about three buttons and sit through the rest. Then you’re thrown into the ‘action’ without so much as a mini tutorial. The general roughness of the visuals doesn’t help either, nor do the bow-legged running animations of the characters.
Each stage (of which there are surprisingly few) sees a number of enemies attempt to take you down. You’re a pretty fragile looking girl, so there’s no hand-to-hand combat here; it’s all down to traps. By switching to a trap-laying screen you can place traps in the environment and assign them to face buttons on the Dual Shock controller. It’s simple stuff, but the complexity comes from trying to combine traps to set up combos. One little bear trap will inflict minor damage, but lay a magnetic wall to pull an enemy into a bear trap, and follow that by dropping giant rock on his head, and your enemy will be well and truly done for.
It’s certainly satisfying when it all comes together, and even more so if you can link in one of the many traps built into the mansion itself. Sadly, it’s not simply a case of laying traps and setting them off when you see fit. Allura is in each of these rooms and she’s being pursued by aforementioned enemies. Everyone moves at a snail’s pace, ambling along with a bizarre run animation and a total lack of danger. Actually setting off traps is far harder than it need be due to the awful camera (which can only partially be improved using the enemy lock-on feature) and you’re left wondering how a good idea was implemented so haphazardly.
The camera is by far the biggest problem. Getting a good view of your enemies, while still being able to see your own position in relation to traps, is vitally important. An isometric fixed camera angle would have been perfect, leaving you to concentrate on traps and not babysitting the camera. The game is also very short and you’ll see most of what it has to offer very early on. By successfully slaughtering enemies you’ll be rewarded with a currency of sorts, which you, rather obviously, can use to buy new traps. Side missions add to the longevity, and a rather pointless survival mode is there if you want to go against the clock, but you’re really just playing the same game over again.
I’ve already touched on the presentation, but it’s worth repeating how dated it is. Visuals look right out of 2001, with drab textures and plenty of aliasing. Character animation is also shockingly poor, with a stiffness and total disregard to life-like movement. Those of you who sneer at English voiceovers in Japanese games will be glad to hear that the original Japanese voice work is intact, but the quality is almost on a PlayStation level of incompetence. Think Resident Evil quality and you’ll know what to expect. Throw in some of the largest PAL conversion boarders I’ve ever seen and you have a rather poorly presented game.
Trapt is another game that fails to translate a good idea into a solid video game. The core of a clever and rather original game is here, but it’s booby trapped by an almost unusable camera. It’s clearly a game that wasn’t given a huge budget, but some of the design problems could have been sorted out pretty easily. If you can somehow get to grips with the camera and don’t mind the experience ending rather too soon, Trapt will certainly give you something a little different to the norm.