We never knew we could be so wilfully sadistic. Given our tendency to free unseasonably active Ladybirds from EG towers at this time of year, it says something unexpectedly unsavoury about our mental state at the degree of belly laugh satisfaction we got from Trapt, a game fixated on sending dozens of unfortunate souls to their doom in a variety of increasingly unpleasant ways. Bwahahahaha.
Want to slice and dice relentless pursuers with a handy giant pendulum blade? You got it. Fancy rolling a bomb into the path of lumbering oafish men? Ker-ching. How about some combo fun, activating magnetic walls that drag your helpless foes into the path of a spring trap or squish them with a giant overhead boulder? Nice. If that sounds all a bit tame, don't worry, that's barely scratching the surface of what Trapt has in store for its victims in the name of 'escape'.
Tecmo's curious action-puzzle-cum-survival-horror offering puts you in the shoes of a young, bandy-legged woman called Princess Allura. Framed for the murder of her father, your only choice is to try and escape the confines of a castle by killing everyone who stands in your way by using the special trap-setting powers bestowed upon you by the mysterious 'fiend'. With a completely wonky Japlish translation and total lack of tutorial explanation adding to the sense of bewilderment, it nevertheless quickly becomes apparent that Trapt is actually one of the most unique games you'll ever come across.
But despite being somewhat of an obscure idea, this is actually the fourth in the long-running Deception series (and the first released in over five years), confusingly known as Kagero II: Dark Illusion in Japan (presumably that wasn't considered a particularly sellable name for the game in the west). However, given Take-Two's low-key promotion, it's entirely likely you'll have to work hard to even track it down when it comes out in Europe today, but that's another story.
History lesson over, the gameplay looks a bit like a really generic third-person survival-horror title, with a typically bog-standard Japanese art style and similarly familiar inappropriate elastic-limbed animation, set in a the kind of grey stone castle environments that makes it look it was made in early days of the PS2. Appearances, however, are entirely deceptive in this instance, with the gameplay hinged upon your ability to lay down various types of floor, ceiling and wall traps and set them off when your enemy is in range.
At the start of each mission you're given the chance to check out your surroundings, the type of enemies you're going to face, their strengths and their weaknesses, and given the opportunity to lay down your traps wherever you see fit. Although you're equipped with three traps of each type (wall/floor/ceiling), you must decide which one of each category suits your surroundings best and begin the process of luring your foe to their untimely death.
Colonel Abrams knew how it felt
Each of your three traps is mapped to the face buttons of the pad, with ceiling traps, for example, activated by hitting the triangle button. If your pursuer looks like he or she is straying within range of your trap, at the right moment you have to set the trap off and watch with grim satisfaction as their life force is stripped away, accompanied by gory close ups of the goriest bits. Most traps don't quite finish them off first time, though, so it becomes all a bit Benny Hill as you flee around haplessly with comedy enemies with daft animations in hot pursuit. Seriously, all it lacks is that legendary theme tune to give it the final touch.
In addition to your own bag of tricks is the ability to use various other traps that form a permanent part of the castles fixtures and fittings. For example, the most obvious one early in the game is the ability to cause a giant chandelier to drop onto the heads of your foe, or fire off a spear to make a spiked column fall down from the ceiling. Quite what half this stuff is even doing there is a moot point, but you'll certainly enjoy experimenting with setting up chain reactions to make the most of them. The problem you'll come across is sussing out how to get enemies into their 'firing line' so much of your fun will come from being deliberately evil, setting up wall springs that fire enemies across the room into another trap, and so on. Needless to say, the game rewards you for all of this quite handsomely, but physically doing so relies on how willing you are to do battle with an awful camera system that's so sluggish it's almost unusable in its default mode, but is rescued by being able to lock on to your nearest enemy. Even so, the disorientation of looking at your foe while trying to stop yourself from straying into your own traps takes a bit of getting used to.
If you can overcome that particular obstacle, all this death and destruction quickly earns you a basic currency which you can go and spend on all-new traps; implements of death that can mete out even more hideous pain and torment to your grammatically challenged, inappropriately animated pursuers. As such, you'll have seen most of what the gameplay has to offer pretty early on, but the chance to experiment with new traps, cleverer enemies and more complex environments does admittedly make the game more interesting after a succession of very easy levels early on.
Over in a jiffy
But even then, the game's story mode is almost over by the time it starts offering a semblance of a challenge, with just 14 missions and their accompanying side stories offering mere minutes of gameplay each once you know what you're doing. The survival mode certainly makes things tougher by imposing time limits, but is still essentially the same game against pretty much the same enemies.
With such a tediously unengaging storyline, vanilla locations, rubbish camera system and an all-round feel of technical impoverishment, what you're left with is a game that's certainly fun, original and hugely engaging for a while, but one that fails to live up to its early promise. Being different from the herd is one thing - and something this game scores bonus marks on the back of - but Trapt falls down in so many other areas that matter that it ends up being one of those curiosities that only truly committed gamers will want to buy. We'd advise a rental, but that's if you can even track it down.