The Deception series has always been an old favorite, with the PS1 entries (Tecmo’s Deception: Invitation to Darkness, Kagero: Deception II, and Deception III: Dark Delusion) being some of the greatest games available for the system. That’s high praise given how much gold exists on the original Playstation, and yet it took years before the stars aligned and my Playstation 2 decided to start working so that I could finally play through Trapt, Deception’s sole Playstation 2 entry. I’m not going to sit here and claim that it holds up perfectly, because there are definitely some glaring technical issues at play that sour the experience somewhat. Even if that weren’t the case, the story, mechanics, and characters aren’t quite as varied and interesting as they were in the previous two games. Still, the joy of setting up three traps per room and methodically wiping out groups of villagers/knights/mages who have no realistic chance against you remains every bit as fun as it was in Kagero and Dark Deception, and really, that’s all that matters.
There’s a story here, but it’s vague and confusing
Everything that I said about Deception III’s story is also 100% true of Trapt; the story here is clumsy and poorly communicated because of the awkward translation (which is often charming and amusing, but much less so when you’re told something incoherent and find yourself uncertain about what it actually means), and the protagonist here is designed to be a sympathetic figure rather than evil like Kagero’s Millennia. That’s her intended role, at least—the game starts with Allura, a princess, framed by her stepmother for the murder of the king after he dies to a knife to the back. It’s pretty much a gender-swapped version of the events that set up the very first Deception game. Rather than Allura being caught and entreating any willing force to save her like in that game, however, she runs off and hides in a mansion with her handmaiden, Rachel.
In fact, the only reason she ends up with the ability to use traps at all is that she ends up opting into a demonic pact the second she touches the door, which is hilariously unfair when you think about it. From there, she kills and kills as various villagers, knights, and mages show up to try to harm her, but she never actually embraces it. Her favorite pose is sitting on her knees with her hands out as if to say, “what have I done?” She’s also kind of an idiot. Seriously. She has no self-awareness, can barely take care of herself, and is basically a magical damsel too consistently stupid to feel sorry for.
Thankfully, the other characters pick up the slack a bit and manage to be legitimately interesting. Rachel is infuriating and not very subtle about her motivations, but she fits perfectly into a Deception game. Ada is a worldly thief who shows up to the mansion mysteriously and sticks around for a bit of the early game, and I think she might be my favorite character. Her brother Finnegan works for Hertzog, a lord who’s staging a coup to make himself ruler in the wake of the king’s death with the aid of Catalina, Allura’s stepmother. Catalina in particular is a surprisingly deep character, and while that depth doesn’t show in the main story, each mission has an optional “side story” attached that can be played through for extra Ark and Warl, and a few of these explore her situation.
Of course, there are also numerous groups of witless thieves, bounty hunters, and miscellaneous ne’er-do-wells who come with their own little back stories and generously show up to be killed. Their deaths tie into the story since the devil (referred to as the “Fiend” most often in-game) is using Allura’s kills to reconstitute himself, which is obviously a problem for some people. There are even references to Timenoids throughout, though they’re never explicitly referred to by that name and no characters ever show up who bleed blue like they do. As in previous games, there are multiple endings that you can acquire and each unlocks a special new trap to use, and on the topic of unlocks, there are also nostalgic nods to the past in the form of Reina and Millennia outfits that can be purchased for a steep price from the game’s trap creation screen.
Now you’re killing with traps
The last time I wrote about a Deception game on this site was four years ago, so here’s a refresher about what they are (or at least what they’ve become after Kagero switched up the gameplay for subsequent entries): you start out in a room with a maximum of two enemies and enter a trap selection screen where you can place a wall trap, ceiling trap, and floor trap on the grid, then use those traps—which operate on cooldowns—to elaborately massacre your enemies. As you kill them and they spout out ridiculous last words, more enemies will show up to take their place until you’ve finished everyone off and the mission ends. Something I can’t remember ever bringing up was that the gameplay is basically a physics puzzler (think Contraption Maker) that also happens to require precise timing to chain together trap combos and evade enemy attacks.
Deception III gave you some trap customization options to play around with, but that’s been rolled back in Trapt. Now you have predefined traps, and while that’s a little disappointing, all of the old favorites are here. Giant flaming rocks you can drop on people’s heads. Push walls and spring floors to launch enemies across the room. Electrical attacks that can electrify water to damage/stun enemies in a wider range. Some of the hidden traps from previous games (like the giant foot that shoots out of a wall) are even included, and there’s enough variation to allow you to come up with creative solutions to problems like enemy immunities to certain types of traps.
Then there are Dark Illusions, which are large room traps that have to be set up, but that do a lot of damage and come with an entertaining cutscene. These can only be used once per wave of enemies, though, and sometimes require so much effort to put together that they’re less of a practical option than an overwrought flourish.
Still, Dark Illusions provide you with a lot of Ark and Warl, which both return from Deception III. I still don’t know exactly how Ark is acquired (I did a 71-hit combo and didn’t seem to get much, but combos that do a lot of damage seem to provide huge chunks of it) or what it does apart from unlocking the aforementioned Reina and Millennia outfits once it goes over the 100,000 and 300,000 thresholds respectively, but not knowing never became a problem. Warl is the star of the show here, being the game’s spendable currency. Enemies tend to drop Warl when damaged, too, so you have that added incentive to play a bit dangerously and remain close to your own traps to maximize the amount of Warl you have to spend between missions on shiny new ones.
It’s not all burning sunshine and bloodletting roses, though
The biggest problem with Trapt is without a doubt the frequent slowdown. Reviews of the time noted this in one of the few examples of old-timey reviews actually being accurate, but it’s difficult to understand just how awful the slowdown can become without seeing it in action. The embedded video below shows Allura moving around after the first trap combo causes things to start moving in slow motion, then running around after that to give a sense for how fast she’s supposed to move at normal speed. Believe it or not, the slowdown can become even worse than it is in that video, and this becomes an issue given how important timing is to the flow of the game. There are few things as frustrating as the otherwise perfect execution of a trap combo being ruined because the game slowed to a crawl, caused you to trigger something too early or too late.
In Trapt’s defense, though, it’s a remarkably short and easy game. All Deception games are, with the series’ fun not coming from challenge, but from the creativity it affords you (traps can often interact in amusing ways, so you can drop a rock on an enemy, then push both off of a ledge to hit them with the rock again for extra damage). That doesn’t excuse the game’s problems, of course, but it minimizes frustration arising from them.
The game’s camera is also a bit of an issue, clumsily shifting around and never seeming capable of swinging around as quickly as you need it to. This is something that you eventually get used to, but it becomes a problem again when a late-game enemy is suddenly capable of moving at double the speed of others and you have trouble seeing where he is. Without a visual, it’s hard to know when to trigger traps.
Hit detection can also be a bit of an issue when it comes to mages (and sometimes archers). The game sports generous hit detection to make chaining together traps an easier process than it’d be if everything required precise positioning, and this makes it easy to get hit by your own traps if you’re careless, but that’s a fair hit detection oddity. What’s unfair is a railing stopping an enemy spell one minute, only to allow it through to hit you at a different (but visually similar) angle. Basically, there are a few places where you’d expect the terrain to block an enemy archer’s arrow or melee attacker’s lunge, only for you to take damage anyway. This is admittedly fairly rare, but it can become annoying during something like mission 13, which sends you up against a veritable parade of mages who spam spells at you. Getting hit by a single ice spell freezes you for a short time, too, giving other mages the opportunity to get a second or third hit in and really put you in danger. It’s not a huge issue because most enemies aren’t ranged attackers, but a little more consistency would have been appreciated nonetheless.
Gray visuals, great music
The generation jump means that Trapt has more polygons than the Playstation 1 games, and that gives it a nice look as far as subtle expressions are concerned (this is especially effective in the “A” ending), but it was also released when the colors gray and brown were waging a war against the other colors and winning handily as far as gaming was concerned. The entire game seems to exist in shades of gray and black, and while that technically fits the darker tone of the story, I definitely found myself longing for the more colorful Kagero. Even Deception III was more visually interesting, and that’s a game I explicitly criticized for the very same thing. Trapt excels musically, however, being filled with music that suits each scene incredibly well. One mission might have a forebodingly quiet orchestral sound to it, while the next emphasizes synth pads to create something more emotional. This is especially true of the “B” side stories—there are two completely different sets of side stories that alternate each time you finish the game—which highlight the best Trapt has to offer in the story and music departments. There’s a lot of music, too, which is something I didn’t realize until I unintentionally killed all main story characters over the course of a few playthroughs and ended up unlocking the sound test mode. It’s definitely subtle, but it works deceptively well.