|Platforms||:||Sony PlayStation, Windows|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
If you're done flashbacking to when there were still tombs to raid and want a game so unrealistic it's out of this world, then venture to Deathtrap Dungeon for the PlayStation and PC, courtesy of Eidos. [PSX version reviewed here]
Deathtrap is based loosely on a series of novels by Ian Livingstone, and has made it to the gaming scene by the makers of Tomb Raider and Fighting Force. As either Red Lotus or Chaindog, players will venture into a gauntlet of traps and monsters known as Deathtrap Dungeon in an try to earn the golden reward from the dungeon's designer.
Prepare to permanently suspend your disbelief, even moreso than the last time you played a Dungeons & Dragons "dungeon crawl." Although a fantastical setting, Deathtrap is chock full of unbelievable ambushes, unviable monstrosities, and puzzles, all which could never exist or even have reason to in the game, and with human characters able to perform impossible feats. Although video games have always been borderline fantasy-reality, this is a bit much.
The game engine is nearly identical to Tomb Raider. Gameplay occurs from a third-person perspective as characters run, jump, climb, and push switches. There is more focus here on fast action than in the Tomb series, but otherwise there is little difference.
Deathtrap's graphics are unsuitable for a dungeon exploration. The camera moves wildly to focus on the characters, but the tight, constraining nature of any dungeon makes its job difficult. Some camera views are preset, as in Resident Evil, but most others are not. Without any way to manually redirect the view, it's easy to become lost in your own monitor, or to overlook a lever or monster until it's too late. Blocky, undetailed graphics elsewhere detract from the fantasy environment. A superfluous amount of blood and gore justifies the game's "Mature Audiences Only" rating.
In a reverse of the norm, whereas graphic quality have been neglected, the music is especially good. Deep drums and mysterious overtones set the mood for a dangerous adventure; sound effects of whistling pipes or far-off screams help establish the environment. But the sound effects are ineffective, with none of the monsters adding guttural oaths or intimidating shouts to their charges.
With some practice, the control proves adequate. Lotus and Chaindog have many vital functions; it is impossible to map the essential tools to the most oft-used buttons, as they are all equally needed. The fighting system is simple, nor is anything else is particularly arduous, except for some later scenes that require fancy footwork, fast reflexes, and timed jumps.
Players will spend awhile delving to the bowels of Deathtrap. The game is broken into evenly-sized stages, with save points regularly available. There are secret and not-so-secret areas with items vital to gamers' survival, offering incentive to replay stages until a perfect score is earned. The puzzles seem to have little middle ground: they are either obvious or, too often, nigh-impossible.
Eidos has given us another Tomb Raider in disguise, with some major drawbacks. Poor graphics, an environment of skeptical plausibility, and a challenge level that varies too greatly makes Deathtrap Dungeon a title for patient gamers only. Others may find themselves more comfortable in a torture chamber.
This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 13-Apr-98