The “trap” genre isn’t all that popular these days. Other than the Deception series, Trap Gunner, and the more recent Orcs Must Die!, there really aren’t a whole lot of venues to placate your inner sadistic torturous voice.
As a result, I’ve resurrected the Retro Reunion series to share what I feel is one of the best games in the niche sub-genre of trap-dom . Strap in and prepare to relive moments from the PS1 classic, Kagero: Deception II.
Throughout the 90s, Tecmo released three games that all fell into the same sort of genre; Deception, Deception II, and Deception III, all released for the PS1. Some years later in 2005, they released the PS2 game Trapt. For this particular piece, I chose to single out Deception II because I feel like it was the most well received game in the Deception series – it’s also consequently my personal favorite.
So what in the world is the fascination some people seem to have with trap based gameplay? To be perfectly blunt, Deception II is perfect for people who love senseless violence and a feeling of God-like control. Like the city-building genre, you’re going to be spending a decent amount of time planning, and surfing menus — except instead of providing digital citizens with places to live and work, you’re ripping their entrails out with spikes and bear-traps.
You play the role of Millennia — a young woman being controlled by God-like beings called Timenoids. One of your master’s requests is to protect them from greedy humans who desire the Timenoid’s power — as a result, you are tasked with sufficiently trapping various locales to guard secrets and personnel. Traps are done in a multifaceted fashion — there are ground, wall, and ceiling traps, all controlled by the X, Square, and Triangle buttons respectively. These pitfalls can be ran solo or used in tandem — you can also set up fairly elaborate combos that use environmentally specific traps dependent on the level. For instance, at the base of a stairwell, you can set up a bear-trap to snare an unsuspecting peon’s leg — as they’re attempting to escape, you can pepper them with some arrows shot by a nearby wall just as you initiate an “Indiana Jones” inspired boulder to roll down the stairwell itself. As you can probably tell, you can get pretty creative when it comes to bringing the pain, including the ol’ electric rod in water routine. Traps can be used consecutively, but you had to wait for a “cooldown” period that was shown on screen.
Healing was done in a fairly strategic fashion, as you were only allowed to use health prisms once per chapter — once they were used, that was it — forcing the player to conserve the baby blue power-ups until absolutely necessary. To add even more strategy to the mix, traps could be improved through points earned with each mission, allowing you to customize the method in which you dispatched your foes.
While you can trap to your hearts content, pugilists beware: your avatar is not capable of hand to hand combat. Unlike Orcs Must Die, you have absolutely no way to defend yourself outside of your traps — which adds a certain sense of urgency to your quest. Enemies range from simple peasants that happen upon your evil mansion, to menacing fully armored knights, to near invisible ninjas. Each type of enemy has their own special abilities — for instance, lumbering brutes may have the ability to ignore bear-traps or grab giant slabs of rock before they inflict damage. Wizards can cast long range spells to mess up your day, and special enemies can dance around you with super speed and physical prowess.
For the most part, standard levels don’t present an insurmountable amount of challenge, but it manages to stay engaging and fun throughout, partly because of the dynamic choices found within the game’s cut scenes. While the story isn’t anything to write home about, you can occasionally make choices to spare your enemies, or defeat certain rivals to change the outcome of the game. In essence, Millennia can make choices to either support or rebel against her Timenoid masters, funneling those choices into four different endings. Dialogue is usually dull and uninspired (and sometimes comically bad), but the focus is action-centric, and the new scenarios usually lead to more gameplay options; sparking the desire for multiple playthroughs. To add extra incentive, completing the game multiple times yielded extra secret traps.
Deception II is easily a great starting point if you’re not completely familiar with the trap genre. Graphically and mechanically it is a bit dated, but if you have an open mind towards PS1-era titles, I think you’ll have a ton of fun with it.