Treasure Trap is an isometric platform adventure developed by Doodlebug Designs and published by Electronic Zoo in 1989. It was released for both the Amiga and the Atari ST and it is the ST version that I’m looking at today.
The basic aim of the game is to collect gold bars from a sunken ship called The Esmerelda [sic] deep beneath the sea, and to do that you take control of a guy called Howard Kelp who wears a deep sea diving suit and who can walk around, pick things up and jump underwater.
The game is reminiscent of the classic 8-bit isometric games made by Ultimate Play the Game (and others) on the ZX Spectrum, but brought into the 16-bit era.
Treasure Trap features approximately 100 multi-level rooms to explore, many of them filled with hostile sea creatures that you must avoid. If you touch a hostile you lose one of the five lives you are given. There are basic puzzles to solve and traps to be avoided, and some doors require geometrically-shaped keys to open. These keys are found lying around the ship floor and look like small coloured spheres, pyramids or triangles, and three of these can be picked-up and held at a time. The same shapes can be seen over the top of some doors, which means that the appropriately-shaped and coloured object can be used to pass through that particular door – if you’re carrying one. Three small hooks, shown on the information panel at the bottom of the screen, show which you’re currently carrying.
You can push small items of furniture or boxes or barrels around in some rooms, which allows you to use them as platforms to reach other, out-of-reach platforms. Some boxes will sink or disappear entirely if you jump on them, so some trial and error (and a good memory) is needed at times.
You have no weapons at your disposal during your quest, but you can carry friendly fish and use them to attack other enemies in a room. You begin with two attack fish and receive a new one every 80 gold bars collected, so they have to be used sparingly.
You can bring up a scrolling map of The Esmerelda showing which screens you’ve been to and must also search for tanks of air to keep your oxygen levels up. Oxygen levels are shown in the bottom right of the information panel.
One niggling issue I discovered while playing Treasure Trap is that you can get ‘stuck’ in the frame of the doors as you move through them. Not stuck permanently, but just temporarily, which sometimes can be annoying. You end up having to remember this and play around it. This seems to be a recurrent issue in some of the less well-polished isometric platform games that I’ve played over the years.
The controls in Treasure Trap are responsive and some screens are very challenging to negotiate (mainly due to certain enemies that home in on you), but the gameplay is not too bad overall, everything considered.
One thing I didn’t realise until some hours into playing the game is that you can press F4 to turn shadows on or off, and they seem to default to off, which is weird. Having shadows underneath floating objects actually helps quite significantly, so turning them on is preferable in my opinion.
Treasure Trap is not really what I would call a “classic” video game by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a relatively interesting obscure platform adventure and a rare Irish-developed video game from the last century. Which makes it sound ancient, but considering that the game is now 22 years old (at the time of writing), I guess it is ancient to most people! 🙂