Is the Resident Evil series just a little too action-packed for your tastes today? Was your last trip to Silent Hill not the homecoming you thought you wanted? In other words, do you miss old-fashioned survival horror like your undead grandma used to make?
Amy, a new downloadable title from developer VectorCell and publisher Lexis Numerique, wants to fill that void. But take my advice, treat Amy like the disease-ridden zombies you’ll be fighting throughout the game and run away as fast as you can.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Publisher: Lexis Numerique
Genre: Survival Horror That I Just Barely Survived
Release Date: January 11, 2012 (XBLA), January 17, 2012 (PSN)
ESRB Rating: Mature
Amy stars the title character, an autistic child, and Lana, her caretaker at the mysterious Phoenix Center. After escaping by train with Amy, Lana watches in horror as a meteor (or maybe an alien spaceship) smashes into the Center. Lana awakens minutes later with Amy gone and zombies everywhere. In that short period of time, a private army has already been called in to cull their numbers. Later, we find out a gun-toting televangelist has managed to take over a television station and declared war on the zombies.
After watching the opening cinematic, those of us looking for a throwback to survival horror’s heyday already know something is wrong. The game itself begins just a few minutes after the cataclysmic event that caused the zombie uprising, but the world has already gone completely to hell and the private army has already mopped up most of the zombies. You eventually come to realize that the “logic” in Amy’s world is all wrong.
This is probably a good thing as the controls are clunky at best and downright frustrating at worst. Lana moves at tiptoe speed and will only jog slowly if you hold down the Right Bumper. If you want her to run you also have to pound X. The melee combat is no better, featuring the same ungraceful pattern every time: Lana swings her weapon and then she jumps back to avoid the slow-motion swimming stroke the zombies use to attack. Then she swings again to finish the zombie off.
So instead of the grand return of a forgotten genre, Amy is a plothole-filled mess that hearkens back to the worst survival horror cliches such as key quests, flipping switches, and hacking computers. Because of the tag-team nature of the quest, Amy is the one that’ll have to do the hacking (that’s right, Amy pulls out the autistic superhacker trope, and later, the austistic kid with telekinesis trope). And, of course, the switch for a security gate or elevator will invariably be in a different room. Hope you like crawling through that hole in the wall, Amy.
About those holes. For some reason, every locked room in this dank subway station has an Amy-sized hole cut into the wall so the child can sneak through to unlock the door. Why do these holes exist? And why are they so huge? The camera swings around and makes it clear that Lana could fit through the hole easily. Again, broken logic.
When Lana’s not walking around debris that only reaches her waist (there’s no jumping in the survival horror days of yore), she’s trying to sneak around a series of “shock mines” that the mysterious army has strewn everywhere to stop the zombies. And remember, the army was mobilized, placed these mines, and disappeared in all of ten minutes. The shock mines react to fast movement, so the only way Lana can get past them is to move into the electrical field and walk… real… ly… slow… ly… past… them (even slower than her normal speed). As with everything else in Amy, this mechanic is terribly broken – the game is never clear on just how fast “too fast” is. Of course, the confused logic of Amy rears its ugly head again when you realize that Lana should be able to use the long wooden plank she carries as a weapon to safely shove the shock mines out of the way.
I found dozens of these little logic holes, and they eventually caused me to give up on the game in disgust around the halfway point. While the logic in Amy’s world seems designed to cause maximum frustration, a series of baffling gameplay choices add to the brokenness.
Like the Romero Living Dead films, the zombie infection is in the air and Lana has to either stick close to Amy (who’s immune) or inject herself with a decontamination syringe. But for some reason, all of Lana’s syringes and weapons, along with Amy’s telekinetic abilities, disappear between levels (and sometimes between checkpoints).
And speaking of checkpoints, Amy was designed as a “trial-and-error” game, meaning that if you screw up one of the tasks set before you, you’re booted back to the checkpoint. So you’ll have to repeat huge sections of the game (and battle the frustrating controls) over and over again. Worst of all, Amy will only save your progress after the completion of a level. So even if you make it to the next-to-last checkpoint of a level and then have to rush your pregnant wife to the hospital, you’ll be booted back to the beginning of the level. Won’t someone think of the pregnant women?
Finally (but not really, as I had many other problems with Amy), the dialogue is painfully terrible and stilted. And because of the trial-and-error nature of the game, you’ll have to hear each line reading multiple times. Lana often speaks to Amy as if she were a dog, which is kind of terrible when you remember she’s autistic. In fact, huge portions of the game take on a mean sort of vibe when viewed through Amy’s autism, including her fascination with fire and her Uncanny Valley-provided 1,000 yard stare.
Amy is simply broken; there’s no two ways about it. The story is a half-baked mishmash of ideas that don’t fit together and it pushes you along with gameplay tricks that don’t make logical sense in 2012. And why bring them back for Amy? They weren’t all that hot in 1996 either.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Amy was provided by Lexis Numerique for the purposes of this review.