After the seemingly endless onslaught of negativity that the title had received prior to release, I reached out to publisher Lexis Numérique to procure a download of survival-horror AMY that had been critically lambasted for being too buggy, and not simply just difficult.
A lot of the criticisms towards AMY are harsh, but not entirely unfounded. Solid ideas permeate the whole, but each of AMY‘s drawbacks become compounded on one another, creating a mishmash of inescapable gunk that really great intentions become completely lost in.
AMY is horrifying in the fact that VectorCell have managed to craft a game that is truly bad in execution. At its heart, AMY is a return to the survival horror games of yore, reminiscent of early Silent Hill titles or the first Resident Evil, filling you with that hopeless terror of being alone in a world gone completely to Hell. And not being strong enough to do anything about it.
VectorCell manages to capture that essence rather well, with a desolate, forsaken city filled with mostly grays and browns of debris, and liberal uses of red blood spatters on the floors and walls to depict the senseless violence that has overcome the last remaining humans (and the not so human). Environmentally, AMY succeeds at picturing a world where prayer is merely the last bastion and struggling will result in you becoming a corpse.
Sadly, that’s about where AMY‘s high points end and the true face of poor development decisions become apparent. AMY is a bad game. A really bad game.
To start, one of the things to take notice of is the bad voice acting. Not particularly wooden, like in genre-mate Afterfall: InSanity, but voice choices are low-grade at best, resulting in an awkward script in many situations.
One scene in the second chapter has the little girl, Amy, running away in a frightful fit and hiding. As Lana, you must find her and retrieve her. Upon finding her, Lana utters, “Amy! I’m pleased I found you…” Who says that? Who. Says. That? Nobody. Not a single person, no matter how desperate or upset they are will say that. “Glad,” sure, but not “pleased,” especially in such a desperate, mortal situation.
Mind you, that can be viewed as nitpicking, but the whole script is like that, unnatural and unbelievable, and lackluster voice acting don’t help AMY‘s case. That’s merely one example in a pile of many. Overall, however, the sound isn’t bad. In fact, it does a great job of creating a fine atmosphere for the setting, but none of the music or eerie noises will ever put you on edge, giving you that tense feeling in the pit of your gut.
You’ll be put in situations where you have to distract a foe from a certain spot by causing a phone to ring or opening a door at just the right moment to sneak past a guard…again and again. You’ll have to push little Amy through a hole and have her push a button to activate something or open a door repeatedly. For as much punishment as the game puts you through, the puzzles are absent-minded at best.
Speaking of punishment, playing AMY on its own isn’t punishment. The design decisions, however, could readily be regarded as such. AMY involves a great deal of trial-and-error. Much like the creepfest LIMBO, you will die. A lot. Frustratingly and repeatedly, you will die.
Of no help is the very hard-edged checkpoint system. While you are encouraged not to die, when you do succumb to the military, a risen corpse, a pool of infectious red liquid, or just being too far away from Amy, the checkpoint system will make sure you are good and angry when the game reloads, taking you back to several, several moments away from the point of your demise. As such, you’ll find yourself repeating the same tasks not only as you progress, but for doing poorly, as well.
I understand that VectorCell said their game was “hard,” but this borders on unforgiving. I appreciate a hard game, don’t get me wrong. I thought that the multiple-tiered battle with Ares at the end of the first God of War game was one of the most brilliantly executed bossed battles in recent history. On Hero difficulty, it was frustrating at some points, but not unbeatable. On Spartan and God difficulties, the battle became nigh impossible, but conquering that segment was refreshing, to say the least.
As opposed to the above-mentioned boss battle, AMY is hard in the sense that it provides nothing but utter discouragement to continue on. Progressing yields no rewarding satisfaction and dying only to end up re-completing the same banal puzzles a second, third, or fourth time just isn’t fun. To add to this dismay, despite AMY‘s linearity, there are a lot of situations that yield that “what do I dooooooo? Where do I goooooooo?” feeling.
To attest to AMY‘s nature, there’s a sequence later on in the game that has Lana leaving behind Amy to traverse a treacherous walkway of infected. You’d think this part would be awesome, having to let the infection overcome Lana to a point as to become undetectable as opposed to a tasty snack. Maybe it would be as awesome as the “blending in” scene from Shaun of the Dead.
No. Not even close. If you move too slowly, the infection will turn Lana and you will die. If you move too quickly, the infected will become alerted to your presence and tear you a new one. If you try to find another way through, you’ll get lost, overcome by infection and die. You have to move at exactly the right pace the entire time to make it through and no bit of it is contenting. You will absolutely be filled with pure, unadulterated rage at the seeming impossibility.
AMY demands so much of you, and not even in the same satisfying way that BloodRayne: Betrayal would, because at no point does the game become enjoyable to play or rewarding to complete, in part or in whole.
Probably the worst aspect of AMY is that it comes off as a story with depth and personality, but rarely finds itself doing so. Why do I care about Lana or this little girl, Amy? Should I feel bad for Amy, who is autistic and cannot speak, but so filled with emotion? How did Lana get infected and how was she able to survive for so long without letting it overcome her? What’s in the injections that staves off the virus and why didn’t everyone take it?
What in the Hell is even going on? Okay, so Amy’s autistic and whatever, but why does she have psychic powers to do these outlandish things to help her and Lana survive? Why are there random runes engraved on the walls and all the little girl has to do is draw them to gain some sort of mystic power? Why does standing next to Amy hinder the infection and why isn’t everybody doing so or getting immunized?
There are just too many questions, and they don’t get answered. I don’t care about the characters here, because I’m not given the opportunity to care.
Appreciably, Lana comes across as the most believable character. She’s frail, helpless, easily frightened, and not the least bit intimidating. She doesn’t know how to fight, swinging her breakable weapon in a wanton manner to defend herself and Amy. It’s refreshing to see such a fragile character, a game trope that has since been abandoned in favor of stronger leads, able to hold their own even in the most dire situations. Composed, yet vulnerable. However, even this change of pace makes it hard to overlook that which AMY gets wrong, and that’s so, so much.
For a game that showed so much promise, especially for a downloadable title, there’s very little here to merit a first playthrough, let alone a second. AMY is as hollow and soulless as Ozzy Osbourne after marrying Sharon. This is a title for masochists and only masochists.
For more information on how we review games, check out our criteria here. An SEN digital download of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. This review was originally posted on The Gaming Vault.