AMY Review

By Darryl Kaye on January 15, 2012

The survival horror genre has changed quite a lot in recent years, with many developers not willing to take risks on a genre that they feel isn't a bastion for success. VectorCell on the other hand saw this as an opportunity and have poured their efforts into a game that looks to breathe new life in the genre. But, it doesn't. Instead, it serves as a warning for other developers that if you want to make a survival horror game, the fundamentals need to be good before you even start thinking about the rest.

After getting Amy out of facility which we're lead to believe is rather sinister, Lana is attempting to get her some proper treatment. They're on their way to do just that by train when the game starts, but their journey is rather rudely interrupted by a massive explosion, a train crash, oh, and a zombie apocalypse.

From here, the story is pretty basic. You meet some NPCs, but they have no real impact on proceedings and the only snippet of development you ever really see is during the cutscenes that play at the end of each chapter. It's a disappointment, as the premise of a supernatural girl is an interesting one, but it gets lost due to the rest of the game's ineptness.

Things start out rather well. Following the train crash, the game creates a great atmosphere. You aren't sure what's going to jump out, there are sharp noises and camera angles all designed to get the heart pumping. But after the first few minutes have passed, this all gets lost. As soon as you get out of the train and encounter your first zombie, the illusion is shattered by some terrible melee combat and the game never recovers. It's ironic, the game starts with a train wreck, and ends up as one.

While you can swing like a mad-man, the hit detection on your swings doesn't allow you to always hit zombies even if your weapon goes through them. If you miss, the zombie then has a chance to counter and from there, things can go pretty wrong - unless you use the wonderful dodge move. You can just spam this to your heart's content if you want, and although doing so looks ridiculous, it is pretty effective. Don't try to run away though, as combat has a very finite nature. Either you're going to do die, or they are. Healing or attempting to run just allows them to get in a few cheap shots - in other words, your best bet in a losing situation is to just plug away and pray.This also highlights one of the game's biggest failings - its checkpoint system. While checkpoints do exist, they are far too infrequent and if you happen to die, you can bet your bottom dollar that it'll make you do everything again. Some chapters do have multiple checkpoints, but you can literally do 30-40 minutes of gameplay, die, and have to do it all again. And it's not like the gameplay is enjoyable either - it's a double whammy.

One of the worst instances of the game sucking up time, while you do pretty much nothing, comes from the DNA puzzles. Some doors are locked by DNA devices and you need to go and hunt for the correct DNA in order to open them. The only problem is, the waypoint system on the mini-map is rather useless and sometimes the game makes you go pretty far to hunt these things down. It makes you wonder if you're going the right way, or if you should be doing something else.

Almost everything about the game feels poorly thought out. Whether it's the story with its never explained premise, or the whole infection thing going on, it's just a mess. You're also expected to learn to be stealthy too, but it's all by complete trial and error. Despite only meeting a few rather weak zombies in the first chapter, at the start of the second chapter you're greeted with a rather huge tank monster who instant kills you. Soon after it spawns, you have to hide. If you don't, he will just follow you for an infinite amount of time until you get bored and he kills you. If you do hide, he forgets you even existed and goes to stand in a corner - or just disappears entirely. The same applies to soldiers too, although they don't chase you. They just shoot you, another instant death.

The stealth sequence towards the end of the game is the stuff of nightmares, and not because its so well designed that it targets your cerebellum in a stroke of genius. No, it's just so terrible that attempting to get past it challenges your entire moral fibre as a gamer. And if that's the case, then something is very wrong. You shouldn't have to force yourself to carry on playing a game.

There is one cool mechanic though, and that's the addition of Amy, which up until now hasn't been mentioned. Throughout most of the game, you will be by Amy's side, holding her hand. Of course, this is rather sweet, but doing so stops Lana from turning into a zombie. If you spend too much time away from Amy, you die. But there are times when you have to. Some of the game's puzzle elements are quite well designed in this respect as both Lana and Amy have to work together. At other times, it's frustrating and monotonous. Still, they at least attempted to do something that was a bit different.Amy can also use powers, if the situation demands it. For example, she can cast a silence spell which creates a vacuum. Anything you do in it will be contained. The only problem, again, the implementation. If you want Amy to use a spell, you have to control it from Amy's point of view. The problem here being that you can't control Amy's position. In many cases, it's easier to just ignore using it and do it another way.

Bugs and glitches are aplenty and you have to wonder how this game passed its quality assurance. There are scripting bugs which can mean items don't exist when you need them to, there are bugs which cause enemies to just disappear and there are weird sound glitches. Sometimes cutscenes can also be initiated while enemies continue running around in circles. And let's not even talk about how strange some of the people's hands are. Aside from that, in places, the graphics are pretty good. The fact Lana's body starts to degenerate when she's away from Amy is also a nice touch.

One of the big disappointments, is that despite being a survival horror title, there are almost no scares. You get the occasional pipe bursting, or computer frying, but that's about it. Probably the only element that will get your blood pumping, is the fact that if you die, you'll have to do it all over again.

Let's say you can force yourself to play through this game though, and you do complete it. Despite actual gameplay time probably being a few hours, total gameplay could go way higher due to the number of times you will die and have to repeat everything. It's probably not even worth mentioning the hard difficulty either, unless you're a real sadist.

Final Thoughts

Amy is a pretty big mess, and it's a real shame. There are some glimmers of hope, but they are so buried amongst all of the frustrating and annoying gameplay elements that their existence will be overshadowed. There's also a lack of any real scares, and it makes Amy a game that shouldn't be touched, by anyone. If you do decide to, be prepared for a whole world of hurt, pain and suffering.

Holding Amy's hand is cute.
The first few minutes of the game are solid.
Some enemies just disappear, which is kind of them.
The checkpoint system is the stuff of nightmares.
The gameplay is terrible.
Chapter 5... why do you exist?
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