The Average Gamer

AMY Review (XBLA)

AMY, one of the very first releases of 2012, sets a very high standard for others not to follow. “Terrible” is the choice of descriptive here and can be used to describe most of the game, despite one or two clever ideas.

This survival horror (more survival, less horror) just feels like a total copy of the Saw games but worse, and inherits the same basic problems.  Controlling Lana – who, with the game’s namesake little girl, are trapped in a disease-ridden town after their train crashes – is laborious and cumbersome at best. At times it really does feel that you are there, pushing her along to escape the monters. If you are separated from Amy, then you will slowly become one of the creatures yourself; the visuals become more distorted, everything starts to go red, and you can hear voices whispering to Lana. Join back up with Amy, all is cured.

Both Lana and Amy need to escape both the monsters created from the contamination and the trigger-happy containment soldiers deployed to the area. In particular the soldiers; if they see you, you will die. If you walk just one smidgen too quickly, you will be heard and die. Move too slowly, you get spotted anyway and die.

At least you get a chance to tackle the monsters/zombies but you’ll wish you didn’t have to. The combat system is terr-i-ble. Like the Saw games, it’s all very swing-and-hope-for-the-best. Any attempt to sneak up on an enemy is pointless because as soon as you draw your weapon, your character is set to ‘run’ mode. Your steps become louder and, you guessed it, you will most likely die. If anything, the combat is like controlling GTA IV’s Niko Bellic after a drunken night with his cousin.

As you may have gathered, you will die a fair amount through AMY but hey, there are always trusty checkpoints to help you out, right? WRONG. If you die near a checkpoint you won’t lose much progress but you will lose any health and weapons that you had on your person. Checkpoints are also quite sparse so be prepared for a lot of trial and error. Don’t confuse these checkpoints with save points either. If you turn off the game, you will have to complete the entire chapter again. [See the post-patch update below]

It’s really hard to recommend AMY to anyone. Everything is sub-standard in quality. The graphics look as jerky as the controls feel. The music tries to give the uncomfortable surroundings an uncomfortable atmosphere, but it’s just flat.

Some happenings make no sense either. Quite often Lana is required to sneak through motion sensor devices very slowly so as not to be harmed, yet, whilst you’re traversing these hazards, young Amy is running back and forth through them like she’s had too much sugar. There are odes to Metal Gear sections where you must hide in cupboards or under tables to escape sight; yet if the enemy is right there, and you’re in the ‘hide’ menu, then you’ll be safe from harm anyway.

AMY is not an easy game, but only due to the problems above, not the actual difficulty level. There are a couple of decent ideas in AMY. It’s a shame the rest of the game lets it down. Some doors require DNA scans to obtain access; off you go around the facility reading scans off deceased individuals until the correct one is scanned. Quite often separation is required, due to the nature of the puzzles (crawl into small gap, etc), and with no health to assist, can be a real threat. This is not too dissimilar to the PS2 classic Ico. If Amy is caught by one of the monsters, they feed off of her lifeforce, until you come to the rescue. Some nice touches also include holding Amy’s hand, and feeling her heart rate through the controller’s rumble function. This also increases or decreases, based on the current threat situation.

Ultimately though, the real threat is continuing through the game, or having to start over. The Saw games at least had good, brain-teasing puzzles (such as the circuit breaker puzzles), and kept you on your toes at times. AMY is all too frustrating and annoying to care about, and has very little going for it in terms of plot/characters. AMY is not a credit to the download market at all, and should be avoided. Only the curious need apply. You have been warned.

Update 26th April 2012: As reported by The Sixth Axis, AMY was patched earlier this month, addressing many of the issues I raised above. It’s good to see that the developers have seen the criticism (delivered in spades) and done something about it. So why should we care about the game now, when we really didn’t before?

Well, for one, the game FINALLY keeps saved progress up to reached checkpoints. Due to the very slow progress of each chapter, having to begin a new session from the start of a chapter was just a kick in the teeth. But there is even a slight drawback to this; the game still warns the player that all chapter progress will be lost, even though it isn’t. I was almost in tears at the prospect of having to begin again, thinking the patch had done nothing. It was actually scarier than the game itself.

Keeping Amy’s powers on stock as well as Lana’s syringes after each chapter is very helpful, as more separation from Amy is required in later chapters, for longer periods of time. Skipping ultra-slow sequences such as, well, all of them, is also welcome, but again isn’t as much of a hindrance to the gamer as the bloody game itself.

You have to hand it to the developers. They have achieved in making Amy ever so slightly more bearable, which is admirable. This is still a very poor game, certainly the worst XBLA title I’ve come across. In my opinion, it’s tough to see how it should have ever been released. Do not part with money for this game. Ever.

If you have a soft spot for the underdog, Amy is available on PSN and Xbox Live Arcade now.

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