Sony PlayStation 3Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360
I’m sorry, I couldn’t do it, I just could not do it and for those who could do it you deserve to be commended. I have spent around ten hours playing through Vectorcell’s survival-horror Amy and that’s probably ten hours more than the game actually deserves. I have struggled my way through bad games before, bit my tongue and persevered but I just can’t, couldn’t and quite simply never want to play this shambles ever again.
Amy is a third person survival-horror set in 2034 and the World is facing increased occurrences of natural disasters and disease thanks to global warming caused by us pesky humans, (if you didn’t pick it up there’s a subtle environmental subtext there). After liberating, some might say kidnapping, the title character from a no-good, dodgy experiment conducting ‘facility’ the game opens on a train with our playable character Lana consoling Amy and laying on some clunky exposition about getting Amy to her contact’s facility to get Amy checked out and to keep her safe. After an explosion appears on the horizon the train is involved in an accident and Lana comes to amidst the wreckage with Amy gone and the train inhabitants having mutated and looking just generally worse for wear.
Most of what you can say about Amy can be seen in that opening cut-scene, it’s honestly like something you would see from a bad game from the 90’s. The animation is stiff, lips move as if the characters have a ventriloquist on the other end, the script is a loose interpretation of the word, the voice acting has absolutely no depth and the world passing by the window outside? It looks like one texture for the ground and the same two trees seem to keep repeating. The game engine itself seems incapable of managing to run the cut-scene without jerking and glitching, it appeared so bad I checked my A/V cables to make sure everything was plugged in properly. They were.
After exiting the train from the aforementioned crash you realise Amy has run off, leaving you to find her and then make your way to safety. On taking control of Lana for the first time you quickly realise that you are going to be fighting a losing struggle with the camera and it’s not a particularly good time to find this out as your first encounter with the enemy is in the tight confines of a train carriage. It’s the standard control mechanism for a third person game with the right stick positioning the camera but you will be doing it constantly as the game seems unable to maintain a useful camera position and likes to point at your shoelaces rather than the mutated person trying to rip you a new one. Even when the game gets into, relatively, more open space the camera still serves to frustrate but almost unbelievably there are points in the game where this is made doubly worse.
At times you will trigger time sensitive events such as a guard coming to investigate or a mutated monster coming to eat you and the game decides to split the screen and show you both events with the intention of building the tension. To see this idea executed very well check out the simply fantastic Fahrenheit but to see it done badly you need look no further. In Amy this gimmick doesn’t reduce the size of the overall picture of the two screens but seems to simply halve them, so you will find yourself needing to run through doorways without being able to see adequately and the collision detection seems to be unpredictable at best so you will inadvertently get stuck on doorways/walls/lockers quite frequently. There are other moments that are so bad they are almost amusing; there was an instance in which I triggered a conversation with another character but having heard this conversation too many times I simply walked away, however I could still hear my own voice in the distance having the conversation. There is also a very strange logic when it comes to payphones in the game, as apparently picking up a payphone forces it to ring really loudly for no apparent reason which will inexplicably alert the guard in a room far away who didn’t have the wit to see you as you casually walked past the window a few seconds previous.
A lot of the press build up has been about the title character, an eight year old autistic girl with mysterious powers, but once again this whole idea simply falls flat. It seems that the intent here was to mimic Ico to some extent, the game wanting you to lead your counterpart by the hand and getting through the perils and enjoying the successes together. Where Ico was subtle and beautiful, Amy is cumbersome and emotionally void. Amy doesn’t speak, so communication with her is a monologue and the relationship relies on the facial expressions of Amy to convey what she is feeling back to you. Once again the game engine fails to match up to this task, Amy’s range of emotions seem to be ‘nod head’ or ‘shake head’ and while this may have worked for the career of Orlando Bloom it simply doesn’t cut it in a game where the relationship is apparently paramount.
The game also tries to build this relationship by employing two mechanisms, firstly you have to hold Amy’s hand to guide her, she will wander behind you but you are safer getting a hold of her before she disappears. Holding the R1 button will hold Amy’s hand and release it and you will let go. Seems obvious but in actuality it’s a terrible control choice by the developers. Rather than pressing R1 to hold her hand and then again to release it you will find yourself trying to hold her hand by holding one button, trying to sprint while holding another and then trying to use Amy’s powers by holding a third and using the right analogue stick. It’s all quite messy and you will not find yourself ever feeling nimble or actually in complete control of the game you are playing. The second device that is used plays on the fact that when you are away from Amy you will start to succumb to a contamination sickness but in being reunited with her you will be restored to health. This need to stay together to survive could have been a nice mechanism but with time being so much a factor as you race to meet up with Amy when you tell her to get on a lift as you raise it and then she wanders off it as it starts to move, you will be frustrated...frequently.
Even in death there is no respite, the game suffers from overly long loading times and seriously questionable check-pointing. Failing because of your own volition is one thing but to fail because of a bad design choice or unbelievably bad AI and then having to wait an age to load up the game again and then realise that the game doesn’t regard the three individual puzzles that you just solved as individual checkpoints is frustrating. So you will find yourself put all the way back only to have traipse through the same banal ‘puzzles’ only to suffer the same fate from the same inherent design choices/AI. In many ways it’s hard to believe the team actually played this and thought it was okay, these are such glaringly obvious failings that should have been rethought and rectified. The whole package feels like an awful game from the 90s, from the stilted animation to the coloured key card system the entire game feels anachronistic and pointless as everything in here has been done before and done much better, even by bad games.
I have fought with myself trying to find something redeeming or something I enjoyed with this game and every time I feel that I am being too hard on it I go back and play it only to find I was completely justified. Amy has overtaken Dark Castle as the worst game I have played which is somewhat ironic considering that Amy is directed by Paul Cuisset who is best known for one of my favourite games, Flashback. With that pedigree you would expect, or even hope, for better but there is no such luck here. If you need to satiate your survival-horror appetite go revisit the Resident Evil series, Clock Tower or Parasite Eve as you will get much more interesting and developed games despite them being released over a decade ago. I am usually of the opinion that even if I don’t like a game I prefer people try it for themselves as videogames, much like any art form, are purely subjective, but in this case I feel it is my duty to say stay away from Amy.
You've been warned.