Damn it. I wanted to like AMY. I really did. The idea of bringing back true survival horror through an ICO with zombies type of design sounded fantastic on paper. I was geared up to get it, and jumped on the chance to review it. My acceptance of the review will go down in history with other such great lines as John F Kennedy’s, “This looks like a great day for a drive”, or General Custard’s “How many Indians can there be?” While AMY had set up to revive a faltering genre, it manages to come off as a title without a single original idea and is unfortunately flawed in almost every conceivable way.
From the onset of the first cutscene, I knew I was in trouble. It began stuttering within three seconds of my hitting start. Through screen tears, offset audio and choppy images, I managed to get what meager back story is available through characters that were poorly voiced and had animation that I can only describe as being uncomfortable. This set the precedent for the rest of the game and, in retrospect, I should have taken it as a warning.
An attempt at replicating old-school Resident Evil controls, results in tank-like mechanics which hinder the player. Lana moves with all the grace and dignity of a drowning newborn giraffe. The button configuration is not adjustable, and not once during my playthrough did I feel fully comfortable with it.
Running is accomplished by holding down a shoulder button while repeatedly mashing another button in addition to pushing the stick. To add to the confusion, holding Amy’s hand requires another shoulder button to be held. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the controls worked. Amy will let go of your hand if she catches on one of the plentiful pieces of debris strewn through the game and never seems to respond quite right.
Trying to work the camera, in addition to other controls, quickly becomes a chore of its own. The camera itself is unresponsive at best, and is often debilitating. If the camera happens to be in a “wrong” position (which seems to be just about any angle except straight on) Lana’s movement is slowed to a crawl, which becomes exponentially more frustrating during stealth sequences where you have to keep an eye on the enemies’ pattern. Even better, during chase sequences, it’s not uncommon for the camera to abruptly change position forcing you to run face first into a wall. This allows whatever beast is pursuing you to close the gap.
Any horror in this game seems to be purely accidental. There are very few instances where you’ll be in actual danger, and the game has decided to compensate this by having pipes blow steam at you. As you’re walking, random pipes will burst blowing steam, electronics will spark and the occasional wall decoration will fall to the floor.
Thankfully, Lana will shriek and stutter back every time, so at least one of you will be afraid. I have to wonder exactly why Lana is perfectly fine fighting an onslaught of vampire/zombie/things with a stick, but a puff of steam can throw her into a tizzy. The locations of these cheesy scares seem to be random. During my play through, they occasionally happened during combat, allowing my opponent to get a free hit while Lana was tending to her hair.
Let’s hammer down on combat for a bit. For a game that’s intent was to focus on survival and horror, you manage to get in enough fights. That’s not bad if it’s well-done, right? Remember the fighting mechanics from Silent Hill 4? You know, the one nobody liked and the one which almost buried a franchise? VectorCell apparently didn’t get the memo and brought it in with virtually no changes. The combat is offensive in its simplicity, with a button to swing and another button to dodge. That’s it.
The game has a tendency to not register hits on your opponent. Plus, its low frame rate, combined with visual hiccups, makes it near impossible to defend yourself properly. Every single combat situation I was in devolved into me hitting the attack button as fast as humanly possible while swinging the camera hoping to line up a target. Your weapon will break with use, and the only way to know how close you are to needing a replacement is through a vague red, yellow and green system. Even better, you can only carry one weapon at a time. So, if you picked up that stick before you were supposed to, you may have guaranteed your death in about 15 minutes. Isn’t this fun?
While you’re not attempting to look like a 13 year-old pretending to know karate, the rest of the game is based around puzzles. These puzzles are based on a trial and error system and, on more than one occasion, I was able to completely screw myself over rendering the rest of the chapter unplayable. As if being able to sabotage yourself wasn’t bad enough, there have been reports of scripting errors in a few areas, rendering the game unplayable until restarted.
I’m not ashamed to admit that the vast majority of my time playing AMY was spent running back and forth between three rooms, looking for this mystical item that simply wasn’t there. With no way of knowing what I had done wrong or what I was supposed to do for that matter, there was a stretch of three hours attempting to right whatever wrong I had done. After finally deciding that I had missed something, I reloaded to the last checkpoint to find the item I needed in plain sight of where I had been standing previously
The checkpoints themselves are poorly implemented and spaced out improperly. While this wouldn’t be horrible on its own, the aforementioned issues render the game totally unplayable without a restart. Those issues, plus Lana’s death, force the player to replay massive stretches of levels repeatedly; the result of a checkpoint system which is far from generous. All of the tedious puzzles and forced animations are waiting to waste your time all over again.
It’s been argued that VectorCell had used them as a way to build tension or add weight to player actions; the only result it had on me was being concerned with the boredom that comes with failure. After the tenth time playing through an area, I simply did not care anymore. Since AMY saves absolutely zero user data outside of completed chapters, any weapons, powers or health items you had picked up from the previous checkpoint are gone. I really hope you weren’t set on using them. Since there’s nothing being saved, you can’t come back later to finish a chapter. Each one has to be knocked out in one frustrating go.
In this game, difficulty is largely artificial. Some enemies will be able to kill you instantly, while others will go down with one or two swings. The puzzles are more tedious than challenging for the most part, forcing you to backtrack through entire areas to hit a switch that you missed earlier. Perhaps the most grievous of these errors is the fact that some of the rules change throughout the game. Near the beginning of the game, you’re introduced to a red slime that will harm you if you touch it, but you usually have time to escape it. Fast forward a few chapters and that same slime kills you on contact. If the game is unwilling to stay consistent about its own rules, how am I expected to care about that world it’s presenting?
I’m going to dedicate an entire section to the stealth. This is one of, if not the worst implementation of stealth I have ever come across. Throughout the vast majority of the experience, stealth comes down to hiding in a locker or under a table while an enemy runs through the room. At one point, I was a bit late hitting the button due to the awkward control scheme and found the monster breathing down the back of my neck. Being the polite monster he is, he let me continue to hide in the locker since the animation had roughly been started, and then walked away pretending he hadn’t seen me. This insulting implementation is essentially playing hide and go seek with a toddler. They’re hiding right in the open, but you can’t just say that.
The fifth chapter decides to take stealth a bit more seriously; to the point where, if you’re seen, you have to restart the section. The zombies’ vision seemed to be endless, as they could pick me out almost anywhere on the map. This experiment with chaos ended abruptly as the game decided to throw away those rules and simply attack me.
While this would have been a welcome reprieve, it turns out that this is just another glitch I managed to run into. The first two times I encountered it, the game simply didn’t allow me to defend myself. Luckily, the third glitch was a bit more forgiving and it at least let me progress to the next checkpoint. I’ve had others replicate the glitch after being through the area the “right” way.
I honestly have a very hard time believing that this is a finished product that VectorCell thought was ready for retail. Enemies are introduced never to be seen again, Amy’s power wheel has space for four more powers that are nowhere to be found and the story’s end feels sloppy and haphazard. Calling the ending a cliffhanger is a bit of a reach. In any other game, that would have simply led to the next chapter. The entire project seems abandoned and just thrown out because they had to release something.
AMY seemed determined to ruin any chance of being a pleasant experience. I plowed through the game in 12 hours (with most of that spent wandering between rooms, trying to figure out what invisible clue I had missed) and not once did I sit back and enjoy the game. The closest I came to having fun was during the fifth stage, where I contacted other bewildered gamers stuck there. We ended up turning it into a drinking game. If I need to risk alcohol poisoning to get through your title, something went wrong.
I want to put it on the record that game is not being slammed for its difficulty. I’m a massive fan of difficult games and tore myself away from Dark Souls, as well as Dwarf Fortress, to play this trainwreck. Discussing the game with a few friends, the question was raised if I just wasn’t “tough” enough for it. That’s a fair question, but let me pose this hypothetical situation to you. You manufacture playground slides. One day, you decide to make a slide completely out of sandpaper. Sure, the kids may not be “tough” enough to use it, but that doesn’t excuse your shoddy workmanship.
The bottom line is there is no excuse for a game to be so horrendous on every level. This title is outright insulting in how little it thinks my time is worth, and offers absolutely nothing in return. If you’re determined to buy this game, I offer one other solution. Take a ten dollar bill out of your wallet and set it on fire. I promise that will be more exciting than anything offered here. I’m just looking forward to being able to pinpoint this as the exact moment my crippling alcoholism started. Simply one more victim for AMY.
This review is based on a copy of the game, which we were provided for review purposes.