"Run And Hide"
AMY surfaced a while back as one of the most promising games I had seen. Amongst a deluge of first-person shooters, and with the idea of an actual survival-horror game that put a child in harrowing circumstances, AMY was refreshing in concept. In execution, however, that promise is sadly unfulfilled.
The game begins with your character, Lana, accompanying the titular child, Amy, on a train. As heavy-handed exposition fills us in on the fact that Amy is mute due to traumatic experiences; there's an explosion in the distance. Amy, communicating through drawing flames, monsters, and ample death, seemingly predicts vaguely just what you're about to go through. The train crashes, Lana blacks out, and Amy goes missing. Your first order of business is locating her. If only the foretold monsters were your sole problem... but you'll have your hands full with sloppy presentation and gameplay.
Considering the slow pace of the game, it is surprising how touchy and inconsistent the frame rate is, and the camera implementation is just another in a set of design miscues. The camera is both positioned a bit too close and is overly jittery. As you need a good view of what is around you to progress, the close camera also means that Lana often obscures your view of puzzles elements, weapons, items, and enemies.
With a severe lack of atmosphere, the need to solve puzzles takes center stage in AMY. The various trials range from finding color-coded keycards to collecting DNA. Other times, the solution to a puzzle is seemingly random, relegating gameplay to trial-and-error.
Aside from the tedious puzzles and exploration, combat makes up the rest of the game. Consisting of straightforward, but painfully slow attacking and dodging mechanics, combat is a sluggish affair. With found weapons, Lana can assail the zombie-like infected enemies by springing forward and swinging aimlessly. Enemies are easily dispatched if you are able to make contact. However, detection of weapon-on-enemy contact is woefully shoddy, making combat an infuriatingly literal hit-or-miss situation.
Dodging has its own inherent problems. This important survival tool is strangely programmed to function in a singular way – press the dodge button and Lana takes a step back. You'd naturally want to move in any direction to avoid incoming attacks, but assuming that you can will lead to disappointment (you'll likely suffer damage during combat that causes the touchy camera to spin around, leaving you to reorient yourself all too commonly). This, coupled with the undependable offensive attacks, makes death a frequent visitor.
Dying clears out vital items you have collected and resets you with your inventory practically bare. This would be a refreshing, if severe, gameplay mechanic if it were fairly implemented. However, considering how frustrating it is that being aggressive in attacking usually results in death due to poor hit-detection, you're punished unreasonably.
Compounding that arduous mechanic, checkpoints are few and far between. You can end up having to retrace nearly an hour of monotonous puzzles, tiresome encounters, and dreary exploration just to work your way back to your location of demise. With no ability to save manually or even an offer to save mid-chapter (checkpoints don't save your progress if you reset or power off your machine), you are looking at a lengthy, repetitive slog.
Once you've reunited with Amy, gameplay changes slightly. Lana and Amy have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to gameplay mechanics. Considering the harrowing circumstances, the traumatized Amy needs to keep calm and Lana is apt at doing so. Conversely, having Amy close-by somehow keeps the virus flowing through Lana's body in check. Keeping things tense but explicitly contrived, puzzles become reliant upon separating the pair, and this is where I am most disappointed.
Early previews made it seem like a choice – do you put the vulnerable Amy in distressing situations for your, and her, benefit (having her venture off alone through vents to solve puzzles) or do you keep her safely hidden away as you find an alternative way to solve a particular problem? The latter option makes it more difficult for yourself surely, but it keeps your young responsibility protected. The finished product gives you no such choice, and the lack of said mechanic really takes away from any sort of emotional investment that could have been made.
In horror-survival games, investment in the characters is key. The relationship between Lana and Amy is tantamount to a gripping tale, and that emotion would have been the greatest selling point of this unique game. However, that promising premise is unfortunately fumbled. You are assured through ham-fisted delivery that Lana cares for Amy, but the nature of their relationship is hardly expanded upon.
Much like the infected inhabitants of the game, AMY is plagued by problems, both large and small.
GameDynamo's Score for AMY (PS3)
Writes for a few media outlets, does graphic design work for a few clients, as well as production work for a few studios (all poorly). Believes the best correlation between the words "twilight" and "sparkle" has less to do with vampires and more to do with a sarcastic pony.
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