Review: Amy

When I reviewed JU-ON, a lackluster horror outing for the Wii, I wanted to repeatedly bash my Wii remote against the wall until either my hand or the controller busted open. The survival horror genre is rather hit and miss, but I can put up with a lot in order to get to the good stuff, and have. The curious case of Amy is an interesting one. It’s nowhere near as disjointed and frustrating as the former, but its jarring brand of survival horror is a return to the early PlayStation brand of “turn-the-character-and-turn-the-camera,” which is no doubt a strange antiquity to gamers of today expecting a Resident Evil 5-styled shootout. With that said, it’s missing a certain level of polish and finesse that’s expected of any modern release, and the lack of said polish can hinder players when trying to progress through the game’s six chapters.

You are Lana, traveling with the autistic Amy, on a train to (apparently) seek refuge for Amy from a previous “institution” that Amy seems to be terrified of. Things go terribly awry once the train derails, leaving the frightened little girl and her guardian to fend for themselves. Lana must immediately track down Amy, who cannot speak, and she happens upon the justifiably creepy taxi driver Marcello, who aids Lana in finding Amy. The trio (for now) set out to navigate an infected city rife with zombies and other ravenous creatures.

Amy is unique in that you actually control Lana, but issue commands to her little companion as she acts as a conduit and puzzle-solving apparatus than actual character most of the time. Amy can crawl under tight spaces, flip switches, hack into computer terminals, and easily fall victim to the shambling baddies that can be found in the dimly lit city you find yourself trapped in. Lana can take Amy’s hand or call the girl via hand motion when in need of her services, and via context clues Amy can perform the various tasks required to advance. Quite often, this requires little more than Amy scuttling through a conveniently child-sized opening, being instructed by Lana to “hit the button,” and then a quick (vaguely unsettling) pan to Amy grinning, knowing she’s done a good job. When it works, it’s a rewarding system. Unfortunately, it can be a fight to simply get the little girl to follow instructions. Lana repeatedly called for Amy to perform a task, and Amy idly walked around, ignoring orders. So much for that system.

When Amy doesn’t out and out shirk responsibilities, she’s falling behind when Lana is defending herself from advancing baddies (with a satisfying THWACK – think Haunting Ground’s attack system on steroids) and causing you to start over from your last checkpoint, which are few and far between. Once you’ve solved your third or fourth navigational puzzle it can be a nuisance to be forced back nearly almost to the beginning of a chapter due to the game’s refusal to allow you to save whenever you want or at least allow quick checkpoints. I wasn’t sure if this was an intentional throwback to the ink ribbon save system of games such as Resident Evil, but for a game as unforgiving as Amy (with her being the cause of most the frustrations) saving constantly is practically a requirement.

It’s a shame, because Amy looks and feels great, especially for a downloadable title. It proposes some interesting gameplay additions, such as the meter that displays Lana’s progressing rate of infection, DNA scanners, and the entire duo puzzle-solving dynamic. But if Army of Two could pull off its rudimentary puzzles, why couldn’t this ambitious yarn? Interestingly enough, the voice acting is often on point as well, with appropriately creepy tunes annotating the action on-screen. Disappointing then, is Amy’s erratic pacing, combat, and puzzle-solving. When a character simply won’t cooperate, there’s little you can do to stick it out until the end. The game spans six chapters and if all goes well can be completed in a relatively short amount of time (which I managed to perform at a friend’s house) but I can’t recommend it in lieu of even classic survival horror outings such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or even Siren. For a low-priced downloadable adventure Amy may be tempting, but numerous issues prevent it from becoming the horrific butterfly it meant to emerge as.

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