Survival horror is a genre in gaming that can either be done well or poorly. It is rare to have a mediocre horror game. Resident Evil is done well. Resident Evil 5 is done poorly. Survival horror needs certain things to work and not all games labeled “horror” have it. AMY is one of those games that almost has it, but there’s just too many things that awkwardly and unforgivingly hold it back from attaining its goal of being even remotely frightening.
The game follows a woman named Lana and the titular child Amy that is quickly revealed Lana helped escape from a research facility. While on a train immediately after escaping the facility, there is a large explosion and the train crashes. After in indeterminate amount of time, although it certainly feels like maybe a few minutes, you come around and need to track down Amy who has up and left. As you begin your search, you find that the station where your train ended up is crawling with disease infected crea…oh fuck it, zombies, they’re just zombies.
The game throws bits and pieces at you about the story, like a newspaper clipping about the explosion you witnessed, belying the amount of time that seemed to have passed since the crash and waking up. There are also phone calls here and there with a woman you are trying to reach, and one other character you bump into while in the station, but there’s never anything substantial that really explains just what the hell is going on.
With not much going story wise to keep you interested, the game needs to rely on its gameplay and sadly it’s not much better. From the get go the game seems to have the visuals and style to be a great game, but sadly it all falls apart within the first half hour. While the controls and visuals are okay at best, the real issues rear their heads when it comes to dying and saving. There are only 2-3 checkpoints per each chapter, and each chapter can run for an hour or more. When you die, you will return to the previous checkpoint, minus any items you picked up, which will then return to their original positions. If you quit without reaching the end of the chapter, when you reload, you will start back it the beginning of it.
Lana and Amy each have their own abilities; Lana’s ranging from nothing more than being able to whack zombies with wooden beams or crowbars and leading Amy by the hand. Amy can find glyphs on walls that when she copies them onto her tablet, can then use whatever power it instills in her. When Amy does gain a power, it’s added to a wheel that looks like it can hold up to about 8 different powers, but unfortunately there are actually only two throughout the entire game; One that can cause a bubble to silence actions, and a forceful blast to knock down enemies or break weak objects.
Amy’s other main “power” is that she is immune to the disease that is turning people into zombies. Not only is Amy unaffected, but when Lana is close to her, she becomes unaffected as well. When the two get separated however, Lana will begin to slowly turn, her face turning ashen, her veins becoming dark, and her vision turns red right before she falls down and dies. This turns the times that you need to send Amy through openings or separate from her in other puzzle solving ways, into a more strategic and tense situation.
There was much promise to all that AMY had to offer in previews, like the ability to hide both yourself and Amy inside cabinets or under desks when enemies were near, but unfortunately the option is rarely needed, and when it is, you are basically forced into it. The fighting, when Lana does need to fend of enemies, is nothing more than a dodge, attack, dodge scenario, and weapons break after just a few hits, leaving the option for confrontation off the table for the most part.
One of the best things AMY does is the entire final chapter, which is nothing more than a large boss fight, but sadly I have a feeling most people won’t even bother getting to. AMY is a game that won’t scare the pants off you, aside from a jump scare here and there, nor will it have you praising the unique check point system, but the dynamic actions between Lana and Amy is something that not many other games ever have.
If you can look past the saving system and realize that you will be going through each chapter in one sitting, that may be all it takes for the game to become much better in your eyes. Otherwise, even with a $10 price tag and around 6 hours of gameplay, there’s not much about the game to recommend when the most prominent and simple of features make it an frustrating and unpleasant experience.
Release Date: January 11th 2012
Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
Game purchased for review