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Amy Review

joshuaboyjoshuaboy Members Posts: 10,858 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited January 2012 in IllGaming
Eurogamer

Version tested: PlayStation 3

Just like hurricanes, horror games seem to go well with girl's names. First Catherine, and now Amy. Just names, nothing else, but simply by knowing there's a sinister context, these otherwise ordinary words take on a malevolent air. Yet it only works with girls names. Could you imagine getting chills down your spine from a horror game called Mike or Roger?

Sadly, that's about it as far as interesting things to say about Amy goes, as this shambolic collection of outmoded ideas and clumsy execution would have been sub-par if released in 1998. Put it up alongside even the shaggiest second-stringer in 2012 and it's hard to find anything positive at all.

The plot gets things off to a bad start, compiled as it is from a jumble of survival horror clichés. We open with Lana, our heroine, as she escorts the Amy of the title on a train. Through leaden exposition we learn that Amy is both traumatised and mute, and she's been sprung from a dubious research facility. It's not hard to see where this one's going.

Not helping is the fact that the quality of the cutscenes is dire. Stiff puppet-like movements, rigid figures and inane dialogue delivered in halting, flat speech all conspire to make the game more laughable than enthralling before you've even taken control. Already the on-screen captions are veering away from the spoken dialogue, a problem that only gets worse as the game goes on. It gets so bad that characters are referred to by completely different names in the subtitles than they are in the game.

But back to business. There's an explosion in the distance, just as Amy draws a picture of flames and people being eaten by monsters, and everything goes black. Lana wakes up on the wrecked train with no Amy in sight, and you're first order of business is finding her, as together Lana can keep Amy from panicking and Amy's magical psychic powers prevent Lana from becoming infected by whatever contagion is making everyone go all gloopy.

It's a tutorial quest that should cement our emotional investment in the characters - something essential to successful horror - but we've been given no reason to care. The relationship between Lana and Amy has been left vague and the acting is so bad that Lana simply doesn't seem that bothered.
You have more pressing concerns than narrative engagement, however. Simply moving around is a problem, thanks to a twitchy lurching camera that constantly threatens the player with seasickness, and a sticky frame rate that means simply walking in a straight line is a procession of judders and snags. Your view of the action is rarely satisfactory, and Lana becomes jammed on scenery items just out of view all the time.

Naturally, this handicaps the combat too. It's a horror game so of course people turn into shambling zombie things, and you're able to take weightless swings at them. You have two melee combat options - lunge forward to attack, or feint backwards to dodge - but even this limited repertoire is undercut by the game's woozy camera. Take a hit and Lana spins around, and the camera follows. While you're reorienting yourself, you'll take another hit. Since Lana can only take three or four hits, it means the survival in this survival horror is often out of your hands.



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Death also introduces perhaps the game's most baffling and irritating design choices. First off, every time you die your inventory is wiped. Health syringes, vital for patching Lana up and fighting the infection, are taken away, leaving you even more vulnerable. In a better game, this could be a great - if brutal - way of increasing the tension. Here, where failure rarely feels like your own fault, it simply infuriates.

Making matters worse, checkpoints are sparse, so each demise can mean replaying up to an hour of gameplay as you go through the same puzzles, battles and dreary exploration just to get back to where you were. If that's not enough, the checkpoints are only active while playing and the game only saves your progress at the end of each chapter - and there's no manual save. Switch the game off mid-level, assuming that a checkpoint means your progress is safe, and you'll be forced to restart from the beginning of the last chapter when you return.

It's indicative of a game full of ideas and mechanisms that rarely work as planned. For example once reunited with Amy you can lead her around by the hand, Ico-style, and send her through small gaps into locked rooms to push buttons or retrieve objects. The gaps are clearly large enough for Lana to crawl through as well, but that's typical of design that throws immersion out of the window at every turn.
Too many puzzles are predicated on separating Lana and Amy using ridiculous contrivances, such as Amy being unable to climb ladders, or elevators that can only be activated by buttons on the other side of the room. If not that, then you'll be sighing in dismay at how many locked doors will only open after you've retrieved - wait for it - colour coded key cards. There's simply no sense that this is a logical story, set in a real place and populated by actual characters. If common sense must be thrown out of the window to cram another obvious video game obstacle in your path, then so be it.

The problems quickly pile up, from minor irritations such as the way Amy lets go of Lana's hand at the slightest brush with scenery, to major inconveniences, such as the arrival of military goons who 🤬 you on sight. Coupled with the idiotic checkpoint system and the game's half-baked idea of stealth, they make progress a hit or miss affair.

Crucially, the game simply isn't scary. Huge portions of gameplay are spent blundering around empty corridors, fighting the swaying camera and looking for the way ahead. The monsters are drab and obvious, while encounters are rare to begin with. Whatever thin atmosphere the game tries to muster by making gas pipes hiss and electricity spark as you walk past dissipates long before anything resembling pace or excitement can rear its head.

Games can survive bad dialogue and wonky mechanisms provided the experience has charm and originality. Deadly Premonition, the obvious example, suffers from many of the same technical issues as Amy, but is far and away a more entertaining ride thanks to its unique oddball style. Equally, plenty of games can be perfectly entertaining despite a lack of originality, provided they're served up with polish, pace and style.

Amy fails on all counts. It's plagued by jerky movement, poor scripting, weak puzzles and shoddy checkpointing, but it's also a characterless mess of themes and ideas swiped from a dozen better horror titles. Neither quirky enough to be forgiven its unfinished feel nor polished enough to satisfy the base gaming itch, Amy is a crushing disappointment with little to recommend it. With classic titles from both the Silent Hill and Resident Evil series getting HD re-releases there's absolutely no reason to suffer this shambolic imitation in search of your survival horror fix.




2 / 10

Comments

  • Lou CypherLou Cypher Make Reasonable Choices. H. E. Double Hockey SticksMembers Posts: 52,520 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2012
    Pics look cool. sounds bad tho lol.
  • joshuaboyjoshuaboy Members Posts: 10,858 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2012
    Horrifyingly bad.

    The game Amy has been kicking around for a while now. Every so often, you'd hear rumblings on The PlayStation Blog about the downloadable survival horror title Vector Cell had in the works. It seemed cool enough in premise, and indeed, Amy no doubt looks good on paper. But the end result -- a supremely muddled mess of controller-throwing frustration and 🤬 -poor game design choices -- makes Amy not only one of the worst downloadable games I've ever played, but easily the worst game I've played in recent memory, period.

    Amy puts you in the role of Lana, a woman responsible for the well-being of a little girl named Amy. As the game starts out, Lana and Amy are travelling aboard a train when an explosion sends the train rolling, turning Lana's and Amy's lives upside down. From there on out, Amy's special gifts unfold before your very eyes.


    Amy Video Review

    The game's plot could have very well been Amy's only saving grace, but the highly nebulous nature of the story doesn't really tell you much of anything at all. Several chapters in, you'll still be puzzled as to what exactly is going on around you, and because the gameplay itself is the single worst part of Amy, you won't exactly find yourself enamored enough to keep on keeping on to find more clarity with the plot.

    The give-and-take between Lana and Amy should be at the center of the experience, but since the game literally does nothing even remotely well whatsoever, you'll be exceptionally hard-pressed to appreciate the novelty of the idea at the game's core. Lana can't survive for very long on her own without being poisoned and killed; Amy appears to be immune from the effects of the explosion and can even heal Lana if she's nearby or holding her hand. Unfortunately, this great idea rapidly becomes monotonous and cumbersome, and even the lone bright spot in Amy quickly becomes yet another thing to resent.

    To call Amy's gameplay unintuitive and unresponsive puts things too lightly. To call Amy's gameplay complete and utter garbage is far more accurate. The game tells you to do a bunch of different things, but the controls only work sometimes. Want to pick up that item on the ground? You better be positioned in a pixel-perfect fashion. Want to hit that enemy? You better cross your fingers and hope the game's collision detection works. Want to dodge an enemy attack? Might as well roll the dice. The most important thing about any game ever made is how it plays, and in this regard, Amy is an outright abomination.

    amy-20120111044339077.jpg
    Amy looks astonished because she can't believe how bad her game is.

    The puzzle-centric nature of the game also calls into question inherent design decisions at the heart of Amy. How many times can a gamer possibly be expected to do the same few things over and over again? Why am I sending Amy through a crawl space into an office to collect a key card when Lana could have easily fit through the hole herself? Why is the mute little girl I'm with hacking computers at my behest while I sit idly by? These are just some of the questions you'll ask yourself during each and every chapter in Amy's excruciating journey.

    Apart from the abysmal gameplay littering every inch of Amy exists an equally infuriating checkpoint system that is so terrible that you may actually take it as one big joke from the developers. But it's no joke. Amy's checkpoint system wouldn't necessarily be so unforgiving if the game was even remotely playable, but since so much of the game requires insane amounts of trial and error -- and a myriad of unfair deaths due to terrible controls both in and out of combat -- this might be the most frustrating aspect of the entire experience.

    I will be absolutely amazed if more than a small fraction of gamers who actually spent their hard-earned money on this travesty gets through more than a couple of chapters, because after replaying the same 20-minute segment of a chapter a dozen times as you try to figure out what you're actually doing wrong, you're more likely to chuck your console through the nearest window than have the patience to see it through for attempt number 13.

    amy-20120111044339327.jpg
    Lana is scared because she knows there's a good chance her crowbar will go through the enemy without damaging it.

    At the end of the day, the good idea at the center of Amy never sees the light of day because everything surrounding that idea is terrible. The game's mediocre look is about the best thing the game has going for it. But then again, once you sit through the lengthy load times following getting stuck in the environment and dying, even that bright spot will quickly diminish.

    I spent at least a dozen hours with Amy, got as far as the end portion of the fifth chapter, and gave up out of sheer anger and frustration. I refuse to spend another second with this game. I suggest you don't get started at all, and run in the opposite direction instead.
    Closing Comments
    I don’t take bashing any game lightly. Obviously, people put hard work into making the game. But Amy is about as big of a miss as I’ve seen in I don’t know how long. Amy purports itself to be survival horror, but the only surviving you’ll be doing is trying to make sense of the muddled gameplay mess laid before you as you’re “scared” by the same gimmicky frights, like bursting gas pipes and falling portraits, over and over again.

    If you want a downloadable game for $10, scroll randomly through the titles offered by your downloadable service of choice, randomly stop on a game and buy it. Your money will have almost certainly been better spent in lieu of buying Amy, which absolutely no one should play.


    Presentation 3.0
    There’s a good idea at the core of Amy. Hell if you’ll ever actually see it, though.

    Graphics 5.0
    The best part of Amy is how it looks, but that’s not exactly saying much of anything at all. The game also happens to run poorly.

    Sound 5.0
    Lana’s voice acting is decent, but there is some downright horrifying voice acting to be found too. Sound effects are monotonous and repetitive.

    Gameplay 1.5
    I can’t remember the last time I played a game so thoroughly unplayable. A complete disaster.

    Lasting Appeal 1.5
    If you’re a glutton for punishment, you’ll give this game more than an hour. But you aren’t a glutton for punishment, are you?



    OVERALL 2.0 Painful
    (out of 10)
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