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Amy Review

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On 01/11/2012 at 03:00 PM by Nick DiMola

A hodgepodge of survival horror concepts wrapped into one disastrous mess.

Not Recommended.

If there’s one thing that’s clear about Amy, it’s that developers, VectorCell, were in over their heads. Borrowing concepts from many of the popular titles in the survival horror genre, Amy attempts to mix puzzles, stealth, combat, escort missions, and even psi-powers in a post-apocalyptic setting crawling with aggressive monsters. The ambitious downloadable title fails to provide the necessary polished gameplay and is host to numerous technical issues, as well as poor mechanics and antiquated design.

Players start the game as Lana, protector of a mute, autistic girl, the titular Amy. While on a train ride to meet up with another character, Ellen, an explosion goes off in the distance, rocking the train. Lana is attacked by who was once the conductor, but now seems to be a zombie, and is knocked out cold. Upon stopping, Lana heads off to round up Amy and begin the quest to meet with Ellen.

Much to the surprise of Lana, the world is now overrun with monsters forcing her to dig deep and realize the survival instincts buried within. Like most survival horror titles, Lana will collect key cards to open locked doors, solve simple puzzles, and combat monsters. Similar to a smaller subset of these types of games, players will also have to hide and evade enemies and employ a certain degree of stealth to avoid not just monsters, but soldiers as well. Throw Amy into the mix and players have an additional responsibility and a selection of supernatural abilities.

Unquestionably, the game is host to a variety of gameplay concepts, but they are poorly implemented thanks to an equivalent number of design problems. From the outset, it’s clear what players are in for. During the opening cutscene, the game is chugging along, skipping frames and stuttering often. This persists in the actual game as well. It’s not always choppy, but it happens enough that it’s not only frustrating, but disengaging. The frame rate isn’t the only issue, I managed to get stuck in the wall, the camera would occasionally tweak out for no reason, sounds and voiceovers wouldn’t play when appropriate, and at times, death would seemingly come for no reason whatsoever.

While detrimental to my playthrough, these are problems that can and likely will be fixed via an update in the future. However, they illustrate a larger problem with the game. Because the team has tried to do so much, they've gotten in over their heads, unable to polish out the technical issues as well as settle on working game designs and mechanics that provide for a fun experience.

Upon first controlling Lana, the mechanical issues present themselves. While her movement is mostly smooth, albeit slightly clunky, when you toss Amy into the mix, it’s a whole different story. As you progress through the levels, you’ll have to constantly manage where Amy is going. This is done by holding her hand and issuing her simple commands. While Amy will follow you if you are not holding tight on to her, the level designs will dictate it to be near necessary the majority of the time. It’s not only finicky to actually get a hold of her hand, but keeping hold of it is incredibly annoying as it forces you to always hold down a button. On the Xbox 360 default controls, hand holding is done with RB with run tied to LB, making it extremely uncomfortable and awkward just to hold the controller and play the game.

The commands don't fare much better. A particular one - telling Amy to wait in a certain spot - rarely seemed to work. An early puzzle required her to stand on an elevator while Lana went to the other side of the room, climbed a ladder, and pulled a switch. It took 3 tries to get her to stay in place. Of course this was only made more frustrating because climbing and dismounting from a ladder features an extremely slow and lengthy automatic animation.

It would've been nice to simply stash Amy away and progress onward until necessary, but because Lana will slowly be more infected without Amy at her side, you're forced to keep her with you. With powers like a ball of silence in Amy's arsenal, you'll need her to get beyond obstacles along the way. Like the rest of the game, these powers are also awkward to engage and can only be used up to three times.

While these control issues are annoying, they’re not game breaking. Had the content of the game been good enough, I’d go as far as saying they’re tolerable. But the level designs face just as many issues. Split into six levels, Amy is a fairly lengthy downloadable title. Each level in and of itself is of reasonable length, but they are designed in a manner that will make them take an extremely long time. Though the game offers checkpoints, they are extremely far apart, forcing you to replay large sections of the level if you happen to die. And you will die, often.

Seemingly around every new corner, a simple misstep is destined to kill you. Opening a door before you should have, interacting with an item without knowing where to go next, or simply walking to a place you shouldn’t be; the game teaches you what to do by killing you. After death, you’ll be kicked back to the last checkpoint, forcing you back through the same mundane events, slowing your progress to a crawl.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the game gave you a bit more direction or a clearer understanding of what might be ahead of you. Also frustrating, upon reaching each check point, psi powers that Amy previously learned are forgotten and items collected aren’t retained. It’s an odd and jarring design choice that hinders natural progression in the quest.

Sometimes you’re able to save yourself with a bit of luck by engaging an enemy in melee combat with a breakable weapon. Unfortunately, combat is awkward and nearly broken thanks to unresponsive inputs and a camera that shifts in and out constantly. If you manage to best the foe, you’ll get a chance to keep on moving forward, but it’s likely death is not far. Clearly, combat should've been excised and focus shifted on better, more thought out puzzles.

Every aspect of Amy is extremely rough around the edges, not just the core components I’ve discussed here. The voice acting is often stiff, the animations are a bit off, and the feeling of the game controller in hand is just wrong. Because the game focuses on too many concepts, it fails to do any of them very well. Refining the parts that work and cutting out those that don't would've made for a much tighter experience.

When it comes down to it, Amy just isn’t any fun to play and is often quite frustrating due to its inherent design flaws. With a more frequent checkpoint system to avoid replaying mundane segments or better, more fluid mechanics, Amy would’ve been a much different experience.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Julian Titus Senior Editor

01/11/2012 at 04:24 PM

This bums me out. Amy looked interesting in trailers. I don't know the pedigree of the studio, but it sounds like they took on too much.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

01/11/2012 at 05:29 PM

That sucks.  This thing sounded great, and the trailers looked good.  I was really hoping it would do well.


01/11/2012 at 11:54 PM

I saw a piece on Destructiod saying PSA: Do not download Amy, then I come here....

"It would've been nice to simply stash Amy away and progress onward until necessary,..."

I got RE 4 flashbacks when you're escorting Ashley. Good times...

Stanton Daries Staff Alumnus

01/12/2012 at 11:45 PM

Any game that has escort missions can't be all bad!

Matt McLennan Staff Alumnus

01/15/2012 at 12:11 PM

At least Ashley had a decent rack and had a decent A.I. AND you could make her hide.

Seriously, RE4 (Wii Edition) or gtfo and don't even try to emulate it because you can't. Unless you are Shinji Mikami.

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