AMY was my second most anticipated downloadable game of 2012 next to Journey. I’ve been craving a true-blue survival/horror experience, and I loved the concept. This didn’t appear to be handholding or babysitting; it looked like an intriguing partnership between two interesting characters, set among a frightening, post-apocalyptic environment. Sadly, the mechanics are very nearly broken and the setting doesn’t do its job. It’s boring, frustrating and poorly constructed.
Now, I’ve noticed that the game is getting a lot of flak for not looking too great, and for mediocre frame rate. However, although it did fall flat, this is an ambitious graphical presentation, in that developer Lexis Numerique tried to create a game that looks like a full-budget Blu-Ray production. Character detail is actually pretty good and the effects aren’t terrible, either. It’s just that the technical issues are so glaring that it’s hard to pay tribute to the effort.
The sound is another point of contention for me, because I didn’t think the acting was as atrocious as some sources have claimed, and the creepy ambient effects were appropriately unsettling. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is almost nonexistent and those voices can get really annoying at times. I think we need to understand that this is a digital game and should only be compared to titles in the downloadable realm. In doing that, I think it deserves a little extra credit, but it still falls well shy of expectations.
The gameplay is the biggest failing by a long shot. It’s just a mess. I’m not even sure where to start… Okay, let’s begin with the awful, clichéd, uninspired game design, which involves a series of locked doors with switches in other places, and fetch quests that involve keycards and…and…’snore’ I remember it all from, you know, 1998, but I thought we’d moved past this. Besides that, there’s just no logic or reason to the level design. Perhaps the most accurate criticism is this: it’s painfully obvious we’re playing a video game.
These days, good games have such great immersion that we often forget where we are and what we’re doing; we’re just involved in the virtual reality presented before us. AMY gives you no chance to get immersed or involved. It starts with some promise. Lana and Amy are on a train and a few things are clear: something bad has happened to the world, and Amy can’t speak. But she’s special in other ways because she seems nervous and then an explosion…unsurprisingly, in the aftermath, Amy disappears and you have to find her as fast as possible.
That’s the first step. Along the way, you’ll run into an injured taxi driver whose incessant and pointless jabbering made me wish a zombie would eat him. During this time, you’re also introduced to the sluggish, jerky combat and totally inane puzzles. The latter are not well created and the battle, while somewhat functional, is hampered by endless hitching and a bonkers camera. The camera sits too close most of the time, and when trying to move quickly (like dodging), it just fails miserably.
The buddy dynamic could’ve been great. It really had a ton of promise. Amy is smaller, so she can crawl through openings and reach rooms Lana can’t reach, and you can give her orders. But they just don’t build on this enough. Most of the time, you just want Amy to hit a switch or something equally uninteresting, and holding her by the hand doesn’t work well. If you brush an obstacle, like a wall, she’ll let go, which means you have to be really careful about where you lead her.
To top it all off, the checkpoint and saving system is horrendous. It’s enough to make you beg for a root canal. Checkpoints are few and far between, first of all, and secondly, if you die, you’re stripped of your inventory. ...what? Seriously? I suppose in a different sort of game, this brutal feature could be seen as a realistic challenge for dedicated gamers. But here, it’s just infuriating. Plus, you can’t save until you finish an entire chapter; there’s no auto-saving at checkpoints. Just…why?
It doesn’t help that death isn’t always your fault. The camera is so off the wall and the movement is so cumbersome that half the time, you’ll never really see exactly how you died. Lana can’t take much abuse, either, so it can be downright maddening if you’ve played for an hour, haven’t seen a new checkpoint, and suddenly die in a flurry of zombie activity that usually seems overbearingly difficult. Then you’ve got military guys who just decide to shoot you on sight. Yay.
AMY lets you down in just about every possible category. The mechanics are bad, the Lana/Amy tandem is barely mediocre, the acting and writing is sub-par, the game design (from the ridiculous checkpoints/saving system to how the environment is laid out) is poor and immensely frustrating, and lastly, it just isn’t scary. The latter is quite possibly the most disappointing part of the whole debacle. I think it deserves credit for the attempt, but that’s about it. It’s really too bad.
The Good: Character design is decent. A few creepy audio effects. Amy is a mildly interesting character.
The Bad: Soundtrack doesn’t do much. Writing and acting are well below par. Multiple hitches in the frame rate. Camera is atrocious. Overall game design is uninspired and boring. Puzzles are poorly crafted. Combat is clunky and unreliable. …there’s more, but I’ll leave it here.
The Ugly: “Let’s wander over there and see what happens…oh wait, I don’t care.”
1/19/2012 Ben Dutka