Amy: Frustration Has a New Name [Review]

By Ryan Winslett in Reviews
Monday, January 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm
Amy cover.jpg
Lana takes Amy by the hand and pulls her into a nearby room, the automatic door sliding shut behind them before a guard can take notice. Lana motions for Amy to stay put and the young girl nods in understanding. On the other side of the room, Lana finds a ladder leading up to a platform and starts to climb, a journey that takes a full seven seconds to complete.

Upstairs, Lana walks out onto a catwalk and is immediately spotted by the guard, despite the fact there is a solid metal surface breaking his line of sight. The guard runs up to the catwalk and positions himself below Lana, raising his gun into the air and bringing it down as if to strike someone standing directly in front of him. Despite the three feet of empty space separating the gun from Lana--not to mention that solid metal surface we were just talking about--the young woman crumbles to the ground, dead.

When Lana awakens from her temporary demise, she is standing in a hallway she last saw over half an hour ago. When she tries to sneak past the guards this time, it's likely that Amy will bump into some unseen surface and let go of Lana's hand at the most inopportune moment. Amy could run out in front of one of the guards for no good reason, or the camera may simply stop following the duo altogether.

Popping up sporadically, these sorts of technical hiccups are easily forgivable. In the survival horror genre, they can even be downright lovable; a wonderful piece of camp value fans can laugh about and reminisce over. But when these sorts of bugs infest every moment of gameplay and are coupled with horrendous design choices, they become downright insulting.


One of the most upsetting things about Amy --aside from the inability to save in the middle of a chapter, of course--is the fact that the game demonstrated such potential. When the screen rate isn't chugging and glitches aren't making it hard to look at, Amy is actually pretty easy on the eye.

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While the vast majority of the levels are samey hallways connecting nearly identical ladder/elevator/keycard puzzles, a couple of moments stand out for changing up the pace. There's a section where you must guide Lana through a room filled with motion sensors unarmed. When a zombie gets too close, you can utilize one of Amy's psychic powers to hurl controllable Force pushes to keep Lana safe. And then there's the final chapter, which features a boss fight that would feel at home in just about any survival horror game.

But for every moment when the development team at VectorCell "gets it," there are dozens leading to unfair deaths, confusion and untold frustration due to technical issues, poor design and a lack of direction.

Some of the levels require trial and error to get through, made even worse by a checkpoint system that is far too unforgiving. Some solutions are illogical or require you to guess until you find the correct path. More frustrating is when the game simply breaks: Amy is suddenly unable to use her psychic powers or refuses to hold your hand, a door that requires you to press a button to open it suddenly slides aside for no reason and reveals your location to a guard, or you miss a poorly placed keycard and leave a room you can never return to, thus forcing you to restart from the last checkpoint.

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If it seems like I'm giving you too little detail about Amy's storyline, it's because there's not much to tell. As Lana, you are in charge of young Amy's safety. You are trying to escape a facility where she was being tested on when your train crashes. Once you wake up, the place is infested with zombies. Amy has these mysterious abilities that heal Lana and keep her safe from infection, and all we know about our destination is that it is a hospital where she will supposedly be safe, despite the ongoing apocalypse. I don't consider it a spoiler to inform you that little beyond that is ever revealed. I'm not being vague here. This is literally all there is to the narrative.

Given the vague story, a five-slotted ability wheel where only two slots are ever filled, a "tutorials" section in the menu with no actual tutorials, and screenshots during the credits that reveal creatures and locations you've never seen, it's obvious Amy is intended to be the start of a series. But I can't for the life of me imagine anyone who made it through this original slog will ever want to subject themselves to a second helping.

The problem with words is that there are times when they just can't properly convey your thoughts and emotions. Despite all I've said here, I feel like I have inadequately demonstrated the number of ways the wheels fall right the hell off in Amy. There are several interesting ideas--Tandem puzzle solving; Amy being your health pack, flashlight and monster detector; the need to occasionally become infected to sneak past zombies--but little of it is executed well and, even then, all of it crumbles thanks to countless bugs and technical issues. And then there's chapter five. I won't even get started on the horrors of that infuriating romp into "stealth." That chapter alone serves to demonstrate that, even if all of the technical stuff was ironed out, the game would still be a mess. 

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The point of the game is that you are supposed to care about Amy and want to keep her out of harms way. This is made impossible by maddening AI and controls that fail you far too often. Instead of worrying about Amy's safety, I found myself cursing her name, wishing instead to see her dragged into the shadows by some bloodthirsty fiend.

I would love to list more of the ways in which Amy fails the player, but I have far too much respect for your time to do that--a trait the developers of this game clearly lack, having released it in this current state. To put it succinctly, Amy is an unfinished product unworthy of your purchase. Not just because none of the mysteries surrounding the titular character are ever answered throughout its six chapters, but because a game this broken should have never been released in the first place.

The Official Verdict: 1.5 out of 5

This review is based on a PlayStation Network download provided by the publisher.

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