Amy Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

System:
PlayStation Network
Release date:
January 17, 2012
Publisher:
Lexis Numerique
Developer:
VectorCell
Players:
1
Genre:
Survial Horror
ESRB:
M

Amy

Glitches are a greater threat than the undead.

Review by James Cunningham (Email)
February 7th 2012

It's always good to start off with a strong concept. Fly left-to-right and shoot things is always good, and zombies in a (fill in the blank) continues to be quite popular. In the case of Amy, the concept is “help a mute little girl with psychic powers through a ruined, monster infested city”, and while that idea holds a lot of promise, nothing in the game lives up to it. From the very moment the game starts, Amy shows you that the game is unfinished, and the opening cinematic is representative of the game as a whole. A ticket taker approaches a young girl and a woman sitting at their seats on a moving train, but there's something wrong with the camera. Not in a creep-o-vision way, but instead due to a jerky frame rate despite the lack of scene complexity. After an awkward bit meant to introduce Amy and her guardian Lana, bad things start happening, but already the idea that Amy is going to be a bumpy ride has been planted.

At first it seems like Amy is going to be middling-bad, but maybe the saving grace of its scenario will make it all forgiveable. Lana is a normal woman trying desperately to save Amy from a research facility bent on retrieving or killing her. The way the plot opens up what Lana knows and doesn't keeps the player on their toes, as what seems to be a normal world gets more complicated by small revelations. The relationship between Lana and Amy, even though the character models can't “act” well enough to sell it, comes through anyway, and the adult/child relationship is worth exploring. Lana and Amy both have things the other can't do, and while you primarily control Lana, you also call up Amy's powers and use them as necessary. It's an excellent dynamic of child and protector, and worth playing through properly in a game that's not half-baked.

Amy is, and this can't be stressed enough, not done. Unfinished. Incomplete. Desperately in need of another six months or so of development time. For proof, let's talk about Chapter 2, primarily because I spent three days working out how to get to the second checkpoint and have it seared into my memory. In the first part of Chapter 2, all the trashcans are searchable, but this is the only section of the game where this feature is enabled. One trashcan actually has a health syringe in it despite the voiceover saying it's empty. There's a glowing sigil on the wall, which Amy can trace to enable up to three uses of the Silence ability, but during one run-through of the section she got rooted to the ground after drawing it and wouldn't move for any reason at all. Holding her hand, running into her, calling her, all ended up with an immobile Amy. The only solution was to pause, reset to checkpoint, and swear lots. A similar event happened past the first checkpoint when a guard stared at the locker we were hiding in, forever. Pause, reset to checkpoint, swear lots again. Yay.

The reason I was in chapter 2 for so long, though, is another piece of evidence in the non-done-ness of Amy. The patrolling guard is walking a hallway with a couple of options to explore. Past an intersection at the head of the hallway is a room with mines casting off red pulses, and walking into the pulse's radius causes a damaging electric zap to Lara, although Amy can walk through without problem. At the end of the hallway is a corner going left, which the guard walks around as part of his patrol, and a door on the right. The mine room causes damage so the door at the end of the hall is what needs to be investigated, right? Crouch to tiptoe behind the guard as he makes his patrol, throw a ball of silence over the door to mask the sound of its opening, sneak into the room, and eventually you'll get shot by the guard for any action you make past that point.

As it turns out the mines can be gotten past by careful sneaking. In no way is this indicated to the player at all, other than Gamefaqs. No radio message with Lana's friends, no sign showing a comically tiptoeing stick figure, no short cinematic explaining the reason Amy can get through is because she's a mini-ninja, nothing. Even throwing a silence-field over the mines didn't help. Apparently they're motion-sensitive to everything but psychic little girls.

I got a couple of chapters beyond that but by then my will was broken. Chapter 3 was much better, with a couple of bits where Amy and Lana had to support each other with their abilities, but the damage was done.  Too many things were going wrong.  There are only two abilities filling in the five slots on Amy's psychic power wheel, and juding by the ending these would get filled in during Amy II. Chapters take well over an hour to complete and you can only save at the end, rather than at level checkpoints. In the first chapter you play a numbers game to hack a console, and then once you've found Amy she takes over the hacking job and all you can do is stare and wait. Random glitches pop up all over the place, and can easily require an obnoxious amount of unnecessary repetition. Every once in a while the game Amy should have been peeks through, but the rest of the time is a slog punctuated by one broken section after another. With another few months of development it's possible Amy could have become a decent game with a strong emotional hook, but that didn't happen and instead it's just horribly incomplete.

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