AMY is an interesting downloadable title on Xbox Live Arcade that feels like a throwback to survival horror games of the early 2000’s. The game follows the story of Lana who is the guardian of verbally challenged AMY, a young girl with hidden psychic abilities. The pair is trying to make their way to a hospital to get AMY help when the citizens of Silver City begin turning into monsters all around them.
For most of the game the player controls Lana as she navigates through a sea of monsters trying to protect AMY while trying to prevent herself from becoming infected like the rest of the city. Unlike other games in the genre, Lana is just an ordinary person with no special training. She isn’t given a gun and the ability to use it simply because she is the game’s main protagonist. Instead Lana has to resort to sneaking past enemies, hiding from them and confronting them with a weapon only when she has no other choice.
In addition to the mechanics described above there is also a slight puzzle solving element that is needed in order to traverse through each level. These puzzles consist of figuring out the correct order to perform certain tasks or using Amy correctly to complete specific areas. While these puzzle elements are simplistic compared to a puzzle game like Portal 2, they can lead to some rather tense moments while playing AMY. These tense moments are a result of the backtracking that often occurs in each level. Lana will have to sneak past enemies multiple times in order to complete her tasks. The constant backtracking makes sense regarding the layout of each level but it does feel like a device used to stretch the most out of a limited area.
The tense moments that do occur throughout AMY are amplified by some clever feedback by the developers. As an enemy gets closer to Amy and Lana faint sounds of a heart beating begins to pick up pace dialling up the tension. The controller also vibrates to match the tempo of the beating heart adding to the element of suspense. It may be overlooked as a minor point but it is an effective way to convey the vulnerability of the characters.
The heartbeat mechanic is used with each enemy type throughout AMY. The standard zombie like enemies can become a deadly problem if Lana’s weapon breaks. There is also mutated humans with fangs and razor sharp claws that can be especially deadly if they sneak up on Lana as a result of forgetting to close a door behind you. One of the most dangerous enemies in the game is the Phoenix soldiers who can shoot Lana from a distance which will result in a one hit kill.
Aside from some long load times the main drawback of AMY is the checkpoint system. Since AMY is played at a slow and methodical pace, restarting from an old checkpoint can be very punishing. During the first run of each area there is a degree of exploration and trial and error that needs to take place in order to learn how to properly navigate this new environment. Often times throughout my initial playthrough of AMY I would make a clumsy mistake and die only to lose the last twenty minutes of progress. Whenever you have to restart a checkpoint it also resets your inventory. For example, if you were stocking up on supplies (eg. Health packs) from earlier in the level and passed a checkpoint then died, your inventory at the checkpoint will be reduced to zero. Once you know what order to do things in the checkpoint system is remarkably less punishing but if you do things out of order it can become frustrating.
AMY also lacks the ability to save your game in any capacity. If you exit the game and try to pick up where you left off at a later time, you can only restart the current level you were on, not even the most recent checkpoint.
The lack of a save system is a glaring negative about AMY. Thankfully AMY delivers one of the best unintentionally funny video game characters of all time, Michello the cab driver whose voice acting and dialogue is reminiscent of Mort Goldman from Family Guy.
AMY is a solid downloadable title in the survival horror genre. AMY does suffer do to sparse checkpoints and lack of a save system but presents and interesting story with some tense moments. It is often a game of patience that requires slow and methodical movements. The reliance on hiding and avoiding detection as opposed to shooting things is a positive twist on the current formula of survival horror games. AMY is a fun, twisted experience and is a great way to kick off 2012.
This review is based on a downloadable copy of the 360 version of Amy.