Note: The Playstation Network version was played for review. Amy is also available on Xbox Live Marketplace and, as of this writing, is scheduled for release on PC.
The crisp clip-clop of my character’s high heels were now a distant sound. Shambling through a crumbling subway station, my vision blurred and wavered blood red as the murmers of a mad voice whispered into my headphones. My skin was turning pale, eyes shot yellow, and the zombie-inflicted wound on my wrist was festering. I needed to get to Amy. Being near her kept me from fully turning into one of them.
I find Amy, the six year old with special powers who I’m charged with protecting, huddling in a locker. I comfort her as the infection from the sickly air evaporates off of my character with a hiss. Then, a monster bashes through a nearby door, the frame rate plummets, and I realize the textures on its face haven’t loaded in. It looks like I’m being attacked by a giant ogre with a shriveled apricot for a head, and now I’m just laughing.
My eight hour experience with Amy was just like that. Moments of tension and sparse touches of cleverly executed design were buried under technical problems and a messy narrative.
The game is set in the near future and you play as Lana, a woman who is the caretaker of a young girl who has special powers. A zombie virus mysteriously erupts at the start of the game and Lana barely escapes from a run in with one of the undead. Now wounded, you have to stave off the infection long with syringes and Amy’s powers so that you can get her to safety.
There’s a bond between you and Amy, as neither of you can survive for long without each other. Amy, being the subject of unexplained experiments by the game’s professorial antagonist, heals you and can use her telekinetic powers to solve puzzles. Being a small child, she can also fit through small gaps that you can’t. Lana is the only one that can use weapons, climb ladders, and shimmy along edges.
The infection also plays an interesting part in the game’s increasingly devious puzzles, as you can deliberately let the virus manifest in yourself long enough to disguise yourself as a zombie and sneak by; well, hopefully before you become fully infected and die, that is.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t provide a clear indication of how infected you are. The light on Lana’s back shows how strong the virus is in the game’s environment, but only the subtle changes in her skin tone and your increasingly blurred vision show how infected you are and it takes a couple of failed stealth sequences to get the hang of just how many seconds it takes before zombies don’t notice you shambling by.
When the situation gets rough, so does the combat; it’s all timing based, using just a dodge and attack buttons, but the timing for dodging attacks is a bit inconsistent. Sometimes I stepped clear of an enemy’s attack and still got hit. Other times, while at the same distance, I deftly avoided the attack of two enemies at once and Lana went into a ducking animation. If the direction you face is even slightly off, the game bugs out and you and the enemy end up awkwardly circling around each other, flailing wildly, until one of you gets hit and dies.
Thankfully, the stealth sequences work just fine and have some good tension thanks to some crisp sound design.
Unfortunately, the voice acting of the game is awful. The main character is voiced by two different actors and it definitely shows; there are times when Lana will go from sounding American to European all in the same conversation. NPCs have stilted and forced dialogue if they talk at all, while the few story related characters have voicework that ranges from decent to comically amateur.
When the handholding mechanic isn’t causing Amy’s hand to come loose when she brushes up against the environment, and when any of the above technical and narrative missteps aren’t getting in your way, there are some interesting moments in the game. One of the best sequences had me isolated from Amy while I frantically sneaked and fought my way through an infection-ridden subway station, stopping near dead soldiers to use their gas masks to stave off the infection; I felt tense and vulnerable the whole time, and it’s sad that those glimmers of brilliance are buried in such a mess of narrative and technical sloppiness.
The end cutscenes of Amy, coupled with a contrived story ending, allude to a lot of enemies and environments that didn’t make it into the game, but a lack of variety or challenge isn’t the game’s problem.The developer would have something worthy of the modest $9.99 US price if they took proper care of their existing ideas within the six chapters of the game. Sadly, Amy can’t be recommended on anything other than a discounted purchase .
- Some fantastic moments of tension and vulnerability
- Good sound effects
- Progressively challenging puzzles that are well designed
- Bad voice work
- Serious technical issues: Bad frame rate, combat glitches, texture pop-in, awkward targeting of Amy’s powers, collision with environment causes the handhold with Amy to break
- Loading a save game causes you to lose your checkpoint and most of your inventory
- Story ending is contrived and some elements, like infectious puddles of goo and giant monsters, are never explained