Since its official release earlier this month, Lexis Numerique’s Amy has received a great deal of criticism from both critics and consumers. It’s a videogame that has promised so much through it’s development, and so now here with the final release is it just a case of letting expectations rise too high, or is Amy simply a broken design? Upon first-hand inspection, Electronic Theatre can clearly see that the experience Amy provides is a bit of both.
A new addition to the survival horror franchise, Amy sees the player cast as a Lana; carer for the titular Amy. A young girl, Amy is autistic and is in the process of being transferred from one institute to another. During their journey however, the train Lana and Amy are riding crashes, and the pair are introduced to some particularly unwelcoming locals.
As Lana the player must guide Amy through the dangerous environments, guarding her against the monsters and from detection by soldiers. The twist comes in that of Amy abilities: despite her affliction, Amy is capable of withstanding a considerable amount of horror: brave enough to venture on her own through ventilation shafts, keen enough to learn special powers immune to the contamination effects of the virus. Players must use Lana’s strength and Amy’s abilities to conquer a series of increasingly complicated puzzles, and face-off with a number of less-than-attractive former persons.
As the latest title to join the ranks of the survival horror genre Amy wears it’s inspiration on its sleeve. A number of the most inspired design decisions from recent years have made their way into the videogame, with a Dead Space style in-game meter designating contamination level (essentially a second health meter dependant on environment as opposed to enemy blows), combat that feels as fluid as that of Alone in the Dark’s manual swipes and the now common place waist-high camera from Resident Evil 4. The general design of the videogame is predictable, but is a presentation that’s solid and enjoyable. Unfortunately, Amy isn’t without flaws.
The pacing of the videogame is somewhat questionable at times, with short puzzles interspersed with lengthy mazes creating a somewhat disjointed first half, enemies will unfairly break their attack patterns due to the less-than-stable framerate and mines are used far too regularly and a tension building mechanic, inevitably ending up as little more than an irritation. A more prominent issue however, is that of the checkpoint system. Each chapter is divided into four by two checkpoints, a design which works great for the first two chapters, but then begins to really interrupt your game by the third. Undoubtedly a seemingly good idea during development, in practice it’s an infuriating decision that will surely provide a stumbling block for many players. What’s more, your progress at checkpoints during each chapter doesn’t save when exiting the videogame, only when reloading in the same session.
The visual quality of Amy is intriguing, and rather cunning in its delivery. The graphics simply aren’t a huge upgrade from that of previous generation titles, with Amy clearly being supported by a much lower budget than the likes of Resident Evil 5 or Dead Space; however the fantastic use of camera angles and lighting filters makes them look much shaper, much more believable. Glitches are prominent throughout, especially in that of the character animation, and the texture tearing can be quite jarring when littering the environment. Additionally, the occasionally poor localisation will have the player astounding by the quality control. It’s not exactly ‘all your bases are belong to us’, but suggesting that ‘security room is written here’ as opposed to ‘the sign says security room’ is a seemingly obvious error.
The term ‘broken’ is thrown around far too much in the industry, and Amy is anything but. There’s no denying that there are some issues with the product, and it’s clearly far from the pinnacle of the survival horror genre, but it’s a playable videogame in every sense of the word. The criticism that has been levelled at Amy since its release certainly has a firm basis, but has undoubtedly pushed beyond that which is justified. Amy is a by-the-numbers experience with some disappointing flaws, but for fans of the survival horror genre it will surely be a welcome snack between bigger budget meals.