Designed by Flashback creator Paul Cuisset and blending influences from survival horrors as varied as the action packed Dead Space and the starkly sombre Haunting Ground, Amy has to be one of the most enticing new horror games in recent years. Which only makes its apparent failings all the more disappointing.
In concept, Amy sounds pretty cool. Set just moments after an explosive viral disaster, Amy sees a young woman called Lana, caught between the ensuing zombie outbreak and the military personnel tasked with hunting her down.
Why is Lana being hunted? Because of Amy, the little girl in her custody who’s developing some strong and pretty scary psychic powers. The pair are designed to go well together.
Lana is just about capable of fending off the zombies with the help of a big stick, while Amy is small enough to reach places that Lana cannot. There’s an Ico-style hand-holding mechanic designed to keep Amy close as you run away from unbeatable enemies, and it also heals Lana, who’s susceptible to the airborne zombie virus at all times.
The concept should make for an interesting spin on the typical survival-horror formula – more concerned with stealth and AI/co-op puzzles than straight up combat, but Amy ultimately falls apart in its execution.
Things start off well enough as the game gently introduces its core mechanics one at a time, but once it expects you to take on multiple threats and conundrums at once it descends into a horrible mess.
Early on in the second chapter, for example, you’re chased by a zombie troll that cannot be beaten, your only option to run and hide. But there are so many inconsistencies that get in this simple task needlessly tough.
The camera often points in the wrong direction, causing Lana to be struck dead without you even realising why. There’s a split screen to show you where the troll’s rampaging through, but it only appears for a second or two, so is effectively useless.
And even when you do manage to escape and hide, it all feels down to luck. Sometimes you’ll evade the best successfully, other times it’ll magically find you. One time, we avoided the monster when it got distracted by a wall.
Later, stealth sections cause further problems. Avoiding the military patrols without gameplay aides like a map or radar becomes an exercise in trial and error.
Sometimes you’re able to watch a guard from around a corner but other times it’s impossible and you’ll have to rely on guess work. Which rarely ends well. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do whatsoever. You can open a door into a new area only for a guard to spot you straight away and fire an instant kill shot into your face.
One of the worst things about this constant trial and error is that each death bumps you back to a checkpoint so far behind that the repetition becomes tedious.
The Dead Space-style scripted shocks work effectively enough the first time (if the camera happens to be pointing in the right direction for you to see them) but by the sixth or seventh time, they’re predictable, annoying and anything but scary.
There are definitely some clever ideas at work in Amy, particularly the interactions between the title character and Lana, as well as the more passive style of action. But these good ideas are irrelevant amid the disastrous design oversights that render Amy an exercise in guess work and tedium.