Survival horror continues its search for a new host as this promising download-only effort fails on all fronts. A technical nightmare that feels rushed, untested, unloved, thoughtless and irritating. Amy, we are upset and disappointed. More so because before we got to hold your hand we thought this would be the post-Ico hit we’ve needed.
The premise was so deliciously tangible it was hard not to get excited about this ambitious studio bringing survival horror to the downloadable market, especially seeing as the genre has ebbed in recent years on modern consoles.
You play as Lana, looking after a little girl called Amy. You must guide her through a quarantined, near-future city after an explosion mutates the population sending them into murderous rages. This all happens after your train crashes, killing most of the other people on board. Mutated enemies and soldiers on ‘clean-up’ duty must be avoided to progress.
Amy suffers from an autistic-like condition, making her fearful of others, except for Lana. After the train crash, Lana has been infected by the virus too. However, Amy’s presence has a healing effect on her, stopping Lana from transforming into a crazed killer like everyone else. The potential for a tense story of this dangerous balance is never fully realised. Also, most gamers won’t be able to stand playing it for long enough to find out.
When Lana is away from Amy, the infection will return, so you can’t be apart for long. A health LED on your back is supposed to indicate your level of infection, but it doesn’t work and you’ll find yourself dying before it’s gets to the critical red stage. This hampers the interesting mechanic of freely walking amongst the infected when your infection level is at a high stage.
The gameplay starts off with using pieces of wood to fend off attackers or simply avoiding them by hiding in lockers or waiting in the shadows until they pass by. It’s sluggish and the dodge button can be unresponsive, but when you stack it up against the other flaws to be found, it’s relativly sound.
A few chapters into the game Amy learns a new ability; in addition to being able to heal Lana she can create a soundproof dome, which allows Lana to break windows without alerting nearby enemies. It’s specifically around this chapter where the game utterly derails. Yes, there are more abilities to come but why spoil things?
Want to break a window? Well you better hope the stick you need remembers to spawn, as it only appeared after several reloads for me. You’ve no idea how annoying it is looking through every poorly lit corner ten times only to realise what you’re looking for isn’t actually there due to a glitch. What else? Well, sometimes Amy gets permanently stuck on the spot, you’ll grab her hand with R1, but when you try to walk, you’ll see a stutter in the animation and see Amy’s hand snap back to her side.
Running is an obscenely complicated affair. If you want to sprint you’ll have to hold the analogue stick, L1 and bash the Square button and you can add R1 to that if you want Amy to run with you. There’s more, if Amy so much as brushes an object or wall, she’ll let go of your hand. At first I reasoned that neglectfully running a child into a wall would make her lose her grip, but it’s taken to a ridiculous degree here.
Later joys include the Velcro-sponsored stealth. When crouching and walking -under a window for example- you seemingly get stuck to the wall and slowly have to tear yourself away. Everything slows down, except for the enemy you’re trying to avoid that is.
Graphically the game isn’t too bad as far as what you’ll see in the screenshots. Hell, it surpassed what I’d expect for as PSN game. However, many scenes are too poorly lit, even for a game of this genre. As soon as you move the camera screen-tearing dominates. Sure, this isn’t meant to be Dead Space 2, but it’s just technically poor despite the format.
The dialogue seems acceptable, but seeing as the rest of the game redefines awful, it’s probably shite by conventional standards I’m just too f**king devastated to realise where the shit scales of reason balance.
I thought the best way to get through the game would be to play it in bursts, coming away for a breather before I smashed in the TV. Good plan, well the game had a pre-emptive ‘go f**k yourself’ nice and ready when I got back. The checkpoint system is completely screwed as the game will only save your progress at the start of chapters. If you’re playing through continuously you’ll find the checkpoints spaced way too far apart, so much so you’ll think the game must have glitched. There’s no way of skipping in-game cutscenes either so that’ll drive you nuts too. So a game that doesn’t load important items or enemies that you need to appear to progress thinks it’s ok to make you spend fourty minutes retracing your steps because an item didn’t load or an enemy got in a cheap shot?
Demon’s Souls was an utter bastard, but it was playable and perversely satisfying when you won. Amy is a broken mess that should have never been released in such a condition, it’s just been rolled out and abandoned outside Silent Hill General, with limbs cruelly torn off by poor judgment, eviscerated by incompetence and left to die on the sidewalk. I don’t think a patch will save this one.
I originally published this review at New Game Network.