I am not a big fan of scary games. I have played my fair share to know that the cerebral function of self-preservation does not require poop in my pants. In fact, it functions much better without. I do enjoy good games, however, be they scary or not. For that reason I loved Dead Space and Alan Wake with the same passion as other, less scary games such as The Sims 3. OK, that’s a bad example. Some of my Sims are scary as hell!
Now imagine the premise of a downloadable game for consoles: You are a beautiful young lady who survives a train crash with a child named Amy. Amy has special needs and you were on your way to a special hospital when the crash happened. When you awake from the aforementioned crash you realize the world is infected by some poison, turning everyone into zombies with glowing marks on their foreheads. You find Amy pretty soon thereafter and together you traverse the land trying to get to a hospital while avoiding zombies. This doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
In order to help Amy along you can grab her by the hand. This also allows you to feel her pulse through the controller. When she is scared it beats faster. When there is imminent danger, she gets scared.
To begin with you’re not equipped to fight zombies and you can only ever carry one weapon at a time, is normally a steel pipe, except they just don’t make them like they used to. A few swings later and the pipe disintegrates. That is if you can even hit your target. Often I felt frustration by swinging the pipe right through my zombie enemies.
Luckily the squad of two have a few other options for fighting. Firstly, they can sneak around without being detected, hence not attracting the attention of the zombies. Unfortunately you have a few obstacles in your way and you’ll need to navigate through corridors full of broken glass and gravel, while other items in your path will make a loud noise when you walk on them. It would appear as though zombies have a sixth sense, though, and can tell you are coming from miles away.
When you’re detected you can quickly climb into a hiding spot, including under a table (every girl’s favourite hiding place) and in cupboards. This ensures you are undetected as no soldier or zombie will ever look under a table.
You are also faced with truly, incredibly difficult action set-pieces where you not only have to figure out what to do, but also do it within a very short period of time. For example, early on in AMY you’re faced with a metal gate. On the other side is a door with a monster behind it. The monster bursts through the door and then runs around the corridor to get to you. If it reaches you it waves its magic hand and you are dead. In order to survive you have to wait for the monster to be out of sight, open the metal gate, run through with Amy in tow, close the gate and then run back into the room where the monster escaped from, and close that door behind you. This took me the better time of an hour to get right.
Considering that Lana and Amy’s lives are in mortal danger, their movements do not have any urgency in them. Lana will leisurely swing at zombies, and amazingly she climbs ladders slower than my granny in a wheelchair. She can also not run and drag Amy along. As soon as she starts running Amy is left behind. Luckily Amy develops a few skills along the way, like allowing you to run silently and using shockwaves to keep the bad guys away.
Along the way you’ll find yourself scared by some cheap tricks. Early on these are truly terrifying, but when you see that same picture fall off the wall for the tenth time you just don’t get scared anymore.
The biggest problem with AMY is not the bad controls, the impossible difficulty or the extremely slow pace. It has to be the poor checkpoint system. Checkpoints appear at the worst times, and when you die (which you will be doing very often) you will find yourself having to repeat quite a large section of the level again. And again. And yet again. This coupled with already repetitive gameplay makes for a bad experience.
The idea of surviving through a zombie-filled world with a little girl by the hand sounds very intriguing, but in its current form AMY needs a lot of work to be a good game, let alone a great game. I have no doubt that some players will enjoy the slow, forced gameplay with insane difficulty, but for me this is a game I would rather have given a miss.
The Good: Some good, cheap scares; interesting concept with Amy in tow.
The Bad: Gruelling slow pace; bad combat; bad game
The Ugly: Doing the same section of a level 10 times means a game is too hard and all fun is withdrawn from it.