AMY’s got some clever moves. The central idea – a young woman and a child left to fight off hordes of the infected – isn’t particularly new but the way the mechanics are handled, literally, is smart enough to grab your interest, even if there’s distinct shades of Ico to be found. Developers VectorCell might not have produced one of the slickest, fanciest games out there but they have managed to create a mostly individual and consistently creepy title that stands alone against the normal zombie rotes you see on the service.
Amy herself, a mute eight year old, is pivotal to the plot and the game. Whilst the player controls Lana, a young woman charged with Amy’s care, it’s not long before you find the girl and the various devices start to come into action: Amy might not be able to talk, but she can help heal Lana from infection, scurry through small holes and push buttons at the player’s request, all of which are introduced gradually and become second nature after the first couple of levels. Lana can also call Amy, and hold her hand (with R1) for tighter control and quicker healing.
Combat isn’t particularly slick, with blunt objects making up the initial arsenal and a single attack key, although a dodge button lets you move backwards quickly to avoid any swipes. Weapons degrade with use, like most modern survival horror titles – tapping the d-pad brings up a simple menu that lets you check the condition of your current item and access your inventory, although navigating it isn’t particularly intuitive when there’s a few things in there. Additional powers appear as the game progresses, and these are mapped to the R2 trigger.
There’s a few issues with AMY. It’s not the best looking game by some way, with tearing and generally flat visuals spoiling first impressions and a fair amount of repeated textures and sections marring the overall aesthetics. Lana and Amy look fine, although their expressions are unintentionally lifeless at times, Amy’s forced, mute grins and staring eyes a little unnerving. The atmosphere’s great though, and genuinely spooky at times and the audio work (aside from some hammy acting) is solid enough.[drop2]Other niggles involve pacing: Lana takes too long to climb and descend ladders, cut-scene animations are a bit too lengthy and aren’t skippable and the jump to comic-book interludes seems a little bit odd, even if they’re not actually that bad.
AMY’s puzzle mechanics should well outweigh these issues for fans of the genre – of course – they do work nicely, and from what we’ve seen so far the game gets better the longer you play it. The whole idea that this child, scared until comforted by Lana, can mutually help the player creates a really interesting bond that – even from the few sections we’ve played already – can really pull at the heart strings. There’s an overwhelming air of mystery and suspense, too, carefully crafted and the more infected Lana gets the more disturbing the game becomes.
It’s a fairly hefty download (about 1.6GB) but the developers promise a decent length story, one that looks likely to be filled with some interesting plot twists. AMY’s probably one of those games that’ll connect with you if you’re prepared to invest a little bit of emotion and suspend any pre-conceptions you might have about zombie games – this isn’t a twin stick shooter, it’s a thoughtful, tense third person horror game that plays off two characters that depend on each other much more than you might think as they try to make their way to safety.
We’ll have our full review soon.
Previewed on PS3.