I’m a huge fan of survival horror games so was looking forward to getting stuck into Amy, by Lexis Numérique, when it was released. I sat myself down at the dead of night (not the most sensible time for playing this sort of game, I know), popped on my surround sound gaming headset on and prepared to be horrified…
The opening cinematic sees Lana, your character for the duration of the game, on a train with a small girl, Amy (and there’s where the title comes from). After a discussion on the phone with someone concerning breaking Amy out of a research centre, everything goes a little bit mental in the fact that the train crashes into a station. Cue Lana awakening from unconsciousness on her own and your search for Amy begins.
Although it doesn’t last long as finding Amy is your first task in the game once you’ve managed to get off the train, wandered around a deserted platform, well not quite deserted, and then found a helpful cabby who sort of acts as a tutorial guide.
And then you get stuck into the meat of the game…
The first thing that hits you is the controls. In order for your character to turn left or right she has to make a sort of little circle run in the direction you choose, resulting in one of the most haphazard experiences I’ve had in a long time. Early on there’s an instance of attack in a very confined space, and trying to turn left to allow me to dispatch the attacker with a well placed blow, I found myself running into a wall with them now behind me. Admittedly I got used to this after a little while, but it really does feel like you’re fighting with the controls during the game just to make Lana face in the right direction.
And that’s before looking at the controls to actually “use” Amy, if that’s the right word. Having to hold down a button to bring up a menu and then select it using a stick direction is not fun when you’ve got a monster bearing down on you and timing is critical. Now I’m all for this if it actually amped up the tension level, like a well placed QTE, but as I said earlier I’m fighting with the controls to actually point in the right direction in the first place, so this just feels like an added smack in the face.
The presentation itself is fairly standard, lots of dark corridors to wander down with plenty of blood and in some cases body parts littered about the place. What’s shocking though is the amount of screen tear that greets your eyes when you move the camera. During one particularly worrying moment the screen shifted in 4 visible sections! The enemies themselves are made up of the usual mutated human type monsters and biohazard equipped military types who’ll shoot you on sight, so nothing out of the ordinary there then.
Whilst wandering round, trying to avoid the troops and batter the monsters, you’ll see the “checkpoint” message pop up. Don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security as I did. It only saves your game once you get to the end of a chapter, so switching off after spending an hour or so playing through and then finding that hour was gone did not make me happy, especially when there’s no manual save function. This commits you to making your way through the chapter or losing all your progress if you quit.
Of the puzzles presented before you, most are of standard fare. For example – get keycard X to open corresponding door, with the twist being that only Amy can get into some of the areas where the cards are kept and you have to guide her to the necessary point from the outside. Couple this with some maneuvering of lifts and climbing of ladders and you’ll get the idea of the vast amount of what the game contains. There are a couple of other puzzles but there’s not really a vast variety to choose from outside of the main one, which is nice at first but gets tired quickly by Chapter 3. One of my favourite moments came when confronted by some kind of tank monster that came lumbering through a door. Apparently I had to hide in a locker until the thing had gone away, which would be great had I been told I could hide in lockers, or even given a hint that I could do this. I’m a fairly experienced gamer and even after reading the instructions included with the game it took me eight deaths to work out what was expected of me.
Tension is added by the fact that Lana actually starts dying slowly when not in Amy’s presence, meaning that those puzzles where you have to leave Amy alone and head off to a different area to operate a lift get that little bit more challenging. Helpfully you can pickup syringes of a mysterious fluid that fights off the infection that’s threatening to mutate you into one of the monstrous creatures stalking the halls. Unhelpfully when you die your inventory gets emptied completely, so those 5 or 6 syringes you stockpiled disappear into the ether. If this is deliberate, then it’s just plain mean.
The plot itself seems to be ignored for a large chunk of the gameplay, which leads to the player not really caring about what’s happening. Occasionally a little morsel is thrown in but by that time I’d begun to lose interest. The atmosphere presented isn’t scary either. Yes, there’s the odd spark that scares Lana and a few other things, but there’s so little going on and the controls are so awkward that whatever atmosphere is trying to be conjured is lost.
I can see what Lexis Numérique were trying to do with this game, and I applaud them for attempting to make a survival horror title as a downloadable game in the limitations placed by the platform holders. But what they’ve ended up with is horrific, sadly for all the wrong reasons.