Survival Horror, now there’s a genre that’s quietly died a death almost unnoticed in the backroom of the videogame retirement home.
Once one of the shining lights of the industry thanks to such legendary titles as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, survival horror was a genre that took us into previously uncharted waters. It let us plunge headlong into the starring role of the B-movie horror flick, scared us silly with great set piece after great set piece and, in Resident Evil’s case, had us running for the hills after hearing the voice acting, all fantastic stuff.
But unfortunately those heady days are gone. Gamers have moved on. Evolved into a much harder to please beast and the genre as we knew it has been left trampled under the weight of the new kids on the block. Old dogs like Resident Evil attempted, not entirely successfully, to move with the times and sprinkle some action genre magic over their games while Dead Space showed everyone the true way forward for horror survival giving the whole genre an adrenaline shot to the heart by adding layers of beautifully realised action and gunplay to it’s terrifying storyline.
And then there’s Amy.
Amy is a genuinely scary game, scary in the way that any developer that can take all the ingredients of horror games past, bring them to the boil beautifully and just as it’s ready to serve drop the whole bloody lot on the floor into one big splattered mess that even the dog turns it’s nose up at, is scary. That in 2012 a game this poor, dated and broken can see the light of day is downright petrifying.
Anyway, nearly 300 words in and I’ve said next to nothing about the game, so here goes.
Our journey starts following a train crash. We have control of Lana, the young woman escorting Amy on the ride. Amy, last seen in a particularly jerky pre-crash cut-scene is gone. By now we know one or two things. Amy is autistic, she’s mute and she’s done one, while Lana, the young woman who liberated Amy from a research facility (original I know) can’t act.
The (lack of) voice talent on display here will slap you solidly in the face from the off. It was charming in Resi, it’s cringeworthy here. Couple this with cut scenes that jerk along regularly stuttering and slipping and all hopes that this game might be a little gem with which to wile away the witching hours are quickly vanquished.
As I depart the train into the latest zombie apocalypse scenario to hit town I quickly began to pray for death. Unfortunately it takes a while to come and is anything but painless.
It’s impressive just how quickly things begin to go wrong and equally so how they never let up. It’s as though the opening cut scene train de-railment was also signalling the entire game de-railing as well.
From the moment you take your first steps in Lana’s shoes there are problems. Amazingly clunky controls, your character sticking to the scenery and glitchy graphics are the order of the day. The subtitles begin to differ from the spoken words almost immediately and by the mid point I began to wonder if just reading them I would end up with a completely different story from what I was hearing. Unforgivable really.
With the poor control system I was naturally a little apprehensive when I first had to go toe to toe with a zombie and sure enough the combat is abysmal.
One button to hit the undead with whatever piece of scenery we happen to have picked up and another to dodge. The entire conflict lacks all fluidity, instead being more akin to trying to swim through custard. Thick, gloopy custard. In the dark.
It’s awful. Honestly the combat here is some of the least satisfying I’ve encountered in over 25 years of gaming. Woeful and uninspiring in the extreme, even the way the zombie foes die is an anti-climax with them doing some sort of Wicked Witch of the West melting thing, where are the severed limbs and blood spattered screen? It’s more reminiscent of dropping your calippo on a hot day than bringing some pain to the walking undead, “oooh it’s melted, ah well come on.” Exit stage left after first walking into two pieces of scenery and a quick twitch of the graphics. Shocking.
During the game Lana and Amy have to work together to overcome the mundane puzzle elements, this basically works along the lines of Amy getting into places that Lana can’t and vice-versa, pushing buttons before the pa……….whoa! Sorry I nodded off there. Right, before the pair can continue on their way.
Also Lana needs to either stay near Amy or inject herself to stop becoming zombified. To be fair she doesn’t sound that bothered herself whenever she deadpans a line of dialogue so whether you will be I don’t know, she may find she’s become a zombie via bad voice acting and a couldn’t care less attitude.
The graphics look okay, still shots would probably look pretty good to be fair, some of the backgrounds and lighting are nicely atmospheric, it’s just that when you throw in the animation it’s laughably poor. The sound is average at best, it tries to build tension and heighten the atmosphere but it fails and as I’ve mentioned the voice work is some of the flattest you’ll ever hear.
Other irritations include a checkpoint system in which the points are so sparse you’ll fairly often find yourself playing over the same lengthy portion of the game again, I encountered this early on after playing a good half an hour, needed to switch the game off, did this in the knowledge that surely there would have been a save point in there somewhere and then firing it back up to find I was back on the train. After retrieving my pad from it’s embedded place in the wall, against my better judgement I continued anyway.
There are moments plentiful when your character will get stuck against some unseen piece of debris and do the classic running on the spot as though they’ve just seen a ghost in a Scooby Doo cartoon, moments when you’ll lose contact with Amy altogether, again because she’s brushed against some background scenery and some memorable conversations in which one word will begin reapeating in a quick blur of echoes, funny at first, damned irritating when it happens again and again.
Overall what can I say. There isn’t anything here that warrants even one playthrough from the most ardent of Survival Horror fanatics. Everything offered here you’ve seen before, but you’ve also seen it done in an infinitely more polished and innovative way. It’s a shame as a chance to delve back into a bygone age of horror classics would have been most welcome, unfortunately all Amy manages to do is tarnish my own fond memories of a now outdated genre. Scary for all the wrong reasons, avoid at all costs.