Yes, I am still alive. Unfortunately it seems like everything has caught up with me and left me slightly burned out (if you can be “slightly” burned out). When I have time, not a lot is holding my attention – including games. Still I’ve played a bit of a game here, and a bit there, including “Amy”.
Amy is a third-person survival horror game, with a slight twist. The titular character, Amy, is a girl in your charge; “you” being Lana. Lana appears to have taken (rescued?) Amy from some place called The Phoenix Center, where she wasn’t well treated.
The introduction conversations seem to indicate she was being experimented on, and Lana is trying to get her to a Hospital where there is someone qualified to help. This is all set sometime in the near future, judging by the apparent advances in technologies like cell phones, tablets and locks. The “on edge” atmosphere is built from the beginning, as Lana and Amy are startled by the train guard. It’s here we get a good look at Amy and Lana, and the modelling is quite neat. The eyes are somewhat strange, and work for Amy, given her somewhat otherworldly feeling nature; they seem plain wrong on Lana, though, so I’m guessing it’s a general model issue.
Back to the plot, and of course, nothing goes to plan in these games and the train Lana begins on crashes. Lana awakes to find that she’s lost Amy, with the first task presumably to find her.
The edgy atmosphere continues to build here with minimal, occasionally flickering lighting, a corpse, and not a lot else. A few jump scares caused by inanimate objects falling ramps up the tension; and all before you’ve managed to get off the crashed train.
Immersion is lost a little if you try to get off the train without having found a weapon, as the game simply won’t let you. Once you do make it off the train, the need for the weapon is made obvious by the first enemy – some kind of shambling-infected-zombie-thing.
From here on in, I’m going to be writing about specific parts of the plot, so there will be spoilers.
What isn’t obvious is what to do next. A little wandering and you’re taught how to crouch to sneak past some enemies. A little after this you’ll find the first friendly Non-Player Character (NPC), Marchello, and the first hint that the game world is going to bug me immensely.
Truthfully, I’m not sure what use crouching is, because Marchello just ambles along, and once he’s alerted an enemy, the enemy seems to home in on you, no matter what. They don’t even follow him as he “runs”, screaming in terror.
Now we come to the first real puzzle of the game. We need to get into a building that’s locked with a fancy new “genetic” lock. Marchello is back with us, and conveniently has a handy device to help decode the lock. It does this by ‘scanning’ the lock, then showing you a little radar display of potential DNA matches. This is the first hint of direction that the game gives you as you wander towards the markers on the radar, only to scan them and find they’re not the right one. One annoying part of this is that in areas of high “infection” (as we slowly see the story unfold) the radar disappears to be replaced by a warning. This means that you have no real guidance until a notice pops up to tell you you can scan a body or area. Still, once you’ve found the right one, you can open the lock.
In fact, it’s quite easy to miss many of these notices, and you can spend quite a lot of time wondering what to do next until you accidentally brush against an object and a notice pops up.
After all that, we don’t get to see any of these magic locks again – at least within the Trial game.
Having gained access to the building we’re told we need, there’s a little simple “Mastermind” type hacking mini-game to shut down the power. Now that is done we can escape this area through … a locked gate that requires power? Perhaps I misunderstood the power thing. Still, we can escape now.
Then, if you’re like me, you’ll miss one of those “notices” that you can perform an action. This particular “puzzle” was telegraphed earlier when you had to move something heavy out of your way. However, I found myself stuck, with no idea where Amy was. Only after a lot of fruitless wandering over the same turf again and again did the little notification that I could move a heavy object pop up. This gave access to a toilet block where Amy, who apparently somehow got past the gate you couldn’t, is hidden.
Here you can also find another weapon – the same kind as before. This hints that maybe weapons might degrade, but within the Trial I never saw this happen, so I’m only guessing.
We’ve finally found Amy, and now we can learn how to use her in these puzzles. There’s a hole into an office that only she can fit through (even though it looks like Lana could, with a bit of wriggling). Then you can guide her to press a button to unlock the door barring progress. This is starting to feel less and less like survival-horror all the time. The idea of putting a small child in my charge through a hole into a room where I can’t protect her is … bizarre to say the least.
Still, this gets us to the next room, and next puzzle. There’s another terminal to hack, but this time we get Amy to do it, since she was presented with many similar challenges back at “The Center”. Apparently.
The atmosphere, and immersion, drift all over the place here, but I was mostly “in the game”. I think where immersion broke completely for me was a few minor puzzles later we got to a corridor that lead out into some kind of yard. The yard had been turned into a maze with wire fences. Along that corridor, and in the walls of the yard are metal doors that enclose small rooms, of apparently no purpose. In each room is one of the shambling-infected-zombie-things. The camera lovingly panned along the corridor and out into the yard to show these enclosed horrors.
And I just knew that I’d open a gate (the one leading into the yard as it turns out) and all of these gates would open, and out would pour the shambling-infected-zombie-things. I opened the gate and indeed, they poured out.
A few more puzzles later and we came to the end of the level. Marchello notices some troops and asks us to hide as he goes to talk to them, “just in case”. The camera zoomed in on a small room off to the side as he discussed hiding, so clearly we hide in there. I spent the next ten minutes crouching, wandering back and forth and generally trying to hide, with Marchello just standing there. Finally I brushed the table in that small room, and was given a notification to hide under it. I gratefully took the hint, Marchello died (who didn’t see that coming?) and the Trial ended.
This game shows a lot of promise, but it’s promise that is never quite fulfilled. The lack of clear direction – and getting stuck at certain puzzles – reminds me a lot of the old point-and-click adventures where you hadn’t found the right object for the puzzle yet. In this case, however, the “object” is often missing one of those magic notifications.
The other problem is the fact that the “game” often wins over the story or atmosphere. Now, I have to say, I have no idea how you stretch the edgy, creepy atmosphere over a whole game; but it worries me that it barely made it over one portion of a bit of a level.
Am I going to buy the full game? Actually, yes. In fact, I already have, but haven’t had a chance to play it yet. The story in this intrigues me enough that I’m willing to push on – at least for a bit. I’ll probably post more thoughts about this game as I continue.