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Publisher: Lexis Numerique Developer: VectorCell Genre: Survival Horror Players: One Price: 800 MSP Platform: Xbox Live Arcade Launch Date: 11th January 2012 One of the first few games of the New Year, AMY, the survival horror XBLA title has released. Developed by VectorCell, a French company, the game was announced as a title where you escort a strange 8 year old girl called Amy to try get out of the city. So the question is does this title live up to the hype, and is it a strong survival horror game? Read our review to find out. Game-play - 5 AMY begins by setting up the story which will be the focal point of the game. Lana has run away from a center, taking with her Amy, an 8 year old girl who is autistic. As they ride in the train, Lana gives Amy a futuristic drawing pad while she talks on the phone. There is a flash indicating an explosion in the distance. This somehow turns everyone on the train into diseased monsters. Lana gets knocked out by one of them, and when she wakes up, the train has crashed into a station and Amy is gone. It's the player's role to first find Amy, then get out of the monster filled town. The game provides tutorial messages whenever you discover something new, such as finding a decontamination syringe, it will tell you how to use it. This initial area is quite quiet, and while it's atmospheric, it's mainly just dark. It's easy to lose track of the story as it isn't as driven as other survival horror titles. But that's the thing with this game; it's an escort survival horror. So when you find Amy, the survival and horror aspect would rise. Sadly however, the only aspect that did increase was the survival factor. The closest to jumping from surprises is when pipes suddenly crack and hiss as you go past them. Shortly after finding Amy, you pick up a device, which shows the player how contaminated Lana is. Which is confusing really, seeing as the outbreak started on the same day that the train crashed. So let's first take a harder look at the two characters and their relationship. When you are looking for Amy, Lana sounds worried about the child. After finding her however, that changes into almost not caring. An example of this would be that by this point, they know that infected people/monsters are roaming the halls and rooms, yet one of the main activities in Amy is to push the little girl through a vent into another room to collect a key card, or push a button. Amy seems to be immune to the outbreak, and also seems to have strange powers. One of which is Silence, which casts a sound proof bubble wherever it's aimed, so you could break something and not alert nearby monsters to your activities. The most helpful strange power however, is that Amy can somehow heal Lana. If the contamination level goes to yellow or red, just go near Amy or take her hand, and the threat goes down, making her a reusable walking syringe. As for the enemies themselves, they begin as normal infected humans, which look like zombies but with symbols on their heads. To fight you need a weapon, which can be something like a piece of wood. To attack you hold LT and hit X, while dodging requires LT and B. The combat would be good with this set up, however sometimes the attack doesn't count as a hit, even if it goes through the enemy, which is poorly implemented.


Lana needing a pick me up while looking for Amy
Later in the story you see different monsters, such as one big one which smashes down a door and runs around to find you, or the military. Luckily, this is a survival game, and you don't have to fight. You could always sneak around by pressing RS, or hide yourself and Amy under a table or in a locker while the threats pass by. Picking up items ultimately becomes another chore which sets this game back. It's a case of needing to be in the exact right spot to be able to pick it up, instead of being able to pick it up when it's an arms reach away. This also leads us to the other big part of this game, which is the puzzles, as well as the checkpoints. Puzzles require the player to send Amy into a different room, as mentioned above, or tell her to stay where she is after putting her on a lift, then activating it and guiding Amy to the button. At times these puzzles require trial and error, and the ones where enemies are around become frustrating thanks to the checkpoint system, which may as well be restart level. This becomes annoying because if you have to continue to do trial and error while figuring out a puzzle, you have to repeat the level until you get it right. Guiding Amy however is quite simple, as you need only to look at the button or key card and press Y, provided that you have got Amy to a spot she can reach it, she will walk over and activate it. A feature though that would've improved this repetitive feeling would be if there was voices on these bits too. The characters have voices, but when you have Lana tell Amy to wait somewhere, the mouths move but no voice comes. Ultimately this game has a good premise, but it's been buried underneath poorly constructed systems. It's a shame as this did look like it would be a good title. It's foolish to expect triple a quality in an arcade title, however it's reasonable to expect a certain quality in one. This game could've had more time in development to fine tune areas while working on others, such as the combat.


Get used to holding hands with the walking health dispenser
Graphics - 7 The graphics are the strongest point in this XBLA title. The levels are dark and at times destroyed, which added to some of the sounds, proves to be atmospheric like old horror movies. Lana and Amy look like they had a lot of time and effort put into them and the graphics are reminiscent of horror games such as Silent Hill: Homecoming. This helps make it more realistic and believable if the game-play had been solid. Backtracking to the levels themselves, as previously mentioned; it's dark. If you take the train station from the first level as an example, you have areas which are lighter, where you can see details, such as signs and different types of debris. The rest of the level though is in darkness, which could have monsters hiding anywhere in the dark. This adds to the whole end of the world feeling as well as the need to be stealthy and survive. Some areas have some texture issues however, but they are easy to miss at times, especially on levels such as Chapter 2, where you can see the toxic air in the hallways, the fires lighting debris. As for the enemies, they vary in look, depending on which they are. The initial enemies are humans, in ruined clothes covered in blood, with symbols on their heads. It's a big leap from the Chapter 1 enemies to the first you see in Chapter 2, which is almost like a zombie bear-like monster. As mentioned above, the graphics are this games saving grace. It definitely fits the survival horror scene and serves the game well. There are some texture issues but given how dark the game is, they can be hard to spot. The character design is of a high standard for an arcade title. Sounds - 6 AMY features different sounds to fit into the whole atmospheric conditions that the graphics provide. This is stuff like glass breaking underfoot, the hiss of a pipe when steam is escaping. It gives a clear indication of when enemies are nearby as well, usually when you are in the dark you will hear the enemies groaning, or roaring. These all make for improving the game, until you pay attention to the voice acting. This area of the game is a mixture of good and bad. In some areas, the voice acting sounds sincere, believable and can express the feeling of worrying for a lost child. However at times it also sounds like someone stopped caring. As previously mentioned in the game-play section, some key parts of the game have the characters lips moving yet no sound, and this is a shame as hearing Lana talk kindly and say stay here Amy would've helped greatly. Apart from the slight voice acting issue however, AMY features a decent range of sounds and they all do help towards making this game a survival horror. The moments where the character does sound worried makes you feel for the woman looking for the child.


One of the enemies you will meet during the game
Achievements - 7 For some people, achievements mean everything, and in arcade titles there are either easy games, hard games, or a mixed bag. AMY falls into the mixed bag category with its achievements. Each chapter is worth 10G on any difficulty, which counts for 50G of the total 200G. Then there are 3 difficulty related achievements, worth 10G, 20G and 50G for easy, normal and hard. The rest of the achievements come from miscellaneous stuff, such as pushing an enemy into an electrical device or completing a level without Amy being drained of any energy. There is also an achievement for finding Amy, which will be the first thing that you get in the game. Other than completing the game on hard, these can be relatively easy, unless you struggle to get through the games flaws. Conclusion Overall AMY was let down by the game-play flaws. Graphically, this game is atmospheric, although lacks the moments in any horror game which makes you jump. The graphics do save this game but ultimately can't make the negatives in the game-play fade away. More thought and care could've gone into the voice-acting and into how the characters treat each other, as this would've made the story stronger, seeing the characters with a strong emotional bond going through these scenarios.


 

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