AMY

AmyThis survival-horror PlayStation Network game follows three protagonist characters fighting to survive the effects of a mysterious comet impact makes the Midwest an awful place in year 2034.

This PlayStation Network exclusive game makes surviving among horrific situations a group activity. Lana and Amy are the main playable characters while a taxi driver named Marcello tags along.

Lana initially seems relatively normal and serves as Amy’s guardian in this post apocalyptic future. After the comet crashes into Earth, a mysterious disease infects citizens everywhere giving them homicidal tendencies. Even more background and establishing cutscenes would have been great.

Game developers provide some foreshadowing here as a special facility spokesman promises to offer Amy the very best resources. Lana and Amy ride are riding a train to this facility when the event occurs. In the aftermath, Lana encounters Marcello who assists her as she searches for Amy – an extraordinary, mute girl who has unique abilities that are very useful in this morbid situation. Amy’s character development centers on these abilities while Marcello plays a decent “third wheel”. He knows “connected” people. He provides key information to Lana…and he panics and screams when things go south.

Players can make Lana, the main playable character, run at any speed, but there are consequences when she strays from the trio. For example, leave little Amy behind and the game ends. This often tense, multitasking challenge warrants an easy difficulty level for average players in this genre. This running mechanic uses the L1 button then the square button with no fatigue. Navigation can be difficult unless player have more lighting. It is easy to get caught on benches and other objects on the ground.

Checkpoints are rare events in this challenging six-chapter game and can be unforgiving when making mistakes. Single hit deaths also present an intimidating challenge. So how can player counter these challenges? Some “killer” apps, abilities or weapons would have been nice. Players get some nice advantages, but must still tread softly to avoid too much “trail-and-error” gameplay, which does not always strike the right tone for an experience marketed as a visceral survival-horror game. Developers provide a meter on Lana’s back for the progressing rate of infection instead of a health bar.

Vague elements add to mystery, but players often feel at the total mercy of the game, which garners some frustration. Gameplay occurs naturally tends as enemies swarm you, but the movement controls could have been smoother.  Survival is key in combat while item collection and some puzzles can frustrate without some work.

The puzzle challenges provide engaging mental challenges that provide some nice variety. One particular challenge requires cycling through visual icons to unlock an access code. Developers change this challenge each time so the solution never repeats.

Players can see items just fine, but have to find a “sweet spot” placement to grab them, so search for them after the action aftermath or when things are relatively calm to avoid frustration. In one frustrating item collection example, using a DNA scanner involves some backtracking unless players find the right DNA sample usually from “zombie-like bums” just sitting on the ground. The trial-and-error method cannot be avoided here, which adds to the length of time it takes to complete each chapter. Alternate solutions to essential item collection tasks would have been nice.

Developers make some nice co-op puzzle solving scenarios for Lana and Amy though some missions repeat too much, especially getting into security rooms to open doors, grab necessary items, etc. The smaller Amy has a summoning control by Lana as well as shape button controls guiding Amy through small openings and other access areas. Lana can also hold Amy’s hand of Amy to judge nearby threats and guide her through this horrific world wonderfully enhanced by the strong visuals.

The impressive graphics and sound are full of detail and not too big, which helps navigation overall. Players can still get caught on annoying benches or other objects when moving, so set the lightness up a bit. There are no major clipping issues, but a nice buffer zone to encounter enemies with smooth controls or even a lock-on feature would help players properly align characters with enemies in the combat fights.

A creepy siren sound is the audio highlight for sure. The attack hits have a very satisfying sound. The DualShock controller vibrations enhance the decent scares, but the “on-the-rails” camera mechanics limit the views to movement, which consists of one analog stick. The missions and various tasks have no time limits, which adds to the realism. No one looks at their watch when they are fighting for their life. A solidly recommended game experience (*** out of four stars).

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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