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Decent survival horror bang for your buck

[Amy Demo Review - Xbox 360 - 7.5/10]

It may not be greatest entry in the survival horror genre, but AMY delivers some solid material at a fraction of the cost of a retail release - the 800 MSP price is even lower than the many downloadable games going for 1200MSP these days.

I downloaded the demo for AMY last night; having heard almost nothing of this title up until I saw it on the Xbox Live Marketplace. I was immediately grabbed by the cover artwork, a woman holding a small child, against the backdrop of an ominous looking face. The menus' visual style feels in line with earlier Resident Evil games, with a flickering red "computer screen" look.

The game demo opens with a scene on a train that delivers a vague backstory; the graphics feel dated, like something from the PS2, but the voice work is well above average. You play as Lana, a young woman travelling with Amy, an autistic 8 year old girl who is clearly more than she seems to be on the surface. You have recently escaped "the facility" with Amy, when an explosion in the distance maks it obvious that something else has gone terribly wrong there. Then all hell breaks loose when the train crashes.

Like a walk in the park, if your favorite park happens to be a waking nightmare.

Exploring the train serves as your first tutorial - walk, run, pick up items and weapons. The controls feel similar to earlier Silent Hill or Resident Evil games (particularly the Outbreak series) - they aren't "tank" controls, but Lana doesn't turn on a dime when you want to about-face. Combat also feels similar to these games, letting you swing away with a pipe or back-step to avoid an enemy's attack - nothing special or complicated, and rather appropriate given that Lana isn't the combatative type.

In fact, Lana seems to be perfectly average - something that games from Silent Hill to Dead Rising have had difficulty with in the past. Even your everyman heroes in these games could dispatch hundreds of foes with a length of metal pipe; although the demo doesn't show you the more difficult enemies, it never gives you the feeling that Lana will be mowing down creature after creature with ease. She's also aesthetically plain, which is a nice change from the top-heavy, scantily clad babes that often have to do battle with some great evil.

Suburban soccor mom vs. the armies of hell. Which now that I wrote that out, I'm amazed isn't a real thing available on Netflix.

Amy is similarly believable, as a young autistic girl who can't speak. Lana must keep her safe from monsters, but Amy's small size lets her reach areas Lana can't (usually to press a conveniantly inaccessible switch.) She also carries a small lantern to light dark areas, and her proximity accelerarates Lana's recovery from injury.

The gameplay feels deliberately paced, and falls into some puzzle-solving tropes (like door switches that require one person to stand here, and then another to go there and press this... have you ever seen the controls to a door wired to a switch up on a catwalk?) and it lacks the polish of other $60 games. But it does manage to set an effective tone with darkly lit areas and great sound; walking over broken glass and hearing a loud CRACK echo through a silent train station actually made me jump at one point.

The effective use of audio and downplaying of melee combat invite comparisons to Silent Hill, while the limited inventory and breaking weapons are similar to earlier Resident Evil games (before Chris Redfield became a walking murder factory in RE5.) A device Lana wears reveals the toxicity of the environment, similar to Isaac's suit in Dead Space. And holding Amy's hand and interacting with her feels a little like what ICO did.

Its weaknesses are apparent, but easily forgivable for a budget title. And with the more anticipated Alan Wake and I Am Alive hitting Marketplace very soon, it's worth at least checking out the demo to see if you can make a home for AMY in your survival horror library.

Comments
  • FINALLY!!!! An actual decent, non-biased review of a not great, but certainly not terrible, downloadable game. I agree with you on everything, having played the demo last night.

  • Well written review, keep up the writing as you do have a talent for it. However, writing a review of a game's demo is a bit unprofessional. Nevertheless, it did offer some insight and despite the poor rating from GI I think you persuaded to me give the demo a shot and see for myself.
  • Solid review, except for the fact that it's a demo. Unfortunately, I feel like that discredits just about everything. The demo is likely one of the better sections of the game, chosen by the developers. From Jeff Cork's review, it sounds like the whole game goes to *** after a short while. I'm inclined to believe him. That doesn't mean I don't believe you, it's just, you've only touched on the demo and haven't had the full, supposedly crap, experience. For example, I just played the demo for Asura's Wrath, which was amazing. However, I expect the final product to be somewhat mediocre. As fun as the demo was, I'm not sure that drawing that out over a game several times the length is going to be as entertaining. Will button-mashing have the same appeal after a couple hours? I don't think it will.
  • Thanks to your review, i will now be playing the demo :D

  • Play the full retail game, then review. However your review was well written
  • Gah, I wish I could go back and edit this a bit. I did a pretty poor job pointing out that these are impressions from the demo, and not the full game...

  • Did we play the same Demo? Are you sure you didn't imagine all of this? I respect your opinion, but man I couldn't disagree more. There wasn't a single thing in the time I spent with the game that even approached bad game design. It was so far below bad it fell into joke territory. Honestly, I have played a lot of bad games in my time. I love bad games just like I love bad movies. This...game...isn't bad. It's the epitome of abysmal game design. I won't even call it a train wreck because I might insult train wrecks. I'm almost tempted to buy the game since I feel it is necessary to own a tragedy like this. It is something that only comes around once in a few years. A game so horrid that some websites were posting pre-reviews the day the game came out warning everyone to avoid buying the game at all costs.
  • I get a solid feeling for your time with this demo, and I think I'll play the game regardless of the negative feedback on it. Props, man.
  • OK, for the record (and about the fifth time) - I made a mistake. Again, I admit this. I shouldn't have written something based just on the demo, or at least I should have tucked it under the blog or forums somewhere. Lesson learned.

  • Hey man, don't you know that you should only review... lol, just kidding. It was written very well. I am also VERY glad that you went ahead and bought the full game, because I was kind of on the fence about it. I usually pick up anything with "zombies" in it, but the demo for this was very dull. It really needed another small section of the game that actually displayed the "powers" that you eventually use. That may have helped. Sorry about you shelling out the $10, but if it makes you feel better, you saved me money and frustration. My wife thanks you as well. (she usually can't keep her eyes off of her screen while playing BF3, but she said she had to watch mine in amazement at how boring the trial was)
  • Oh, one more thing... I was really surprised that no PC (politically) people have ripped on you for assuming that Amy has autism. But then again, maybe I'm wrong and missed something in the trial... (wonder how that could have happened with me being on the edge of my seat in anticipation the whole time...)
  • im probably not going to even bother to look at this game, but im glad it got a decent review.

  • I absolutely loathe this game, but this is a very well-written review.