It was desperation, really. As publishers slowly chipped away at survival-horror over the years to create room for action to infiltrate, it was inevitable that an anguished yearning for what the genre used to be would grow alongside it. The slow creep of tension, the fragile vulnerability of your character, the twisted enemy designs; these are all elements that have been lost in the race for heart-pounding action. Amy had become the unofficial flag-bearer for survival-horror games by promising to bring those lost elements back.
If anything, this desperation simply highlights the crushing disappointment of Amy. As we follow Lana’s attempts to protect and usher Amy through a dilapidated subway, it soon becomes clear that the biggest obstacles aren’t the zombie-like enemies in your way but basic elements of the game’s design – the broken AI, the juddering screen tear, the stiff combat, the inconsistent stealth and the clumsy level design.
There are ideas plucked from Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Haunting Ground and other survival-horror games – such as hiding in cupboards and enemies you can’t beat in combat – but none of the ideas mesh together particularly well. The one original idea that Amy relies on is looking after the titular girl, yet there’s no real bond between the two – you’re not sure what Lana’s role is initially, and ushering Amy through vents to hit buttons is the kind of mechanic that soon becomes a chore. It’s an awkward patchwork of familiar elements, none of which are executed with any confidence or competence. It’s hard to shake the sense that Vector Cell was racing from idea to idea without ever stopping long enough to ensure its previous ideas were functional.
If Amy ever had a chance of keeping its head above water and surviving these problems, the awful checkpoint system ensures it drowns in them. Checkpoints are spaced out at an uneven pace, forcing you to revisit the same areas of each level far, far too often. Elements of game design where you’re forced to second-guess the right place to hide are bad enough; when you’re forced through the same ten minutes of awkward stealth gameplay over and over again just for another incorrect attempt at second-guessing the game design, it’s an assault on your gaming spirit few would be able to withstand. To add insult to injury, Amy only saves after successfully completing each of the five chapters, and will take away all your items after you die.
There was a chance for Amy to bring higher production values to downloadable games while bringing the long-rotting corpse of purist survival-horror back to life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t manage either, and only just achieves the bare minimum of being a playable game. The hunt for real survival-horror goes on, then.