There’s no dearth of awful entertainment options these days. Boring books, terrible movies, garbage videogames: these unfortunate castoffs are not rarities in our culture, and in some ways are actually valuable. They remind us how difficult it is to create really compelling entertainment, and make us appreciate the high quality experiences even more. That said, it’s blessedly rare that we’re totally blindsided by a game so wretched it leaves us baffled. Sadly, AMY is one of those games.
The story opens on a train, where we meet the eponymous character and her ward Lana, a woman who has recently “liberated” little autistic Amy from the ominous Phoenix foundation. After a quick phone conversation there’s a distant explosion, the train derails, and the world goes quickly to hell. Lana awakens in the shattered passenger car to find that Amy’s vanished, all her fellow passengers have transformed into monsters, and the world has degenerated into a full-blown zombie apocalypse.
Throughout AMY’s lengthy development cycle, a number of previews and pre-release features pointed to similarities between it and the (deservedly) beloved PlayStation 2 game, Ico. Let’s be absolutely clear: AMY is no Ico. Where in Ico the hand-holding mechanics and perpetual escort quest actually managed to be charming and interesting, in AMY that basic design is just one of a number of crippling flaws that result in a truly horrendous experience. Not that the chore of escorting AMY around is the worst offender here, but it does nothing to prop up a game that very badly needs some support.
The main offender here is easily the gameplay, which alternates between frustrating and boring. The controls are clumsy and unresponsive, which in a different setting wouldn’t be as aggravating, but when paired with lethal foes and unforgiving environmental “puzzles” leads to constant misery. Even this brutal combination may have been tolerable if the narrative was interesting enough to compel you forward; as it is, the story is flat and confusing (a circumstance not improved by the deadpan voice acting) and does a terrible job of incentivizing progress.
Second only to the gameplay in terms of eye-gouging frustration is the checkpoint system, which seems designed to drive players to commit acts of horrible violence against themselves or others. The handful of checkpoints that exist across the entire game are spaced so far from each other, and are separated by such vast gulfs of incredibly difficult gameplay, that you’ll likely find yourself repeating the same terrible segments dozens of times (or, wisely, shutting down your console and moving on with your life). The problem is further exacerbated by lengthy, unskippable cutscenes and events that you’ll have to grind your way through on every replay. While ducking into a closet to avoid a giant monster might be a tense moment the first time you experience it, when you’re forced to sit through that same moment countless times it becomes mind-numbing and tedious.
The list goes on: the graphics engine looks like it was developed for the previous console generation, there are inexplicable moments where the framerate suddenly drops and the game stutters hard (often during your attacks), the enemy AI is just bad enough to be hyper-deadly. Yet none of that is important - what’s important is that AMY is just no fun to play and, not only that, is actually really unpleasant a huge percentage of the time.