A game all about escorting around a character much weaker than your own should by all rights be a terrible idea. Ico shattered that idea when it released in 2002 and now Amy hopes to follow in its footsteps. There’s definitely worse company to be in as far as games go.
In Amy you play as Lana, a 24 year old woman who is riding a train when suddenly she blacks out and the next thing she knows her fellow passengers on the train have all turned into monsters before her eyes. Her only hope is a small girl named Amy who seems to not only be immune to the virus that is causing the town’s metamorphosis into zombie like creatures but she can even reverse the effects of the virus on Lana. By holding R1 you can grasp Amy’s hand and not only quickly lead her around but heal yourself from the virus. One thing I didn’t know before my preview today was that Amy and Lana are not complete strangers before this event and their relationship will actually be illuminated throughout the progress of the game.
The demo I saw started off with Lana having been separated from Amy because she was scared off by monsters. It seems that the developers took great care in trying to make Amy act like a real kid and this includes not only getting scared by monsters but also being curious and drawn to interesting objects in the world. This can work to your benefit or your detriment depending on the situation, obviously if a quarter drops in a dangerous area you really don’t want Amy to run out and pick it up, but she can help you find objects to interact with in the world. Since Amy is out of your reach when the demo starts up you start to succumb to the virus laden environment you are walking through. On your back you have a badge that acts somewhat like a radiation badge. Depending on the color you know how dangerous the environment is and therefore how quickly you will be turned into a mindless zombie.
User interface was kept to a minimum but your zombification is made quite obvious by visual cues. Your skin turns greyer and greyer as the veins on your neck pulsate with an unnatural vigor. In this state you look the part of the walking dead so much that you can even trick your enemies into not attacking you so sometimes it’s a valid strategy. During the demo Lana walked past a mirror and was captivated by her own monstrous visage. The representative told me that while the game was a few hours in at this point Lana still can’t completely come to grips with what is happening to her in this state. Luckily Amy soon turns up and by holding her hand for a while you can see all of the color return to Lana’s cheeks as the virus is beaten back into dormancy. The developers really wanted to give a interdependency to Lana and Amy so that both were reliant on each other.
Gameplay is mostly what the representative liked to call Stealth Horror. While it’s possible to pick up weapons here or there to beat off the undead they can break and it’s usually a much better idea to use your head and some planning to either avoid your enemies entirely or use the environment to kill them such as pushing over a wall of bricks onto them or luring them into a puddle and electrifying it. I was told that Amy would also have some abilities that allowed for fighting the monsters, but they didn’t want to go into details as that would be officially announced further down the line.
Avoiding danger is impossible if you can’t see it coming, but luckily Amy has you covered. Whenever you grasp Amy’s hand the rumble in your controller will simulate her little heartbeat. As the sound of her heartbeat increases as well as the rate you can tell that Amy is sensing something dangerous. I really love cool little uses for rumble like this that truly affect the feel of how the game plays and it really hasn’t been done all that well since Ico. Amy’s other abilities that were mentioned in the presentation is a flashlight that you can use while holding her hand and you can also send her off to do things on her own. You can use this to hide her in difficult situations or reach objects in the environment that you couldn’t because of your size or shouldn’t because of other circumstances. Of course Amy and Lana are extremely vulnerable when separated so this isn’t something you want to do without thinking.
The story isn’t totally about the interaction between Amy and Lana but also includes characters like Father John who believes that this virus is spiritual in nature and that all of the zombies are devils. He tries to gather all of the survivors he can to fight against the military who wants to do a clean sweep of the village to contain the problem before it spreads.
All this goodness is contained in a game of about 8 hours in length that you can buy on the cheap when it releases in September. The Lexis Numerique representative told me that they were taking somewhat of a gamble on the financials for this game. While they thought that Amy was worthy of being a full retail title they wanted to go the far cheaper PSN route as a way of giving the fans the best value that they could. This means that they’ll almost definitely lose money on Amy, but they are hoping that if they give gamers Amy for a more than fair price that people will try it even if they aren’t particularly into the genre. After that a sequel can be made that uses the same assets, is far cheaper to develop, and the publisher can actually start seeing some money from it.
I’m not totally sure that things will work out as Lexis Numerique is hoping, but I can’t help but wish for their success. Any game that instantly reminds me of Ico is something that I have to check out and everything I saw at the presentation made me think that it was a worthy comparison. Survival horror usually isn’t my thing but I’ll be giving Amy a try. If it matches my expectations at all we should be in for an interesting storyline, unique non-combative gameplay not seen much in modern titles, and a great value for your dollar. Really, what else can you ask for?