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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Amy.

Transcript Edit

I've developed quite a few guidelines for my work over the years, like "never use a yo-yo simile when you can use a miscarriage fetus dangling forlornly from its umbilical cord," and as a rule I don't usually review Xbox Live Arcade games on their own. They tend to be shorter, so I usually review them in pairs and try to find some connecting theme between them, like putting Bastion with From Dust because they both centralize the theme of rebuilding the world or DeathSpank with Limbo because in DeathSpank you have a sword and Limbo makes you want to start cutting yourself.

But I'm afraid I couldn't find any XBLA games that could be meaningfully linked to Amy, because there aren't any games about making your way down a corridor dragging a large steel safe chained to a metal ring around your throat, or any games about smashing your head into a septic tank until blood and shit runs down your face into your screaming mouth and down your throat until you choke and puke and it all comes out your nostrils.

Basically, what I'm saying is that it isn't very good. Did that come across? It isn't very good!!!

Crushingly, it's also one of the few recent survival horror games besides Amnesia that actually is survival horror and not just a shooter that ate some marinara sauce too quickly. The main character, Lana, is slow, unarmed, and well advised to run away or stealth around monsters, because she's about as useful in a combat situation as a cat with a miniature fishing rod attached to its head. A lot of this may be something to do with her refusal to take off her fucking high heels in the middle of a zombie-infested city, but what do I know about fashion?

Lana is some kind of hybrid of social worker and militant animal rights activist who has rescued a small, mute, autistic girl called Amy from an evil laboratory. Then some kind of disaster hits the city that turns everyone into zombies and it's up to you to escort Amy across the danger zone. Using the word "escort" to describe core gameplay is like using the words "bloody and viscous" to describe a urine sample, but Amy pulls her weight by having the power to heal you, create cones of silence, and telekinetically blast things aside. Obviously. I'd have been rather put out if she didn't. In horror circles, small, mute, autistic girls are second in power only to Jason Voorhees listening to people fucking.

The thing about survival horror is that it's okay to hamper the player with shitty controls as long as it goes towards creating the sense of vulnerability you're supposed to have. I mean, Alex from Silent Hill: Homecoming combat-rolling around the misty streets like Sonic the fuckin' Hedgehog was just dumb. But this special survival horror leeway only extends so far. I get that the camera should draw in close for the claustrophobia factor, but not this close! Not like its debating whether or not to pounce on the main character and tunnel up her butthole, so it's like you're looking at the game through the neckhole of a T-shirt you haven't finished putting on yet. And while combat is appropriately clunky and annoying, there's no way to run away from it, either. They just chase you down and punch your face out through your arsehole. It's like they took a correspondence course on survival horror but half the envelopes got switched for a how-to guide on ballsing up.

Every now and again the game gets bored and makes a piece of electronics explode on a nearby wall to startle you, and it produces the worst particle effect in the history of graphics. You'd get more convincing sparks by leaning on the asterisk key in Microsoft Word.

So how about that escort, then? You know, I think the biggest mistake game designers make is trying to make an NPC escort useful to gameplay rather than just a big crate on legs. Say what you like about Ashley from Resident Evil 4, at least she knew her fucking place. It was in a bin! NPC escorts only get annoying when you have to rely on them. You have to use Amy to push buttons and stuff to solve puzzles, this being a world where it is considered good design to put the controls for an elevator on the other side of the room to the elevator itself.

But before you start getting the idea to make Amy hide in a locker and then don't stop till you reach Tijuana, if you go too far from her you start getting the lurgy. I suppose that's one way to get us attached to a character: physically attach us to them. But this adds a ticking clock mechanic to the many puzzles in which you must be separated from Amy, and Lana never seems to grasp the importance of getting a fucking rush on. She climbs ladders like she needs to check every single rung for a missing contact lens. And the indicator of how close you are to lurgy death is vague at best and about as much use as a blind car park attendant.

But it's not just terrible design decisions, boys and girls! It's technically completely fucking inept, too! I think Amy 's developer only has a QA department so they'll have more people to invite to their birthday parties. At one point, in my hubris, I ventured too close to a toilet cubicle and got stuck in the door. Now that would have been a cruel twist of fate if I'd been bustin' for a piss, wouldn't it? The subtitles are all fucked up and there's a door in chapter four that appears to have the text for an entirely different object attached to it. At one point I was attacked while interacting with a corpse and the camera remained fixed on the corpse even after gameplay returned, so I just had to watch myself running back and forth past my field of view with zombies in hot pursuit like we were in The Benny Hill Show.

At least the game's fairly well optimized... for Bizarro World! The framerate starts chugging like a cottage cheese margarita the moment it has to render anything stressful, like fighting one zombie in an empty corridor. If these guys had made Crysis, you'd only be able to run it on the fucking Starship Enterprise.

I didn't finish Amy, because in the penultimate chapter they bring in that ever cancerous mechanic, mandatory stealth. Up until then I was free to wail at my pursuers with bits of wood, or at least run off and hide under a large dog. But now it's back to the checkpoint if a zombie so much as catches a single waft of my terrified farts. But wait! The zombies don't attack you if you're lurgied up to the eyeballs, so you can leave Amy behind and go luring zombies away and pushing boxes in front of their faces like they're fucking security cameras, occasionally running back to Amy to get healed of the lurgy before you die. And then having to stick your head in a toilet for a few minutes waiting to get sufficiently lurgied back up that you can hang out with the zombies again. As far as flow goes, it was like riding a supermarket trolley through a rocky gorge with nothing to push yourself along but a few sheets of toilet paper with all your failings listed on them.

The final straw was when I spent far too long exhaustively creating a path for Amy to follow, only to come back to find that she'd gotten bored and wandered off directly into a zombie's mouth. Aww, I'm sorry the monster-infested post-apocalyptic death city wasn't providing quite enough stimulation for you, sweetheart. I know where there's never a dull moment: my fucking S-bend!

AddendaEdit

Fortunately, he will never breed: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

I find that 'I will die of an indistinct infection if I don't remain physically close to preteen girls' rarely goes down well in court.

This has been Shooting Fish in a Barrel Week

ScreenshotsEdit

Amy 1

But what do I know about fashion?

Amy 2

I think the biggest mistake game designers make is trying to make an NPC escort useful to gameplay

Amy 3

I didn't finish Amy

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5

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