The Zombie Inside – AMY Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Zombies. They’re everywhere, from titles based entirely around the undead, to random enemies in our favorite games, and even DLC packs for titles they have no business being in. The amount of games containing the monsters can be a little overwhelming. However, a game hoping to set itself apart from the death-denied masses has arrived at our doorsteps. Entitled AMY, this downloadable title may feature the walking dead, but it’s by no means just another zombie game.
In AMY, players take the role of a woman named Lana, who has rescued a young girl with autism named Amy from a science center in Phoenix, where she was being experimented on. While the two are on a train en route to meet a researcher who Lana knows, a comet strikes the town causing the train to crash. Lana wakes up hours later to find that the celestial object brought a disease that turns people into zombie-like creatures, with Amy nowhere to be found. She must now search for this lost girl, and upon finding her, figure a way to get them both out of the infected area alive. AMY’s story is one of those tales that starts out with more questions than answers, and is rewarding to play through for closure.
What sets AMY apart from other survival-horror games is that Lana is not your typical hero. She has no combat training, no special skills, and she is not immune to infection. In fact, her susceptibility to the disease is central to gameplay. Over time she will start to change into one of the creatures she battles. Her skin will start to pale, veins will blacken, she will start to hear things that are not there, and her vision will start to turn red and eventually blur. If she remains in this state she can fool other undead and slip by unnoticed, but at the cost that if she neglects her condition too long she will die.
Players can fight the infection inside Lana, however, through various ways. The first and most common method comes from Amy herself. The child is gifted with a strange telepathic power (the reason for her mistreatment at the center), and when Lana is near her the infection will disappear from her body. Alternatively, players may find syringes containing an anti-virus that will hold it at bay for a short time, and gas masks with a vapor form of the temporary cure. This gameplay mechanic adds a wonderful twist to the zombie genre, and it’s nice to have an imperfect main character.
It should be noted that everyone in the game is going to be against you. Not only must players deal with zombies, but a group of hostile armed forces is present as well. Their goal: find and rescue Amy, and kill everyone else living or dead. To make matters even worse, powerful variants of the undead will be encountered, such as a massive hunchbacked hulk covered in chains. Some of the smaller infected can be fought, but Lana’s lack of combat training makes her no match for the larger enemies and those packing fire and steel.
Should combat be the only option, players may fight off the enemy with a combo of two buttons, one to swing your weapon, the other to dodge. The key to surviving is knowing when to use each in order to defeat the foe as fast as possible. Of course, even if you’re a master of battle you’ll still need a weapon. Lana’s arsenal is restricted to melee items, mainly small wooden beams. These are fragile, break fairly quickly, and are also very limited in number so they must be used sparingly.
To help make battle (or avoiding it) easier, Amy’s powers can be tapped into under certain circumstances. Strange glyphs are present throughout the levels, and if Amy sketches or stands on them, she can temporarily draw on their power. This endows Lana with useful skills, including things like creating a bubble where sound cannot exist, or pushing enemies back with a telekinetic blast. These strange talents can be incredibly helpful, and add a nice hint of the supernatural to gameplay.
There will be times where combat just isn’t an option, but as a great Jedi once said: “you can’t win, but there are alternatives to fighting”, and this is more than true in AMY. Should the opposition be more than you can take, the best thing to do is flee. Many creatures cannot climb, so finding something to get on top of will help you get away. Conversely, for foes that can climb, or the things with guns, players can hide in many locations. These include the insides of lockers, under desks, and other areas.
To progress in a level, players will need to solve several puzzles. These can take just about any form, from having to search for samples of DNA to open locked doors, to using both Lana and Amy to activate elevators and moving platforms. Players need to think outside the box for this one, or in some cases risk death. All the aspects of AMY’s gameplay resurrect the classic survival-horror genre wonderfully, in a very fun and easily playable experience.
However, the save system holds it back slightly. Should a player fail in their efforts and embrace death, they’re brought back to the nearest checkpoint. These milestones aren’t too far apart, so they’re not a big deal. The problem is the fact that should you wish to take a break from playing mid-chapter, you’re stuck starting from the beginning of the level. Each level has a fair length to it and some took an hour or two for me to personally finish, so it seems like a massive oversight to force players to replay a chapter when they had to leave or need to take a break. This is especially true if you’ve gotten stuck on a puzzle, and are just shy of rage-quitting. Even a temporary save data system would have made a big difference.
Moving on to graphics, AMY is very visually impressive for an arcade game. Animation quality is stellar for all characters, be they friend or foe. Level and character design is incredibly well conceived, with many enemies being terrifying to behold. Watching Lana’s physical transformation in real-time is a treat as well, and I recommend each player to keep still and observe her change at least once.
There are some framerate losses in cutscenes though that bring down the overall quality. Some textures are also a little pixilated, or are of low quality, but it’s hard to fault a downloadable title for it, as they usually have a size limit.
From an audio perspective, the game is pretty nice on the ears. Voice work is decent, with no actor’s performances making you want to hit mute. The soundtrack is very unsettling, using arpeggios played on piano with strange sounds on top. When Lana starts to zombiefy, the noises and voices she hears are very terrifying, sending chills up and down the spine. Overall, a lot of care was given to make the sounds and tunes of this title match the horror gameplay.
Whether you’re a die-hard undead fan, or a player like myself who’s all zombied out, AMY is a title worth having in your library. This throwback to old school survival-horror gameplay adds a fresh twist to the genre, making it a truly unique experience. If you haven’t had a chance to play it yet you’re really missing out. Grab your loved one, set aside some time, and play with the lights off! AMY is now available to download for 800 Microsoft Points on XBLA, and around $10 for PSN.
Final Score: 4.25/ 5.0 and a zombie high five!
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