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[E3 2011] Amy Preview and Impressions

I sat down at E3 with Lexis Numérique to preview their upcoming title Amy. Amy was designed by Paul Cuisset, the same guy who designed Flashback in the 90’s and its sequel for the original PlayStation, Fade to Black. I wasn’t expecting much from the game to tell you the truth. I assumed this would be another FPS zombie game for the PSN, that you would tire of after an hour or so. Well, I was way off.

Amy is a third person game, set in the near future of 2034. You play as Lana, a scientist who survives a train wreck, wakes from having blacked out, and is then chased by army gunfire into a zombie infested city. Although they are being haled as zombies, most of the creatures I saw look more like viscous, mutated creatures compared to your standard decaying body-type zombies.

Anyway, an airborne virus, caused from a comet that crashed on earth, has turned, or is turning, everyone into zombies, including your character, Lana. There are different zones, or areas, in the game, with different levels of contamination. The higher the level of contamination, the faster Lana’s infection transforms her into a zombie. There is no HUD in the game, so the way to tell what zone you’re in is by watching a sensor on your back that turns from green to yellow to red depending on the levels of contamination.

You can also tell you are becoming one of the creatures by watching your skin turn greyer and greyer, as your veins start to pulsate and protrude from your neck. What keeps Lana from completely transforming into one of the creatures is an eight year old, autistic girl by the name of Amy. Amy is also mute, or at least doesn’t talk in the game.

Amy is “somehow” immune to the virus, and also “somehow” heals Lana when she is with you. Lana and Amy, if I recall correctly, were traveling together, or at the very least, have a history together. If you hold R1, you will hold Amy’s hand allowing for quicker healing, as well as allowing you to feel, through the rumble feature of a dual-shock, Amy’s heartbeat. Her heart beat is basically a type of radar, in that when creatures are near, she will “somehow” sense them, and her heartbeat will speed up. Amy is also useful in other ways in the game. She carries a flashlight that Lana wont take from her, and she can also reach areas that Lana can’t. For example, in the demo, Lana sent Amy through a crawl space into a locked room to grab a key card.

If Amy is left alone, or even if you’re not holding her hand at certain times, she will get frightened and might even run off to hide. If you choose, you can also hide her somewhere and use your zombie transformation to sneak past other creatures. They feel you are one of them and allow you to pass. At one point in the demo, we saw a giant creature coming our way and both ran to hide in a closet. Lana could watch through a crack in the door so we didn’t leave the hiding spot too early. Just when we thought it was safe to exit, I looked around and saw, via a mirror on the wall, that the creature was still in the room and so waited a bit more.

Although the game relies a lot on stealth and puzzle solving, there is also melee combat involved. Lana can pick up bats, 2x4s, and other melee weapons and fight the creatures if she so chooses. The big guy we ran into was said to be “too tough” to beat, and was the reason we chose to hide instead. The goal of the game is to basically get Lana and Amy to a hospital where other survivors are holding out.

The emotions of both characters, through facial expressions, and even body language, were actually amazing. I could tell when Amy began to get frightened just by watching her. At one point in the game, Lana saw herself in a mirror while transforming, and you could see the worry in her face. The graphics and animations were also very, very good.

Lexis Numerique was shooting for a full retail title on Amy, but decided to release it on the PSN at a better price. They have decided to release this 6 to 8 hour game for only $13 this September. They will be taking a loss on the game at this price, but they hope it will get such a great reaction from the fans, that they are already working on a sequel in which they could make a profit.

Amy, for me, went from a, “Ya, I might check that out,” to a, “I can’t wait to play it.” Although I haven’t played ICO myself, others are calling Amy, “ICO with zombies.” In my opinion, Lexis Numerique’s “Amy” has yet to receive the attention it deserves, and will become one of the best surprises of 2011.