Undeterred by the probability that the few who hate themselves enough to play Amy are likely to ever reach its fifth chapter, it's at this point an inexplicable 'Game Over on sight' sneaking mechanic is introduced. Like a plethora of other, better titles, Amy offers a focus on stealth and avoidance, but the jarring transformation from ginger suggestion to crammed-down-your-throat mandate is awkwardly abrupt, and all the more irritating for it.
I won't mince words: this is easily one of the most incompetent level designs I've ever seen. It may even be one of the dumbest ever made. It's almost ingenious in how inconceivably stupid it is.
Before you can agree with me (and you will), the groundwork must be laid. Amy is a child immune to the viral threat that's left the world in a typically ruinous, plague-ridden state. Her caretaker, Lana, can only stave off undead contamination by staying near the girl. Chapter five takes place on the mean streets of the fictional Silver City, now as much a breeding ground for monstrous infestation as it probably was for prostitution and urban blight before the calamity that turned everyone into genetically mutated freaks.
Game design 101 dictates that Lana has to safely get through said mean streets with Amy in tow. Before she can do that, she needs to clear a path by moving barriers that would block their progress.
Streets lack cover, so Lana's infection level must be high enough so that the creatures 'patrolling" the area will think she's one of them. Further complicating things, once you leave Amy's side hitting that infected sweet spot means waiting around for the virus to somehow spread - the exact science of this non-airborne contagion leaves much to the imagination - which can take more than 30-40 seconds.
Then you're restricted to walking. Quick movement will instantly alert the zombies- who are perfectly capable of running themselves - that you're faking it. It gets better: since you already have to be infected to a certain degree to get through the area unscathed (did I mention you're completely unarmed?) you're limited to a minute or two to move obstacles before Lana dies.
Even if you succeed in clearing a path, your efforts are laughable. The immunised Amy will still cause all the monsters to attack you (note that it's not an instant game over if she's the one spotted) and the cover-to-zombie ratio seems too low for the girl to slip through unnoticed. Essentially, all of your work amounts to nothing, and to twist the knife just a little further any screw-up resulting in death or being seen sends you back to the beginning of the level.
Tedious is too kind a word.
Playtime with Amy is like Ico if Yorda was Joey Essex. Red flags are apparent from the get-go - the camera axes move with a torpid, overcompensating momentum and there's no directional aiming. Cheap, skill-free combat amounts to mashing the attack button as Lana clumsily swings fragile melee weapons. Amy ignores your call command and will only move to designated locations if she's, say, on a floor above you, as puzzles often call for; she's otherwise prone to moving around on her own, regardless of any danger that may be nearby.
I could go on, but it doesn't really matter.
The funny thing is that Amy doesn't necessarily start out as something so bad it will be forever exemplified as how not to design a game. The idea of a horror title about a young girl with psychic powers is a fairly typical narrative fodder for the medium, yet some of its ideas (tandem puzzle mechanics and having to hide from monsters, for example) had slight potential, if only for integration with the genre.
Unsurprisingly, sloppy mechanics and a severe lack of direction nix any base viability Amy might've had. Prepare to suffer a lot of inexplicable deaths, followed by repeating however many steps the last checkpoint forces you to replay to get back to where you were when you died. This is the kind of game you feel you're constantly fighting with, only those initially dull trappings are just the beginning stages of a dragging brawl to come; it's as though everything the designers came up with was carelessly implemented just to aggravate you. Guess what? It will.
In the end, and despite my best judgment, several hours of experimentation with the fifth chapter's idiotic rules left me with little aside from increased blood pressure and an overwhelming longing for a disc version of Amy to snap in half.
Version tested: Xbox 360