"Amy is a survival horror title that is closer to Silent Hill than Resident Evil; it draws inspiration from Ico and films like Alien, Panic Room and Cormac McCarthy's The Road"
Whoa there, French design studio I've never heard of. Steady on. You've just casually name dropped a mixture of the most beloved and respected video games, movies and novels ever there with barely a pause for breath.
When independent games design studio Lexis Numerique pitched its upcoming survival horror title Amy to CVG, we were cautious. Describing a game by drawing on similarities to other well-known material is a risky move; doing so with properties as esteemed as those mentioned above is almost certainly setting yourself up for a very long fall. Especially if all you've got to offer is a PSN download game.
However, a short preview session later and Amy has placed itself in the running for surprise hit of 2011. Remember Limbo coming out of nowhere to rule last summer? Yeah, like that much of a surprise.
Designed by Paul Cuisset, whose previous works include Flashback and Moto Racer, Amy takes place in fictitious Silver City. The effects of prolonged global warming have final taken their toll on earth - and our world is being plagued by natural disasters. Silver City itself has been struck by a less than natural comet.
Players take control of 20 year old Lana, who happened to be aboard a train when the comet hit. Amy opens with Lana waking to find her train derailed and the citizens of Silver City transformed from ordinary humans into something far more dangerous. While aesthetically they look zombie-like we're told that the humans have become 'enraged', making them a far more dangerous breed of ghoul than their traditional moaning and shuffling cousins.
As if being derailed and waking up surrounded by rage-prone monstrosities wasn't enough, Lana's troubles are compounded when it's revealed that she's been injured and her body is playing host to the early stages of the viral infection. Though we're not shown the event, somewhere along the line she stumbles across the eponymous Amy, a small girl who is - unsurprisingly - terrified of pretty much everyone and everything. Our demo begins with the pair in an underground subway system.
The first thing you notice about Amy is the quality of the visuals. Unfortunately our session limited us to the ubiquitous dirty grey walls and dark black corners that are endemic to both subway systems and survival horrors, but it looks like developer VectorCell has put together an impressively powerful engine.
Textures look very detailed, with everything from blood stained tiles and broken wood, to chipped walls and damaged wooden crates rendered meticulously. More importantly, the lighting is equally impressive; dimly lit corridors and flickering lights create a tense atmosphere, along with distant skittering and muffled shrieks - but we'll come to that later.
On a purely superficial level, Lana and Amy's character models are also intricately detailed. Lana's clothes are scuffed up and her elaborate hairstyle looks slightly dishevelled, while Amy's wide-eyes, freckles and little flower shaped hair clip give her an appropriate vulnerability. However, it is the animations that truly make Amy's characters convincing.
Beyond the usual 'run, stop, turn' progression, the characters have subtleties to their movements and actions. Amy doesn't simply tag behind you when you're walking around, she nervously takes each step, frantically looking around and occasionally whimpering when fear gets the better of her.