A few weeks back, I previewed “Red Johnson’s Chronicles,” a PlayStation Network exclusive from French studio Lexis-Numerique that tragically launched one day before Sony took PSN offline because of a data breach.
When I got a look at “RJC,” though, I also saw Lexis-Numerique’s other in-development title, a PSN survival horror game with the working title of “AMY.” Because I hate needless capitalization, and because as far as I can tell, “AMY” isn’t an acronym, this game will henceforth be referred to as “Amy.”
Strange capitalization aside, “Amy” looks to have a lot going for it. With more recent horror titles taking a more action-oriented bent, the market is certainly there for a game that goes for the “Silent Hill”/”Alan Wake”/”Fatal Frame”/early “Resident Evil” crowd.
“Amy” is set in the year 2034 in the fictional Silver City amidst some kind of zombie plague. The main character, Lana, is infected and will turn into a zombie unless she takes a drug at regular intervals. (Yes, this probably sounds familiar.)
When she’s not taking drugs to stay normal, Lana can stay close to the titular Amy, a little girl who somehow possesses the power to keep the zombie infection at bay. The parts of the game I saw looked a little bit like PlayStation 2 classic “Ico,” a game that’s referenced nearly every time two characters are shown holding hands during a game. At any time during the game, players can press the R1 button to have Lana take Amy’s hand, and as long as you keep holding it down, you’ll feel Amy’s pulse through the DualShock 3’s vibrations.
When danger draws closer, Amy’s pulse quickens and the controller vibrates more often. It’s a neat gameplay idea that should ratchet up tension just before the game’s scariest moments, in much the same way Alan Wake found manuscript pages telling him of the psychopath around the next corner.
From time to time, though, Lana will want to stash Amy to keep her away from some kind of menace, or send her on ahead through a level through the small opening. The longer Lana is away from Amy, the more ghoulish and zombielike her appearance becomes. If she at any point goes full zombie, the game is over and you revert to the last check point. But there are sort of gray areas of quasi-zombiness. At times, Lana will actually benefit from looking like a zombie — say, if she wants to sneak by a bunch of zombies. At other times, she’ll risk being shot on sight by soldiers seeking to wipe out the plague. Managing these factions is crucial to navigating your way through the game, Lexis Numerique’s Djamil Kemal told me.
Like Electronic Arts’ “Dead Space” games, “Amy” looks to be going without a heads-up display. An indicator on Lana’s back shows her level of infection at all times. And there are obvious visual cues as she turns, too. Veins pop out, and the player hears strange voices while the screen takes on a reddish hue.
The game is designed by Vector Cell, a studio helmed by Paul Cuisset, who created a much-loved Commodore 64 game called “Flashback.” (The curious can actually play “Flashback,” which sounds fantastic,” on Android and iOS devices.) Back when I previewed the game several weeks ago, I was told it was on track for an expected June release, probably releasing at a price point similar to “Red’s” $13. I’d guess that release date might be in flux with the PlayStation Network having been down for so long, but the last time I reached out to the game’s publicist, I was told the release window hadn’t changed.
Though the game is going to launch as a PlayStation Network exclusive, Kemal expected that it would eventually be available on the Xbox 360 and PC.