Cognition An Erica Reed Thriller: Episode 1 The Hangman Review
Episode 1 of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller offers a compelling story, but is a little rough around the edges.
Detective style games like CSI have always been a guilty pleasure of mine. I have always been fascinated by mystery novels and games, and have continued to play games of the genre since the 90’s. Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is a new title in the genre from Phoenix Online Studios, and is the first part of a four part episodic adventure.
Cognition put the player in control of Erica Reed. A detective with a haunting pass which continues to drive her every day as a detective. Players get a brief look in the tutorial to Erica’s past, and learn that she lost her brother to a murderer who was never caught, and discover Erica has somehow developed post cognition powers. Erica has a gift that allows her to touch an object, and learn of its historic past. These powers end up playing a huge role for Erica. Cases that might have been impossible to solve, suddenly become clear due to her powers.
The first episode of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is called The Hangman. Erica and her partner John McCoy are called to a scene where the victim is found dead by suffocation, and their finger prints were burned off. Erica wants to do everything she can to solve the case, but her Cognition powers are acting odd, and making the case difficult to solve.
Cognition plays a lot like you would expect. It is essentially a point and click adventure game, but with a detective skin. It is the players duty to gather clues, talk to suspects, and solve the case. Along the way there will be objects that become important, and will require some problem solving to further the story. The ultimate goal is to bring all of items required to solve the case together, and in the end put the bad guy away.
What makes a point and click adventure stand out, is the story attached to the adventure. Cognition is hoping that the story will be above average, and will keep players interested along the four episode adventure. Phoenix Online Studious even managed to get Jane Jensen aboard to help with the story aspects.
The story behind Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is very well done, but a few of the game play elements are holding it back.
At first, Cognition seems like a typical adventure title. You look around for clues, and investigate areas by talking to people and showing them items that could be important. Sometimes you might be lost, have to do some back tracking to find that little piece of game that you missed. The reward is always progression, and the pacing needs to be fast enough so players don’t get bored.
Erica Reed is such a great character, but you don’t learn enough about her in Episode 1.
Erica is such a likeable character, and the relationship that the player builds with her is genuine. Erica seems like such a warm hearted person, and the death of her brother has only inspired her even more to do her job. Her cognition powers only add to her character, and give her a hero aspect that people can connect with. I just wish that Episode 1 would feature a little bit more of Erica. Granted, this is just the first episode, and there is no doubt in my mind that players will learn more about her in future episodes.
There are some really neat things about the game play that I found much appreciated. It is hard to talk about a point and click adventure, because most titles are very similar in terms of how the game plays. That is the case with Cognition, but it tries a few things to make it a little easier. The HUD offers a button at the top that allows the player to see every object that can be interacted with. This is easily my favorite feature. I can’t remember how many times I have been lost in this style of game simply due to the fact there was an area I didn’t know I could interact with. The hint system is also non intrusive, and gives the player an opportunity to text Erica’s father for hint on what they should do next. Cognition does a really good job of moving the player along if they get stuck, which can keep the game play enjoyable rather than frustrating. With the design of Cognition, it seems that the developers have tried everything they can think of to keep the game from becoming boring, but more importantly, keep the player from becoming frustrated.
Even with some unique ways to keep Cognition from getting stale, sadly there are some glaring issues with the game play elements of Cognition. The game play is far from inadequate, but the progression just isn’t quick enough, and there are times where the game play just gets in the way of the strong story telling. The story behind Erica and The Hangman is impressive, but the amount of information the player receives can be too far apart. This combined with the somewhat odd Cognition mechanic, can make the game be boring at times.
The powers of Cognition that Erica possess keep the game interesting, and give players a break from the somewhat straight forward game play. Essentially players have a button they can press to enter Erica’s Cognition, and the player can try to focus on certain object to unveil their inner secrets. The reward is usually a short clip of something that pertains to the mystery. It is really cool to see the case breakdown before the players eyes. If the clues were a little more clear of what objects Erica needs to interact with, then the mechanic would be a lot more fun to use. I found myself not being able to find what objects needed to be interacted with to get the memory playing, and spent close to ten minutes just clicking in random order to try and move forward.
At other times, Cognition does a poor job of keeping the pace steady. At pivotal points of the story where the player starts getting new and important information, Cognition stops the progression without warning. There is one instance that stands out where Erica is interviewing someone that might have information to the case. Once you finally get into the conversation, the witness decides he in hungry. So the player is stopped dead in their tracks to hunt down some chips and a sandwich, only to be greeted with a plea from the witness to obtain even more food. Point and click games like Cognition are always going to have a few minor nuances like this, but Cognition has a few too many, and they side objectives just last too long.
Overall, the first episode of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is a decent start to bigger picture that will eventually become a four episode adventure. Hopefully some of the annoying aspects will be ironed out in future episodes, but the story behind the adventure makes Cognition worth playing. If you are a fan of point and click adventure games with a great story, you should definitely check out the first episode.