Publisher: Phoenix Online Studios
Genre: Mystery Roleplay Crime Thriller
I discovered this indie title after playing The Silver Lining, a game also made by Phoenix Online Studios. Since Jane Jensen (a Sierra On-Line writer) was on the staff and the indie company already did well with The Silver Lining, I became a backer for the game. This gave me a season pass for all four episodes as they released and as a bonus the soundtrack, so my Halloween of 2012 was spent playing the game.
Erica Reed is a fiery FBI agent with the supernatural power of cognition, the ability to see into the past by touching objects. After her younger brother’s violent death by a serial killer, she is determined to find the murderer and bring him to justice. However, now the case has gone cold and a new one has arisen with the murderer known as the Hangman. A mysterious person begins leaving clues for Erica to help her find the killer–and somehow this person knows about Erica’s ability.
Violence/Scary Imagery: Since this is a crime thriller about serial killers, there is some violence and scary images. There are two hanged bodies—one you get a close examination of since you’re the FBI agent inspecting the crime scene. Because of the animation, it isn’t too graphic. There is some blood from puncture wounds and bullet wounds. The coroner cuts open the victim’s body, but you can’t see what she’s doing. A guy is burned so he’s running around on fire and I found that frightening.
Language/Crude Humor: The biggest caution in this game is the excessive swearing, which got tiresome after a while: crap 2x, Christ 2x, screw 4x, p**** 1x, d*** 7x, God**** 3x, h*** 9x, sh** 14x, a**hole 1x, a** 10x, b*****d 5x, plus four f-bombs (mostly at the very beginning and the end) and a few uses of heck, frikkin’, the Lord’s name taken in vain, and freaking. Basically a lot of swearing.
Sexual Content: There is one brief pornography reference and one of the baddies is a stalker.
Drug/Alcohol Use: A character mentions having a beer with another one, but that’s it.
Spiritual Content: Erica Reed has the psychic ability to see into the past by touching objects and people. A New Age lady helps Erica learn how to use her psychic abilities.
Other Negative Themes: Erica is hellbent on revenge but this changes in the later episodes.
Positive Content: The game deals much with grief and moving through hard times as Erica after three years is still mourning over her younger brother. Other people encourage her in ways she can heal and move past her bitterness and pain.
The game play is a typical point-and-click. You click on the screen where you want to go and what you want to interact with. By double-clicking, you can run. You have speech options during dialogue, and an inventory where you store items such as your gun or badge. You also have a cognition icon that you click to enact your ability. Objects and people you can use your powers on become highlighted in colored mist.
Lastly, the decisions you make in the game effect how the game turns out. This is a puzzle game so you’ll have to search for clues and solve challenges to progress. None of the challenges were so difficult that I had to look up cheats. Sometimes it does get a bit tedious traveling between places, though.
Cognition: Episode 1 is a dark tale about characters dealing with some thick issues and frightening crimes, so this game isn’t for the faint-hearted player. The game relies heavily on story as you strive unravel the mystery of the crime and find the killer. Its gripping plot filled with massive and unexpected twists should keep you engaged and propelled to win the game. There is also a lot of action, especially at the beginning and end including outsmarting a villain’s traps and a gunfight.
There are many great characters in Cognition. As the title suggests you play as Erica Reed a smart, young FBI agent. She is brave, plucky, and a great character to be in the shoes of for the game. Other members of the cast such as Sully, Gwen, John, Davies, Terrance, Rose, and Cordelia make great side characters.
Each character is portrayed with unique personalities, all of them are important to the game in different ways. and since the game is set in Boston, Massachusetts, many have the characteristic accent. Talented voice actors bring each of them to life. You often get some witty humor and insightful advice from them. The only irritating thing is that everyone seems to having a potty mouth on them, except Rose and Cordelia. This got annoying.
The game has a graphic novel feel especially with the animation style. Throughout most of the game you are playing in 3-D animation, but during cut scenes you go into painted 2-D animation. I’ve never seen this before, but the brush-style added to the grittiness of the game. There is one scene at the beginning with a full-eclipse moon that’s really amazing and creepy. Unfortunately, sometimes the graphics would glitch a little like while talking or walking. The movements are rough and unnatural. I let this slide a little considering this is an indie game.
Austin Haynes composes the score, and he masterfully captures the creepy, mysterious tone set in the city of Boston. There is even a vocal piece at the end sung by the same actress who plays Erica. At the beginning of the episode is a chilling credits sequence that pulls you into the game almost like you’re playing out a crime show.
Cognition: Episode 1 is a dark game for lovers of crime thrillers. Its plot will hold you to the end and have you rushing to play the next episode. If you can stand the frequent swearing and the scary images, then this is a great pick for you.
The Bottom Line
Cognition is a dark game for lovers of crime thrillers. Its plot will hold you to the end and have you rushing to play the next episode. If you can stand the frequent swearing and the scary images, then this is a great pick for you.