Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller

Back in August I shared the trailer for Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, an episodic point-and-click adventure game that was Kickstarted by Phoenix Online Studios. (I won’t be surprised if you don’t remember/don’t care; that’s probably one of the least-viewed posts on this blog. This one will probably suffer the same fate, but I’m OK with that.) A few days ago the first episode was released and I’ve spent a good part of this dreary Saturday settling into its serial killer murder mystery with a steaming chai latte.

It feels wrong to write a full-blown review for a game that only has one episode out so far, so instead I thought I’d share a list of first impressions which I’ve been adding to as I play through.

Good stuff:

  • Jane Jensen (my favorite game designer) served as story consultant on this game, and it shows. I can feel her touch all over it.
  • The 2D art style of the cut scenes and animation is very similar to Gray Matter. I hope that doesn’t sound like a complaint–I love Gray Matter, and I realize this is probably due to budgetary constraints.
  • Right out of the gate, this game goes to some pretty dark places. Within the introductory sequence I had to make a blood self-sacrifice and also attempted to burn a man alive. Huzzah!
  • Love the music. The intro song in particular (after you play through the mausoleum part) is fantastic. During gameplay the background music is chill and pensive with an undertone of intensity; perfect for murder investigations. There’s also some spacey synth music on the map screen that sounds like it was borrowed from this track on the Neverending Story soundtrack. This is not a complaint.
  • The interface is very well thought-out and intuitive. Inventory is a breeze to manage.
  • The cognition ability and the way you use it adds some unique gameplay elements. I like the way it was integrated into the puzzles, using flashbacks to understand how objects were affected in the past so you can manipulate them in the present.
  • Great story so far and interesting murder M.O. Definitely not cookie-cutter.

Not-so-good stuff:

  • Decent voice acting, but it was hard for me to keep a straight face in some parts because of the Boston accents, which I find humorous. Nothing against you Bostontonians, but those SNL skits (“You are SO RET-AH-DED!”) have ruined it for me.
Boston Teens
  • In some of the close-up scenes–like when you’re examining the FBI’s wanted list, for example–the graphics look all choppy and pixelated. I can live with it, but it does make the game seem a little rough around the edges.
  • The 3D animation isn’t bad, but leaves a lot to be desired. The movement is a little stiff and unnatural. Also, sometimes the characters look down or too far to the left or right and the irises of their eyeballs disappear. It creeps me out.

Easter Egg!

In one of the scenes I found a poster for The Scarlet Furies, which is Jane Jensen’s step-daughter’s band. Ha!

The Scarlet Furies poster in Cognition

Play the Game

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode 1, as well as a Season Pass for all the upcoming episodes, is available for download via RainDG, GameStop, and Gamersgate. In the future it might also be coming to Steam.