Review: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller

Cognition combines past events with current action for a beautifully drawn mystery thriller

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller was released on October 30th, 2012 by Phoenix Online Studios

Before even opening Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, I read the comic that comes with it.  The comic is dark, well-drawn, and downright creepy!  I was reminded a bit of the movie Saw, moved into comic murder-mystery form.  The short comic works well at introducing the main character, Erica Reed, the villain, and hints at the motivation and plot. The drawing/art style turns out to be the best part of the game, both in fitting the theme and moving the story line along.

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - CemeteryGravesDay02 - all that gaming stuffThe initial episode has two parts: a prequel that introduces the story and allows the player to get used to the various game functions, and the actual episode/murder mystery.  I would have liked the first scenes to have a little more explanation on how to use the various functions.  It was easy enough to use the mouse and move it around the screen, clicking on various objects/people/places that were highlighted.  But the “look-action-use item” picture that comes up is not nearly as intuitive.  Even after accessing the hint menu (which, entertainingly, is through calling the main character’s dad on her “Buckyball” phone), I still couldn’t figure out how to use the items I had to solve the puzzle.  It took two of us, twenty minutes or so, and various combinations of clicking before finally getting through the cemetery gate in the very first scene.  And no, I won’t spoil it for you by telling you how to solve it – if I had to suffer, so do you! Just a hint – the briefcase icon is works for any item in your inventory.

Once I finally figured out how to work all the parts of the game, the game play became much more obvious.  However, this was after over an hour of play and getting killed multiple times.  This might have been bad luck – I think I tried every wrong combination before choosing the correct one while fighting with the Cain Killer.  This was also when I learned this is definitely not a game for kids – there is more than enough torture, violence, and cursing that I would recommend this game for teenagers on up.  I eventually “solved” the back story, watched the amazingly done opening credits of the game, and got into the meat of the episode.  The entire game works on point-and-click.  You gradually and easily acquire tasks, scenes, and information as you work your way through the game.  The character list is short enough to keep in your head without too much effort.  While I haven’t finished the episode, I am enjoying working my way through scenes, slowly but surely adding bits and pieces of information in order to solve the case of the hanged man’s killer.  There’s not much action, but plenty of story line and things to work through in order to keep the game interesting.  I liked that you don’t have to perform tasks in an exact order to be able to get to the solution.

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Cutscene02 - all that gaming stuffMy favorite part of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller was the drawing, by far.  The dark, gritty, comic-book style fits a murder mystery perfectly.  The dialogue, which is captioned in capital letters in boxes along the edges of a scene, like a old comic, worked really well.  It also helped reinforce in my mind the pertinent information the detective receives to solve her case.  The backgrounds and weather effects, like rain, are drawn very well.  Unfortunately, the talent in the artistry did not translate well into the animation.  The characters are slightly clunky, with some basic graphic animation errors like typing hands completely missing keys or even the keyboard, characters moonwalking as they step across the screen, white pixels unevenly misplaced around the edges of characters, and rough transitions between frames.  Hopefully, future episodes will be a bit cleaner.

Overall, once you understand how to play the game, it becomes very hard to pull yourself away from.  I’m looking forward to finishing episode one and starting the next three episodes as they come out!

Cognition is currently available for download on Rain Digital Games, GamersGate, and GameStop.  The first episode of four, “The Hangman” is available for download for $9.99.  A Season Pass, which includes all four episodes upon release plus the digital comic, is $29.99.

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