Avenge memories past once again in Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Game of the Year Edition
Losing a loved one before their time is an incredible tragedy, and a topic that many people find themselves find that they cannot handle well. While every possible cause of this loss is unfathomably tragic, murder just might possibly be the worst of all. If a life was intentionally taken from you, wouldn’t you want to see the individual who caused such a catastrophic event put to justice? Well, as you might have already guessed, such a tragic event has befallen protagonist Erica Reed, and she intends to see the the case of her brother’s killer to the very end.
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is a Point-And-Click Adventure game with heavy doses of thrills and puzzle-solving. While the original version of the game came in four separate parts, The Game of the Year Edition comes as a complete package with Episodes 1 – 4, as well as a prequel comic just to get things rolling at full force with a bit of backstory. Players are put in charge of Erica Reed – a brave, clever, and somewhat cocky FBI agent – as she attempts to solve the case of the Cain Killer, a sociopath with a trademark of targeting male/female sibling, and finally avenge her brother Scott that was taken away by the very same killer three years ago. The player must use their wits to gather evidence, solve crimes, and ultimately find the truth behind this elusive criminal.
The gameplay in Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller contains many elements familiar to the Point-And-Click genre, making it quite easy to pick up and play. As one might expect, the game focuses almost entirely on interacting with various locations, as well as the people and objects which may reside in said location. Clicking on any interactable object or person brings up a three-pronged command wheel which allows the player to examine, talk to, and pick up said object. While the command circle often shows up in full, not every command in the circle will always be available. This means, you’ve guessed it, no talking to your computer, or trying to put a person in your inventory. Every item, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has potential of playing a part in the story at some point. This is but one fact that makes it very crucial that they player takes their time when journeying through the world of Cognition. Trust me, I was carrying around pocket change during most of the first Episode thinking “I really don’t think that the game will ever let me do something with this.” I was wrong! That pocket change, I kid you not, set in motion a series of events very important to said Episode. Of course, the people in the surroundings, as well as the surroundings themselves are equally important. Exhausting every possible dialogue option with every individual Erica comes across can prove to make things run a lot more smoothly. If you ever feel like you could get more out of a character, make sure to check around every area for items or objects that you may have missed. While many things in the world of Cognition are important to story progression, the world itself contains enough people, places, and things to potentially cause someone to accidentally miss something that could potentially be pertinent to the story. In anticipation of the size and depth of the game causing potential overlooks by players, a feature was added which highlights every object in the room that Erica is presently in with which she may interact. I know that some of you may be rolling your eyes here saying “doesn’t that make the game way too easy?” It doesn’t, I promise you. Although I said the game was easy to pick up and play, mastering Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller demands a high degree of attention and focus. Without thinking things through, one could very easily find themselves at a dead (but not permanently so) end in the game, causing them to go back and re-examine everything up to their current point. Many of the puzzles also require out-of-the-box thinking, and quite possibly the abilities that only a psion could possess.
That’s right folks; our protagonist is not only an FBI agent, but a psychic as well. Without giving too much away (because let’s face it, you want to find out about all of her powers herself right?), Erica possesses several supernatural abilities that she uses to her advantage in order to both get her out of tricky situations, and help her solve seemingly-unsolvable cases and puzzles. While Agent Reed comes to possess several powers, her staple ability is that of Precognition; the ability to see into the past. By touching certain objects or individuals, she is able to see into parts of the past of whatever or whomever she is in contact with. This ability allows her to gain knowledge that could otherwise be impossible to obtain. While there are many traditional Point-And-Click mechanics, Erica’s powers certainly put a new spin on things and are incredibly crucial if one wishes to complete the game. And hey, everything meshes together quite nicely too.
Good game mechanics are absolutely vital to a game being successful, but a game wouldn’t truly be a game without the entire package. In many ways, art, voice, music, and especially story, are just as important as the gameplay itself. First, let’s focus on the art. With the game having come out in 2013, of the game takes place in an easily-maneuverable 3D realm with many 3D objects (including people) The 3D art isn’t bad overall, but I feel as though more could have been done to make the characters look realistic. Often times I noticed myself staring at Erica’s hair during cutscenes, a bit disappointed with how bulky her hair seemed when the rest of her was very energetic and moving. Another thing that, unfortunately, stuck with me was the issue of clipping. During gameplay, I frequently saw items which were not exactly in place. This was most noticable when a character was holding or using an item. The item and the character’s hand(s) would(were) either floating away from one another, or had merged into each other. Many of the 3D models also seemed a bit polygonal… At first, that is. I did notice that, as the story progressed from chapter to chapter, the 3D models themselves also seemed to become smoother and had better fluidity. In contrast to the 3D characters and objects, is the fact that almost all background art and many items of lesser-importance are drawn in a soft and artistic 2D comic book style. The 2D parts of the game always had a quality about them that attested to how much the artist cared. It was very obvious that things were hand-drawn, and they were done so with incredible skill. I would be lying if I said that I stopped playing the game just to look at the background artwork once in a while. Some, but not all of the cutscenes also forewent their usual 3D in favor of an animated comic feel. As with the bacground artwork, these were always done very well, and I quite enjoyed them. The mesh of 2D and 3D is pulled off quite phenomenally for the most part, with only a few barely-noticeable contact issues when 3D and 2D interact, such as a shovel being used to dig up dirt.
The music of the game was consistently good throughout the entire game. The soundtrack always fit well with whichever part of the game it was accompanying and, while it never really seemed to steal the spotlight, it did very well with keeping up with the game’s overall feel. I certainly feel that there were no weak titles in the game’s entirety, and I can certainly understand why the soundtrack to the game is on sale. It’s definitely good enough to warrant a purchase if you’re into video game music.
The voice acting in Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is incredibly well done. I’ll be the first to say that I’m very picky about quality when it comes to audio in almost any aspect, and this more than meets my expectations. While Erica and Jon definitely stole the show, it was incredibly evident that every single voice was carefully fitted to match each character. Nothing felt rushed or out of place, and everything sounded natural. There’s not even a whole lot I can say about the topic, but only because it was so incredibly appealing and enjoyable. I congratulate any and all voice actors involved with the game.
This may be a bit out of the ordinary, but I’m going to conclude with the story; only because you save the best for last. While I won’t get too in-depth for fear of spoilers, I can assure you that the story is incredibly emotional and gripping through the entire game. From the rescue of Erica’s brother Scott in the prologue to the final scene where… Some events happen… The story does a great job of hooking you along for the entire time. I don’t feel like the comic book art style is just for show; a lot of the game really does feel like a living comic book. Sure it has its ups and downs in terms of excitement, but there’s never a dull moment with this game. Even doing research for Erica’s cases can be exciting, because behind each new clue is a new story, person, undiscovered power, or hidden truth. I feel that most, if not all, players will genuinely feel excited and satisfied throughout the game.
I would honestly recommend Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Game of the Year Edition regardless of your preference for Point-And-Click games. If it makes any of you readers out there feel better, I’ve never been hardcore into the Point-And-Click genre of games myself, and it didn’t impact my liking for this game one bit. If you want a truly challenging game, and love heavily story-based games, I would highly suggest that you check out the thriller that is Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Game of the Year Edition.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing; Developer: Phoenix Online Studios; Players: 1; Released: July 31st, 2014; Genre: Adventure; MSRP: $14.99
Editor’s Note: This review is based on review code provided by the game’s publisher Phoenix Online Studios.