Before reading this review, you should probably know that I’ve never played an in-depth and structured point-and-click game before. I have occasionally toyed with the odd flash game in the genre here and there, but never something as extensive as Cognition. It’s also worth noting that I have never played the first episode of the series. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the storytelling and gameplay that Cognition Episode 2 – The Wise Monkey had to offer. While the gameplay is very much your average point-and-click puzzle game (with a small twist), it has a gripping, gruesome narrative that leaves the player on the edge of their seat and begging for more.
You play as Erica Reed, a red-headed FBI agent working in Boston, Massachusetts on a case to find her absent partner and a dangerous serial killer. She also has a form of psychic power she is starting to discover. When touching objects that were associated with a specific event, she can see what happened. For example, when the secretary writes down a phone number incorrectly, Erica must find the pen that was used to scribe the phone number, and then use her powers to see what it should have been. She can also read minds when touching another person. She uses these powers to see things that other agents cannot.
The characters are fairly static throughout the course of the story. Erica is the only one who has her personality explored, and she is fairly stereotypical. She seems strong on the outside when others are in danger, but in reality, is soft and hurting on the inside. This is further demonstrated when she continually refers back to her father, a retired police officer, for support. Her partner is a typical male, and shrugs off problems and danger. He cracks jokes even during the most intense moments, and it feels a little forced. Despite all this, the voice acting is surprisingly well done. Some of the characters display a wonderful range of emotions. Others, especially the stock or stereotypical characters like the Southern sounding secretary and the college hippie, need some work as the stereotype is horribly overdone.
The game’s environment is constructed very well using what seems to be hand painted backgrounds. The colors are blended and dull which add to the noir-like atmosphere. Scenes are done in the same way, and are reminiscent of comic books, although they are not a series of strips, but rather a moving picture. The characters are done in a cell shaded type of graphic, very similar to that of The Walking Dead and Borderlands. The mouths do not always match up to the words, but it’s a minor issue. Despite using two different styles of art, the characters blend neatly into the background.
The music of Cognition further enhances the atmosphere that the game is trying to create. Each area has a different piece that compliments it. During critical and pressing points within the game, the music is quick paced and sharp, which created a sense of panic and urgency within me. During points in which you are hunting for clues, the music is almost playful and inquisitive. The score adds some depth to the game, but it’s not something outstanding and noticeable.
The gameplay itself, as stated before, is very much a point-and-click. The memory mechanic in which you connect objects together is well done and interesting, but it can be a hassle to find the last required piece, as some of the places you’re required to look are very small and hard to notice. Some of the puzzles can be a bit tedious as well, as it requires an outstanding memory or trotting back to your notes. In one particular sequence of the game, you’re required to input information about different cases. The amount of information required was a little obscene and, I have to admit, I had to write it all down on a piece of paper just to remember it. In addition, some details shown in memories are required to progress through certain challenges. At one point, you have to arrange some charms in a certain order. If you forget the order, you have to pick the charms back up, review the memory, and try again.
There is a slight learning curve to the game as far as the mechanics and story are concerned. If you have not played the first episode of Cognition, you may find yourself slightly lost at first. The story of Episode Two picks right off from the first game. There is an introductory scene which explains the events of the previous game, but it is paced very quickly with many names and events covered. It seems more of a refresher for returning players than introducing new players to the storyline. I had to watch the introduction again after playing a couple of minutes just to get the details straight. In addition, controls are not explained, but it does not take long to pick them up. It took me a small bit to understand and grasp the memory reading aspect of the puzzles. It’s hinted at which piece you need to complete a memory (which is required to progress), but I actually had no idea what it did until I took some time to play around with it. It was a turn-off at first, but once I understood it, I didn’t have any major issues.
Overall, I was very satisfied with Cognition Episode 2 – The Wise Monkey. Although the lack of tutorial and story initially prevented me from being fully immersed within the game’s world, I quickly grew to love the characters and puzzles I was presented with, although I do recommend having a pen and paper handy for note taking. The game’s plot quickly developed into something that gripped me, and I simply needed to know what happened next. If you’re familiar with the point-and-click genre of games, this is a great expansion for your collection. If you’re new to the genre, this is a great starting point, but I do recommend playing Episode One first, as you may be a little lost.
GAME NAME: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode 2: The Wise Monkey
DEVELOPER(S): Phoenix Online Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Reverb Publishing
PLATFORM(S): PC, Mac, IOS
GENRE(S): Point and Click Thriller
RELEASE DATE(S): January 30th, 2013