Cognition, developed by Phoenix Online Studios and published by Reverb Publishing presents us with a gripping murder mystery adventure.
A dream-team line-up including comics artist Romano Molenaar (Batman, Witchblade, Tomb Raider, X-Men) as Art Director and legendary adventure game designer Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight, Gray Matter, and the upcoming Moebius) as Story Consultant, lend their talents.
Cognition part 1 begins a thrilling 4 episode murder mystery. You take control of Erica Reed Boston FBI Agent.
The introduction gives you a glimpse of The Cain Killer and reason for Erica Reed’s tortured past. Chapter One: Case of the Hangman, picks up 3 years those horrific events.
Cognition is a point-and-click adventure-puzzler. Puzzles are straight forward and the story flows nicely but make the wrong choice and your journey will end— sometimes quite viciously. During the intro I let out a yelp in horror after making a less than stellar choice and met a messy violent end. The game doesn’t hold back on the brutality and you have to think and click fast or you will be mince meat.
When you can interact with an item, you are prompted and can choose accordingly from a radial menu and/or your inventory. As evidence is discovered a small white orb will glow on the bottom left of your screen allowing you to use your gift of cognition. Touching an item gives you the ability to gain visions of its past. As the game progresses Erica develops additional powers and they are cleverly executed to solve puzzles.
There are multiple options to solve and research throughout the story which make for a unique experience. The game seems to end the same each time but your journey getting there can vary depending on your interactions and choices.
Graphics & Sound
The music is quite good. Intensely haunting ballads follow you throughout the adventure. Voice acting is also top-notch. It’s not surprising to find that Jane Jensen’s stepdaughter Raleigh provided the voice of Erica, and husband Robert Holmes added to the music.
The graphics take on a rather simple style and cut-scenes play out in comic book fashion. Cut-scenes are hand drawn and lend to the better art in the game. It’s dark and gritty and really brings on a nervous edge as you are immersed.
As I dove into the story, I admit I was not a responsible saver, and after about 2 1/2 hours of game play, met a game breaking bug. It was so bad that in order to finish the game I had to go back to my last save and start over. There is no excuse for such a glaring error. After researching the forums I found there are a handful of other issues – some minor, some major – so buyers beware. Save often! I begrudgingly went back and finished the story, neurotically saving every few minutes. I’m glad I did, but I’m still holding a bit of a grudge. I know the devs are actively working on fixes and are dedicated, so props to the team for that.
Mediocre awkward graphics drag the game down further. While the cut-scene graphics work brilliantly with the story, the game animations clip awkwardly and the characters looked more like they were at a nightclub doing the robot rather than solving any crime.
Another minor issue is the sense of the characters urgency, with help from the voice acting and music, that unfortunately doesn’t go hand-in-hand with the action in the story. My blood pressure rose, as I rushed frantically to save a life, while Erica casually walked from place to place in search of clues. The game has one speed — stroll. Frustrating. The action lays in the cut-scenes. Yes, yes I know it’s a point-and-click-puzzler and not a first-person-shooter, but a slight jog to the next clue might have cut down on some of the awkwardness and saved a life or two. Just sayin’!
I didn’t find the puzzles overwhelming, which isn’t entirely a bad thing, as it is nice to be able to have the story flow. There is a hint system if you get stuck but the only time I ever used it was when the games bugs reared their ugly little heads. The game is challenging and will take some real problem solving. Prepare to be stumped at times but not for long. Outcomes are pretty logical and you may feel a bit silly at times for not figuring it out sooner.
I was really looking forward to this one, and was a bit disappointed that my gaming heroes didn’t deliver a better project. Aside from the glaring flaws, I did enjoy the story and will be playing the additional chapters, regardless. The story is what makes this game a winner and the ending will definitely leave you wanting more.
A demo is available and episodes are $9.99 per or $29.99 for all 4. Episode 1 gifts about 5 hours of gameplay. Cognition is available for the PC, Mac and iPad.