12 April 2013

[SquareGo] Cognition Episode 1: The Hangman

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, is a game split into four “episodes”, and this review covers Episode 1: The Hangman, which introduces us to the main character of the series, Erica Reed.

Read the rest of the review over at SquareGo, or click below! >>

Erica is an FBI investigator living in Boston, gifted with what she calls “intuition”, a psychic power that allows her to gain clues by touching objects or people and seeing flashes of the past in her mind's eye. Using Erica's intuition, along with the traditional adventure-game mechanic of accumulating handy items and using them to solve puzzles in the environment, gives the player a wealth of tools to investigate a strange murder case. A number of plot threads aren't entirely resolved by the end of the game – giving space for the following three episodes to tie them together.

The game is fairly linear, taking Erica from one area of Boston to another, acquiring clues and solving puzzles. The game's puzzle system will be familiar to anyone who's played adventure games before, and there are a number of handy features to make the game more accessible, including the option to highlight objects you can interact with, and a tips system for each stage of the game.

At times, the puzzles can be utterly infuriating; several involve large leaps of logic that are difficult to reason or intuit, or require the player to get Erica to do things that, in the context of the gritty-real-world-crime-drama that is set up, seem out of character. Some of the puzzles are so difficult to intuit that, short of taking every object in the inventory and rubbing them against every object in every environment on the map until something works, it's inordinately difficult to work out. It can also take a lot of time just to get from one place to another, to tab through dialogue, and there are a number of occasions where the player will need to backtrack.

Erica herself is a fun character to play as; most of Cognition's other characters are either unremarkable or trope-laden; for example, Erica's partner in the FBI is an overweight man in a beige trenchcoat and a creased shirt – with no tie – whose maniacal love for donuts even factors into one of the game's puzzles at one point.

Cognition uses a lot of cel-shaded 3D models alongside painted backgrounds, and many of the game's cutscenes also use painted still images, which, accompanied by the stylized subtitle/dialogue balloons, lend a comic-book feel to the whole story.

The game's audio is great, with music that's very fitting, memorable, and gives the game a brooding, sombre tone - and a fast-paced, high-octane thrill during the notable and not-infrequent action sequences in the game. The voice acting is good as a whole; however, Erica seems to slip in and out of her Boston accent, which can be a little jarring at times. Rose, the Antique Shop owner, says the word “dear” so many times that it draws attention to how forced and artificial the dialogue that was written for her sounds when spoken.

Overall, Cognition is a decent adventure game that provides between six and eight hours worth of play: players of other point-and-click adventures will find something to enjoy in Cognition, and those new to the genre may find it a good jumping-on point, especially if they enjoy police-procedural drama mixed with supernatural elements.

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