Cogntion: An Erica Reed Thriller is getting scarier and grittier with each new episode. The Wise Monkey, the second chapter in Cognition continues to deliver an impressive and surprisingly mature narrative, with yet another chilling, yet exciting investigation that picks up from where The Hangman left off.
Things are even more personal for Erica after her run in with Hangman and the emotional roller coaster she was forced to sit in and endure. Thanks to that particular case, she reminded of her brother’s death at the hand of a madman, and thus woke psychic powers that helped her get close to the answers in the previous episode. Sadly, that case resulted in the death of her Boston FBI boss and at the very start of The Wise Monkey, one of her co-workers is abducted and mutilated by yet another serial killer. She never catches a break, does she?
Episode two builds up upon an already solid base left by the premiere. Cognition plays much like a classic point and click adventure game, with limited inventory management and the use of special powers in specific points in the story. Investigation is made easy thanks to a simple yet functional interface that has you using not only those powers on certain background objects, but also with people.
Depending on the color of the “aura” emanating from someone or something, a certain power can be used. Synergy is the new addition to Erica’s abilities, which can be used to connect various objects in her possession and form a mental image of how they might have been used previously. Much like the regression and recursion powers that were heavily used in The Hangman, Synergy plays a big role in this episode, and for the most part, works extremely well.
It’s worth mentioning that The Wise Monkey‘s pacing feels a lot smoother in comparison to the premiere. It makes some intelligent decision in regards to helping you keep track of your options, like places you’ve been and won’t be of much help returning to, which is of great help in an investigation game that gives as many options as there are in this particular episode. There are a handful of returning locations that are used rather brilliantly and unlike some adventure game seasons that shall remain nameless, they don’t feel like rehashes.
Cognition‘s presentation works well in most parts. Polygonal characters still move a little stiffly and sometimes defy the laws of anatomy in their animations, but end up looking good when not in ‘much’ motion. As with The Hangman, it’s the motion comic cutscenes that steal the show and help deliver the mature nature of the story pretty impressively, in conjunction with an awesome soundtrack and decent voice acting throughout the episode.
Some of the puzzles in episode two are truly gut wrenching. Even though there is no mention of a time limit or a visible clock, the scene tension is still in full effect. There’s a bit of going back and forth to your notes in a particular section of the episode that’s bound to challenge your stomach and a little of your brain too.
Phoenix Online Studios is putting an amazing effort that sets the indie adventure game bar darn high. In terms of gameplay and writing, Cognition continues to deliver. It’s well worth putting aside some of the aforementioned technical inconsistencies in favor of experiencing such a well-written and conducted story that promises to go even further with later episodes.