Cognition: Episode 1 – The Hangman Review (PC)

written by Stephen Hanley on 23.1.13 Cognition08-640x340

Cognition is a new four part adventure thriller from Phoenix Online Studios which follows Erica Reed, an Agent working for the Boston FBI department. We first meet Erica during the prologue of the game, in the midst of a case to catch a serial killer, who has kidnapped her brother.

Straight from the get-go, Cognition sets up the dark overtone that is prevalent throughout the game though the use of deep emotional narrative as we follow the actions of Erica Reed, an FBI agent who is being haunted by the unclosed case of the Cain Killer. The game certainly makes sure you know it’s not going to be one to sit down and play with your kids as the use of profanity, violence and crime scenes provide it with the dark and grim overtone we were introduced to at the start of the game. While these scenes could be disturbing to some, I found that rather than be used to enhance horror, they helped me to understand the character of Erica and immerse me in her world and help understand her motivations.

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The main aspect of the game that distinguishes it from other point and click adventure games is the use of Erica’s cognitive abilities. These abilities allow Erica to see the past of the crime scene and in turn give her clues to what happened. The crime scene then almost turns into a puzzle based game where through using the various abilities Erica will gain along her journey and the combination you use them in becomes important. For example if you touch some items at the crime scene you may use Projection which will allow Erica to view aspects of the crime as it happened. Another ability Erica gains is Regression which enables you to dig around in someone else’s memory. These mechanics help to make Cognition a uniquely different game to other crime-themed games and as a result provides a backbone onto which the rest of the series can easily be developed while providing an entertaining aspect to the game that won’t get old very quick.

The use of dialogue throughout the game is also rather refreshing and enjoyable, again building upon the previously introduced dark overtone through the use of a very adult narrative that could be highly disturbing to some. The game also features great usage of branched dialogue, which means that different things could happen depending on how you talk to people, which can provide some rather odd but entertaining interactions with a cast of colourful secondary characters.

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Graphically, Cognition also tries to distinguish itself from usual point and click adventures through the use of 2D comic book-style cut scenes and moody lighting of dark background which give vibrance to the detail of the background art. Unfortunately the game also declines in quality to an extent here with some rather dodgy 3D modelling of certain areas and Erica’s never moving hair, but it’s enough to consider the game graphically flawed by any means. The music also helps to create the dark and menacing atmosphere that we would expect from a game of this variety. What stood out to me was the quality of the voice acting throughout the game, which was rather good especially considering this is Phoenix Online Studios first attempt with a brand new IP.

For a first effort with a brand new IP, Phoenix Online Studios have done quite the remarkable job. Cognition isn’t perfect, but what it does offer us is a unique click and point adventure that with the use of adult-level narrative, interesting mechanics, a great voice cast and a compelling story, leaves me with no doubt that there will be more to this franchise and that Phoenix Online Studios will create a truly remarkable adventure series for us all to enjoy.

Cognition is purchasable from Phoenix Online Studios for $10 and is currently looking to be greenlit over on Steam, so click here and give them a vote as this is a game that deserve to be on steam.

3-5 stars
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