Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is your typical detective story, if a little more adult and gruesome than normal with blood and death seemingly everywhere. You play as Erica Reed, a Boston based FBI agent that has cognitive powers. Like most point and click adventure games, you’ll be looking around hand drawn set pieces for clues and talking to a cast of strange people as you try and solve the case of the hangman in episode 1 of a planned 4 episodes total.
The game opens off with your character’s backstory in a rushed, tension filled moment as you try to save your little brother at the exact time that it tries to teach you the UI and gameplay features. By trying to introduce a heavy point in the story at the same time you are just starting the game and learning the ropes, it leaves you feeling either unconcerned or frustrated, both of which are not a good place to start.
The game gets far more interesting when you can use your cognitive powers to find new clues and progress through the storyline of your case. Unfortunately, the counterpoint to those moments are just about every other aspect of the game. Between the cheesy dialogue and fairly easy puzzles, it leaves you a little tired and bored by the time you get back to the story again. At one point early in the game, your partner and co-workers keep bringing up an egg sandwich like its funny or interesting when its none of the above, especially while you are in the middle of a fairly gruesome crime scene. It’s writing like this that happens on a consistent basis and it kills any flow this game could have had. Of course, the voice acting doesn’t help that feeling at all, with some lines clearly just being read from a script while other lines are read with the complete opposite emotion the scene calls for.
As you progress through the game, you get met with the usual point and click fare of looking around for items and using them on their proper counterparts. The UI is a little clunky for this genre and definitely could have used some user testing, but overall isn’t terrible. The soundtrack is a weird industrial rock theme but it works with the darker moments of the game very well even if it doesn’t necessarily stand out. Some of the most disappointing issues with the game are just bugs and a lack of attention to details in spots. I noticed some issues with animations not being fluid between running and walking transitions, parts where your character clips into walls as well as some art issues where things got pixelated and looked off. For the art being such a main selling point of the game, its more than a little sad to see issues like this come up.
Cognition isn’t a bad game, but it really isn’t a well polished game in any aspect. Between bugs, art issues, animation issues, odd pacing, bad writing and some really mediocre voice acting, it just feels rushed and sloppy. This game could have been so much better if Phoenix Online Studios put more time and more money into it but that promise of a good game still shines through at times. It could be a direct result of the game being backed through Kickstarter, but it seems like it was pushed out to appease the backers before it was really ready and for that, it’s just mediocre. With Jane Jensen on the team, I expected a much better game in all regards and just feel disappointed with the poor execution. Hopefully with the other episodes, the game will be perfected and you’ll see a much more evolved story and the polish this game deserves.
[+Interesting cognitive mechanic] [+Good soundtrack] [-Terrible writing] [-Buggy] [-bad voice acting]