We revisit the world of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller again, this time in an effort to catch the Wise Monkey Killer. Just like in the previous episode, you play as Erica Reed, an FBI agent with a gruesome past and cognitive powers as you try and solve crimes committed by serial killers.
Let me start off here by saying how disappointing this game really is. My review of the first episode gave it a 3/5 for being a really great concept that just fell flat on its face in a myriad of ways. Episode 2 goes even further south by being far more frustrating with its gameplay while having none of the charm from the first episode. Folks, this game drags on and you end up wishing that you were a victim of the crime you are trying to guide your character through.
The game starts with a little ‘Previously On’ recap of the first episode and then immediately puts you back into the FBI office to ask you questions about evidence in the first game. If you didn’t play the first episode of Cognition and you guess, well that sucks for you as this game doesn’t have time to care about people jumping right in. The writing could have been fine tuned a little bit to incorporate the story from the first episode in, but just wasn’t and I’m not sure why.
The art style remains from the first episode and is the highlight of the game at this point. Visually stunning hand painted backgrounds are unfortunately met with terribly aliased characters and low textured props. Characters still have weird animation glitches that should have been sorted out from the first game and refined to be far more smooth and natural. This is a shame because the artistic style is really a selling point and could either be perfected or forgiven for its relatively minor missteps if the rest of the game was polished or well done.
Yet again, the writing is beyond lackluster just like its predecessor. The dialog is significantly better than it was in the first episode, but that’s like saying the Jersey Shore cast is an improvement over Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie… In the end, we all lose regardless. The game and its writing just don’t seem to know how to pace things properly at all. The entire story is pushed under a tension that would be great if the game kept up but is instead met with gameplay roadblocks that are either poor game design or bad development issues. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, a potential love interest and colleague is kidnapped and the story puts an enormous amount of pressure and tension on you to rush. Yet, the game mechanics are incredibly slow and the pressure is unrelenting, which quickly gets frustrating and inevitably kills the main story.
The voice acting is just as bad as it was the first time around. Since the game takes place in Boston, there is the obligatory accent which is fine. What is not fine is that only obvious words like “car” are pronounced with that accent as characters slide in and out of their accents at will. Just like in the first episode, the voice acting also seems to have one tone regardless of the situation and sometimes comes off like its being read right into the microphone from a sheet of paper.
Cognition’s UI has the same irritating quirks as the first game, but really didn’t hold me back as much as in the first episode. What was a major letdown were the puzzles though. Between being either too easy and short or just maddeningly finicky, these are a large aspect that ended up as filler to extend the game instead of being a good mix-up on the gameplay. Going from area to area takes too long to load and while I appreciate the transitions and cut scenes, it’s something that gets grating when you forget to do something minor and have to jump back and sit through without a skip option.
Really the best way I can describe my feelings on the game is to say that with The Walking Dead coming out as a great example of story writing in a point and click game, and LA Noire being a really great detective story, this game just can’t seem to do either very well. The story would feel far more at home as a novel and the detective gameplay is really just a hindrance to the story getting told. The game is left unpolished and with the same issues from episode 1 to episode 2, has the stench of a lack of care around it. Yet again, I so badly want this game to be better than it is and more on the line of what we’ve seen from other game of the year quality titles like The Walking Dead. The concept is a solid one and the pedigree of Jane Jensen is as good as you can get here, so there is still a shining light that all will be resolved. While I hope that they can turn Cognition around with the next episode, I’m quickly getting the feeling that it won’t happen.
[+ Great art style] [+Dialogue is improved from episode 1] [- Animation glitches] [- Awful voice acting] [- Bad story pacing] [- Unskippable cutscenes and transitions] [- Half thought out puzzles]