Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode One (“The Hangman”)
There’s nothing like a good mystery every now and again to keep the mind sharp. I used to be very fond of the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective games back when I was a kid. I haven’t seen a lot of detective games in a while, so needless to say that I was excited to get my hands on this particular one. “Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller” is a point and click mystery adventure series that contains a total of four episodes. Episode one (“The Hangman”), puts the player in control of Erica Reed, an FBI agent who must solve a mysterious killing. The killing may or may not be connected to the tragic event that claimed the loss of Erica’s brother three years ago and in either case, you’ll be haunted by the event throughout the game. Before we take a look at this particular episode in further detail, I’d like to thank Katie Hallahan from Phoenix Online Studios for providing me with a free review copy.
Before the game loaded through Desura, I had the option to adjust the screen resolution, graphics quality, and fullscreen toggle via a window pop-up. Once you get to the main menu, you’ll have the option to start a new case, load an existing save, adjust game settings, and visit the official website. In the settings menu, you’ll be able to toggle hints, subtitles, and tutorials, change the language, adjust audio sliders, and choose from various anti-aliasing settings. Between the initial window pop-up and the in-game settings menu, the basics were covered and thus had no concerns in that department.
Once the case begins, you’ll be presented with an interface that I found very easy to navigate. The upper left hand corner of the screen gives you access to your menu options, your phone, and a question mark that allows the player to see all of the objects in the environment that can be interacted with. The upper right hand corner of the screen is a button that hides / unhides an inventory and command display. Later on, you’ll be given the ability to make use of Erica’s cognition talent, which allows her to see events that have occurred in the past. Clicking the blue button in the lower left hand corner activates the cognition mode, after which you can click on an object that is sparkling blue and the button again to see a short cutscene. Down the line, you’ll be able to unlock other cognitive abilities that will assist you in your investigation. The game will also eventually allow you to travel via a map system. I initially had an issue with it, as I had no cursor and was unable to select anything when it appeared. Hitting “B” on my keyboard seemed to enable the interface and the cursor. The map system allows you to travel to different areas in order to talk to various people and collect the evidence you’ll need to progress in the story.
The game advertises itself as a point and click adventure, and that couldn’t be more accurate. Most of the time, you’ll tell Erica to interact with various objects in her present environment simply by clicking on it with your mouse. Some objects allow Erica to interact with them in more than one way and luckily, the game brings up a command wheel that will assist you in what you wanted to do. I like the fact that interacting an object with something in my inventory is as simple as selecting the item from my inventory, clicking on the object I want to interact with, and hitting the briefcase icon/command. The player will also be allowed to talk to others from time to time and sometimes, you’ll be able to pick and choose your dialogue options. There are times where your dialogue choices affect the responses of others, which is a nice touch.
In between wandering around and trying to figure out how to progress are exciting action / puzzle sequences that will get your heart pumping. Without spoiling the story too much, one particular puzzle had me using my cognitive abilities to figure out what wires I needed to cut to disarm a particularly nasty trap. Another action sequence involved clicking on the right objects to stave off the attacker, which can be a bit frustrating a times. The action sequence in the beginning of the game, for example, will leave you dying over and over again until you find the right combination of actions…it almost reminds me of Dragon’s Lair in that regard. Luckily, the game will load you back to the beginning of the action sequence rather than your last manual save.
As I mentioned earlier, “Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller” is played out over a total of four episodes. Each episode is a standalone game that can be purchased separately at $9.99 each, though those in it for the long haul can purchase a season pass for $29.99 which gives them access to all four episodes as they come available. Since one episode leads into the other (with episode one ending in a surprise twist), the latter option would probably be the cheapest course of action. Currently (as of 2/18/13), episodes one and two are available for purchase. While some may scoff at that, it’s important to note that Telltale did something similar with the “Back to the Future” and “The Walking Dead” series.
Overall, I found my first experience with the series to be a positive one. The first episode’s story was engaging from start to finish and I found it hard to put down. It took roughly four hours or so to complete and depending on whether or not you get assistance from dad (the in-game hint system), it should take you roughly the same amount of time. The art styles were fantastic, reminding me of something you’d find in a really good comic book. The puzzles weren’t overly difficulty, but they weren’t so easy that I didn’t have to put my mind to work. I’ve been waiting for a game like this for a good, long while and I’m pleased by what I’ve experienced thus far. As a parent, I must warn you other parents that there is harsh language / gruesome scenery at times and I therefore would only recommend this game to mature teenagers and adults. If you’re in the mood to be swept up by a compelling, interactive mystery story then I highly recommend that you take a look at the “Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller” series.
Final Verdict: 8/10
You can learn more about and purchase this game and/or the season pass via the official site, here:
You can purchase episode one through Desura, here:
You can help bring the game to Steam by voting for it on its Greenlight page, here:
You can read all four reviews here:
You can view video play sessions here: