Game Review

Deep story of 'Cognition' draws in players

2012-10-30T12:00:00Z 2012-10-31T13:56:22Z Deep story of 'Cognition' draws in playersBy ALAN SIMMER, Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

If you've ever wanted to catch a killer, you've got your chance in Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, a point-and-click adventure about an FBI agent with some serious emotional baggage and some otherworldly powers.

A little backstory: Cognition developer Phoenix Online Studios came about as a group of hardcore King's Quest fans labored to create a capstone ninth game in the series, The Silver Lining. (For my take on that project, head here.) That group of volunteers has now put out their first retail game with Cognition.

Some of the issues the team faced with Lining have reared their ugly heads again. The writing in Cognition feels overwrought, with too much exposition during key moments and banter that can feel artificial at times.

And though the voice acting is good on the whole, the weakest link is, rather unfortunately, Erica, whose Boston accent comes and goes. (I would be happy if it went entirely.)

The game does look great. The backgrounds are beautiful and the 3-D modeling has improved, though eyeballs can roll around a little too loosely on occasion.

But the main thrust of the game, the puzzles, are pretty solidly in line with Phoenix's other work. Using Erica's extra-sensory skills, she can help extract forgotten details from witnesses' memories and look into the past for clues. It's a neat mechanic that provides another dimension to lock-and-key puzzles.

While some of the finer plot details require a suspension of disbelief --- there is zero chance an FBI agent can walk into a crime scene and pick up evidence with her bare hands, then take it home with her before it's catalogued --- the overall story is pretty engaging.

The first episode centers on a series of hangings, and the story urges the player ever onward to figure out whodunit --- and who may have dunit to whodunit.

The game is fairly adult; every swear word is chewed on with something akin to relish, and I managed to get my brains quite literally blown out twice in the first five minutes --- and that was after willingly stabbing myself in the legs.

But it would be impossible for a game about catching serial killers to whitewash their heinous crimes, so the mood fits. It also helps to set it apart from lighter fare like your Monkey Islands.

I'd recommend trying out the demo to see if it's your cup of tea. If so, grab the season pass. When the story gets a hold of you, you'll want to stick around for the resolution.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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