Reviews: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Episode 2: The Wise Monkey
In the second episode of the four-part series, someone close to Erica has been kidnapped by the Wise Monkey -- a serial killer fixated on the gruesome mutilation of her victims -- sending Erica on a race against time to save her friend's life.
Developer: Phoenix Online Studios
Publisher: Reverb Publishing
Release Date: 30 January 2013
Platform: PC (reviewed), Mac
Erica Reed returns in the continuation of Cognition. Cognition is a Kickstarter funded game from the team behind The Silver Lining, a fan-made King’s Quest sequel. Erica has psychic abilities that she can use to help unravel a crime scene and discover hidden details about a case. In the first episode, you learn about Erica’s ability and the untimely loss of her brother; a case that was never solved. Episode 2 picks up Erica’s story.
The Story So Far
When we last left Erica Reed, she had just had a shootout with a criminal and found her boss had been murdered. This episode picks up right where the old episode left off. A new director of Erica’s department is assigned and refuses to put Erica on the case of her boss’s murder. This game starts out with a bang. As Erica talks to her new boss, a fellow employee is kidnapped right from the police station. It becomes Erica’s job to take over his case, track down the Wise Monkey killer, and save her coworker.
The Wise Monkey has been killing victims and then removing their eyes, ears, or tongue. There are four victims to date and Erica must unravel the mystery to find her coworker. She starts by visiting the Dean at Berkley College of music. All the victims have some correlation with that place. Then she collects clues that will lead her to locations, both old and new.
This chapter is primarily self-contained. All puzzles and plot points are related to the specific story of The Wise Monkey; it only touches briefly on the long-term story arc of Erica’s brother. There is just a large enough hint of some of the deeper issues surrounding Erica’s powers; but it is just a taste and will leave you wanting more.
I had hailed the previous episode as being a very strong story, with out-of-place and illogical puzzles. This episode continues a strong story, and the puzzles have improved. The puzzles are much better integrated into the story line without feeling illogical or forced.
In this game Erica learns a new use for her power. Certain items can hold onto the memory of events that they were a part of. By using her power on multiple items at once; Erica can revisit the memory. This is the primary use of Erica’s power during this game and most of the puzzles lie around finding the items that must be used together and deciphering the visions that they present. Unfortunately, a lot of the powers that Erica discovered and used in the previous episode get underutilized this time around.
I felt the graphics of this episode improved over the previous episode. I wouldn’t call it a surprising jump in quality. I just suspect the team is growing more comfortable with its tools and are able to utilize them better. The colors felt brighter and the artistic style more confident.
This game continues to show that the Phoenix Online team is honing its craft and discovering good ways to tell stories through the gaming medium. If you enjoyed first episode, you’ll like this one even better. If you’re a fan of adventure games then you’ll want to check this series out.
Final Grade: A
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