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Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode 1: Hangman – Review

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 1: Hangman - Review

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode 1: Hangman – Review

A chilling point-and-click adventure that follows Erica Reed, a Boston-based FBI agent, haunted by the unsolved case of a serial killer who took her brother’s life.


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Genre: Adventure/Thriller
Release date: October 30, 2012
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Mac 

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Episode 1: Hangman

Hangman is the first episode of Cognition, a story about Erica Reed.  Erica is a cop who uses her mental powers to help solve cases.  Cognition is a game from Phoenix Studios, the team behind a fan made King’s Quest sequel, the Silver Lining.  This is also the first game I’ve played that was funded through Kickstarter.

The Opening

The game starts out by dumping you in the middle of a case.  Erica and her partner have just shown up at the graveyard in a rush.  They are after someone who has kidnapped Erica’s brother.  I found the opening scene to be very intense, emotionally.  It is a great way to get players hooked on the game; however, I’m not sure it would have made as much sense as it did if I hadn’t gotten to read the prequel comic first; I strongly recommend picking that up with the game if possible.

At the graveyard, Erica gets the first use of her power trying to determine the sequence of events that will let her into the vault where her brother is captured.  There are a few puzzles in this, but nothing that will challenge an experienced gamer for too long. The intro piece ends with the death of Erica’s brother, and then the opening credits roll.

The main Cognition story picks up a few years later; and Erica’s boss has just closed the case related to her brother’s death.  It’s late at night, and her partner shows up to bring her to the scene of a new case.  Someone has been hung; and it is up to Erica to unravel the mystery and find the killer.  

The Puzzles

The coolest part of the puzzles is when Erica has to use her ability to discover something about a crime scene or obtain other data that is pertinent to the game.  You can press the “cognition” button in the bottom left corner of the screen and the screen will light up with extra hotspots that Erica can interact with.  As you progress through this first episode, Erica will gain more control over her powers and thus be able to do different things.  You’ll unlock three different abilities throughout this game, intuition, projection, and regression.  Discovering them and learning how to use them is a fantastic part of the gameplay.  

I found the puzzles to be suitable for an adventure game, but a little contrived at times.  For example, Erica wants to look at something inside her boss’s office and instead of waiting for their afternoon meeting, she decides to break in.  It’s not something that I would expect to see in the real world.  

One portion of the game has Erica conversing with a possible witness in order to get information about some of his past dealings.  Erica has to use her regression ability to correct his memories so that he can remember, and share, the old memory.  This game sequence and the ability is a really cool implementation.  Unfortunately, this puzzle has a bit of a plot hole when determining the date of the memory.  I’m trying to keep this review slightly on the spoiler-free side of things, so I’ll refrain from details.

If you ever get stuck you can just pull out Erica’s phone.  There is a nice “text with dad” feature which is the basis for the in-game hints.  I got halfway through the episode before starting to use them.  I’ll admit a few puzzles had me stumped.  

What Next?

I feel the story of this game is so strong, it is a surprise that it came from the team who put together The Silver Lining.  The Silver Lining tries to conflate a lot of unrelated King’s Quest characters and events into a cohesive backstory that it sometimes feels forced.  Cognition proves that all they needed was a clean slate to tell their own story.  

The episode had a touch of the cinematic and reminded me of a TV Show; like a mix of your favorite CSI-styled show with a touch of Medium.  But, that works well for the story.  This episode was primarily self-contained, giving you just enough hints of what will happen throughout the full season.  It’s a good game, and I suggest you check it out.

Grade: A- 
+ Good game with extremely strong story. 
Creative and cool use of “cognition” ability.
–  Puzzles sometimes a bit contrived.


Minimum System Requirements:
Operating System – Windows: XP/Vista/7 Mac: Snow Leopard (10.6.X)
Processor – 2.0 GHz
Memory – 2 GB RAM
Video Card – ATI or NVidia with 512 MB RAM*
Hard disk – 2.5 GB free space

Recommended System Requirements
Operating System – Windows: XP/Vista/7 Mac: Snow Leopard (10.6.X)
Processor – 2.0 GHz
Memory – 4 GB RAM
Video Card –ATI or NVidia with 1 GB RAM*
Hard disk – 2.5 GB free space

*Not recommended to play on Intel systems with integrated/shared video memory

Jeffry Houser

Jeffry Houser

Jeffry's first memory of gaming was blowing himself up in Zork by walking into the gas room with a torch. Then he tried King's Quest on a PCjr and has been a fan of the genre ever since.Jeffry Houser is a technical entrepreneur that likes to share cool stuff with other people. In his professional career, Jeffry runs an IT Consulting form. He has a Computer Science degree from the days before the business met the Internet and has built a career around using technology to solve business problems. He has written four technical books, over 30 articles and hundreds of podcasts. Jeffry has published a casual game on Android, titled Igor Knots and the Magonda Maze.In his spare time Jeffry is a musician, writer, podcaster, and recording engineer. His first table top game should come to Kickstarter in early 2015. You can read his personal blog at

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