An Erica Reed Thriller – Cognition Epiosde 4: The Cain Killer (Review)
This game was reviewed on the PC.
For those of us who were intrigued enough to purchase the entire collection ahead of time, An Erica Reed Thriller – Cognition Epiosde 4: The Cain Killer has finally been released! Today, patient participants and newcomers alike will finally have a chance to download and play through the final chapter in this epic saga, with Erica Reed continuing as the main protagonist, and Cordelia Smith lending a hand as well. Phoenix Online Studios takes us into the final hours of this point-and-click murder mystery to uncover the truth behind the Cain Killer and all his sordid affairs. Will justice finally be served, or will it be served up on a cold, steely torture device created by the very enemy it was searching for?
The main motivation behind our heroine Erica Reed began with Cognition Episode 1: The Hangman, when a serial killer abducted Erica’s brother Scott, and made Erica play through painful and torturous games in an attempt to save him. In the end, Scott died, leaving Erica with guilt, pain, and a burning hatred for the one responsible: The Cain Killer. Without spoiling the entire series, Erica swore to uncover the true identity of this murderer, and bring them to justice, which is what led her straight to his doorstep in this final chapter.
Erica is not only a haughty FBI agent from Boston, but she is also a Psion who has a unique supernatural gift. She can touch people or objects that are connected to an emotional event, and get glimpses of the past. Her companion in this game, Cordelia, also happens to be a Psion, and can see the future when she touches people or objects that are fated to be with her at a set point in time. With their combined powers, this unlikely duo may just have what it takes to bring down this killer once and for all. There’s only one catch: he knows they have these abilities, too. You’ll come across puzzles where the killer will rearrange every piece, or not touch something once it’s assembled, so Erica cannot jump into the past to see how it is solved. For some reason, while sometimes Cordelia can help, others she is simply at a loss (though the game does not explain why when clearly she should be able to aid in some way), so searching for clues and utilizing Erica’s powers will be imperative. Things get more interesting when you know your enemy this well, and the girls will find many obstacles in their way specifically suited to stop them in their tracks.
Playing catch up is always a task when you start playing a series mid-way through, or even just want to skip to the end. Thankfully, each episode gives a recap of the previous titles, so nobody will be lost no matter what point they start at. That being said, The Cain Killer is a lot shorter than the previous episodes, and while the ending does wrap everything up very nicely, it almost feels like that’s all it was: a wrap up to the game and not a game itself. If skipping over the buildup is a preference of yours, stray away from it this time around, as The Cain Killer does not hold up as a stand-alone game, even with the storyline catch-up it provides.
Some new additions to the game involve the ability to freely switch between controlling Erica and Cordelia (which was previously uncontrolled), and an indication of a character’s affection towards you. This time, Erica will have the option of saying different things to people, in order to win over their trust or affection. The more someone trusts you, the more willing they will be to provide you with information, or assist you in your investigation. You’ll be able to see their change in feelings towards you via a picture of their face to the left hand side of the screen that fills up with colour as they become more agreeable. While this feature could have been used in a lot of interesting ways, it doesn’t have enough time in the game to make it something players would rely on, as usually you’ll just agree with the other person’s viewpoint to get them to do whatever you want, and there is no use for the meter after you are done with the conversation at hand. It’s too bad, because this would have been a great addition to a longer game, or to the entire series, especially if what you did in previous games transferred over. Nevertheless, players will still have some control over very hostile situations based on this meter, so it is important to understand how it works, lest Erica get a bullet to the head.
If the graphic novel feel is your shtick, this game will be perfect for you. Stylized art springs to life in this 3D setting, and cutscenes are done with flashes of stills, as if you were reading a comic. Most of the graphical glitches seen in previous titles are absent this time around, with only the issue of disappearing and reappearing halfway across the room when trying to walk around, or objects passing through other objects (as if one of them was ethereal) sometimes when interacting with each other. Both Erica and Cordelia seem a lot softer this time around, with expressions that are more flattering, and even more realistic. Instead of the blank, hopeless stare we’d gotten used to seeing on Cordelia’s face, there are times when she gives a little smirk or a shocked expression. Little touches like this make for a nice transition into the final hour of the story.
Not surprisingly, the music was recycled this episode, and there are no new voice actors either. In other games, there were different characters, changes to tone, and substantial inputs that made you take note, such as Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” playing softly at the morgue in The Hangman. That being said, it is the climax and denouement of the entire series so most of the theme should be borrowed from the other three episodes. Audibly there was nothing new and exciting, though players will be mainly focused on the mystery at hand.
A real sticking point is the way the game ends; it was done fabulously. Instead of ruining the entire series for you, let’s just stick with the generalization that for a game that heavily relies on drama, the way this series ends will leave you absolutely satisfied. This is an ending most people will be glad they played through to get to, and is neither over-the-top, nor underachieving in its goals. For those who really want to dig into a point-and-click series, Cognition is a great story from start to finish, and one that you’ll want to show to your friends, even if only for the really morbid or shocking moments.
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