Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode 2: The Wise Monkey Review
This game was reviewed on the PC.
It feels like only yesterday that fans got a taste of the dark and dangerous with the release of the point-and-click thriller Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode 1: Hangman. Released today, Phoenix Online Studios throws you back into the action with the latest installment in the Cognition series entitled The Wise Monkey. It’s actually been one series that I have personally gotten the most entertainment from in a long while, so I was more than thrilled to pick up this new game and take a stroll through the streets of Boston once again!
For those who are just joining us in the world of Cognition, you are FBI agent Erica Reed, a hard-hitting, no-surrender type of woman from Boston with a unique ability to see into the past when she touches certain objects. Erica struggles with the terrible side-effects of using her powers and must rely on the guidance of Rose, an antiques shopkeeper who knows more about the supernatural than even Erica would care to acknowledge. In spite of Erica’s slight disbelief that there is anything supernatural about her, she will take any advantage she can get. After all, this is an incredibly helpful gift that can be imperative to solving crimes quickly – especially when your friends and family are in mortal danger!
You’ll begin with an opening movie that plays through the main points of the first part of the series (Hangman), so that you can get caught up with the character and dive right in. For those of you who have not played the first game and don’t want any spoilers, you may want to skip this paragraph! In the first Cognition game, Eric’as brother Scott is brutally murdered by a serial killer whose M.O. is abducting and killing siblings. From there, she misses her opportunity to save her boss, Madison Davies, from yet another serial killer and now has the guilt of two deaths weighing heavily on her heart. With her brother’s murder unsolved and looming over her entire career and the loss of her confidence as an FBI agent following the death of Davies, Erica must put aside her feelings and focus her attention on a new threat: A serial killer, The Wise Monkey, has taken her co-worker, Agent Sully. Even with her mixed feelings about Sully and the on-again-off-again romantic relationship that they have, the anger that is building up inside Erica to offset her helplessness is overwhelming. She becomes emotionally rigid, alert, and determined to find this killer quickly – no matter what the cost.
Common sense and deduction can sometimes be absent in this game, which is a little bit of a disappointment. An example of this (and something you will have to continue to get used to while playing this title) is the lack of help from your co-workers. When Sully goes missing, your new boss says he’ll be calling everyone into work on this case – however, even Agent John McCoy, your beloved partner is too busy to help you find Sully. The game even goes so far as to place several agents in the office, who sit there but aren’t free to talk to you whatsoever – be it case related or even basic politeness. Furthermore, until you trigger the third part of the storyline, the crime scene beside your desk (blood and body parts included) just sits there: no police tape, nobody looking into it, or any kind of attention paid to it. You can literally just waltz over it with no indication it’s anything more than a general pile of spillage. This can majorly detract from the realism of being a detective, or even feeling like you are a free-moving character in a story at all. To be fair, the game is meant to be but a mysterious snippet in the long road to the Erica Reed series’ conclusion, so as long as you aren’t incredibly detail-oriented, you will still get a lot of value out of the gameplay for the cost.
This time around, the visual effects have changed ever so slightly, while still maintaining the theme and overall familiarity of the previous game. I noticed far fewer flashbacks and artistic comic-strip style slides, though much of the same feel is very present. You still have the graphic-novel tone to the artwork, and the characters have an almost puppet-like appearance to them. It can make your gaming experience that much more surreal, which even in a detective game, can be a welcome change to the constant barrage of true-to-life games. Because of this effect, it is much easier to forgive the above-mentioned issues and feel like you are playing a game instead of re-living someone else’s life. To compliment this, the incredibly well-placed soundtrack returns with the same voice actors and even the famous “Moonlight Sonata” that we are all so fond of when we enter the morgue. There are also a few more fast-paced songs with a stronger drum beat during action sequences that really help you feel the urgency behind the scene. Couple the visuals and music, and I am certain Phoenix Online Studios will see even more awards in their future (though, albeit, I’m not actually a psychic; I just play one in Cognition)!
A few more notable glitches are present in this episode as opposed to its predecessor, which only sports a few minor issues. The first noticeable glitch that was present in Hangman returns: the inability for the characters to properly hold or interact with objects. I actually had a great chuckle during one interview when it looked like Erica was sitting on the lap of one of the girls that she was questioning, as it is so odd to see such unprofessionalism from an FBI Agent! Another big issue that was consistent was that when Erica tries to walk across a room, she will vanish and suddenly re-appear several feet away. Last but certainly not least was the infamous Fallout: New Vegas head-spinning glitch, which rears its ugly head on a few occasions in The Wise Monkey. For those who are unfamiliar with said glitch, Erica Reed’s head spins – quite literally – twirling around and around for a few seconds, still attached to her neck which is twisting like a piece of rope. This is an absolutely creepy effect that really jolts you out of the game. Thankfully, the map glitch from Episode 1 has been corrected, and though the load time between scenes is longer than the original, the transition is much smoother.
Much like Hangman, The Wise Monkey really uses the storyline to captivate its audience and make this game worth owning. If there is one thing that dominates the gaming world today, it’s a compelling story, and if that is important to you, there will be absolutely no disappointment with your purchase. The sick and twisted revelations behind each and every new step you take will keep you wrapped up in the cold and un-loving embrace of Erica Reed’s world. And for those avid followers of the King’s Quest series – there are a few neat little comments and hat-tips to the games that will keep you smiling, even when the Boston murder scene seems too bleak to handle. If you feel like you’ve already missed the bus on the Reed thriller route, don’t – you can buy a package from Phoenix Online Studios that will include all the Episodes released, and the new ones as they come out!
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode 2: The Wise Monkey receives a 4.0/5.0
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