Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Reviewed
By Nathaniel Liles
When I first received Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, I didn’t know what to expect. I took it that this game identified itself as largely in the same class as thriller books, so I knew that I was in for something story-driven, and I was definitely down for that. Given Cognition’s singular focus on story above all else, I actually started to get a little excited, although I still didn’t know where the game would stand between being a visual novel or a point and click game. It turns out that in the end, Cognition was a unique little game, split into four episodes of point and click style gameplay that follows the tale of Erica Reed as she unravels and connects seemingly unconnected crimes. Was Cognition the smash hit its backers wanted it to be, or did it fall short?
Let me go ahead and get this out of the way: There were a few things about this game I hated, but I do not hate this game as a whole. If you don’t have the time or patience to read the full article, skip to the last paragraph now, because I talk about the bad stuff first. Cognition is not a good-looking or well animated game by any stretch of the imagination. The comic book cutscenes are a nice touch, and they’re usually well-executed, but the 3D rendered character models and backgrounds are awful. The perspective is constantly out of whack, making everything feel disjointed and extremely separate, and most of the time I was so aware of this that I couldn’t take the game seriously. The character animations were originally famous for being a bit buggy on Steam, but now that all that’s been patched, this game doesn’t have any excuse for being so weirdly animated. Walking, lip-syncing, and gestural animations are all a bit jerky and seemingly rushed.
The storyline of the game, however, is where it shines, and that’s what’s most important here. Cognition tells an extremely exciting story with some powerful twists and turns that genuinely shocked me. I am very hard to impress, and most books are boring to me because I can figure out the entirely of the story by the blurb on the back, and Cognition surprised me. Unfortunately, all this surprise and powerful storytelling is soiled by the fact that the main character, Erica Reed, is completely unlikable, rude, arrogant, and disrespectful. The events are powerful, meaningful, and artfully connected to each other, but almost every single character in this game actively annoyed me. It’s a damn shame, too. I really wanted to like this game, but the characters drove me up a wall. They weren’t necessarily badly written at all, they just annoyed me personally, and you should take that bit with a grain of salt.
All in all, I simply don’t think Cognition was the game for me. The storyline was a gripping tale of redemption and discovery that connected itself very well and had a satisfying full-circle conclusion, but the terrible design of the in-game world and rushed animation took me out of the experience and made it hard to take things seriously. Cognition was marred with unlikable, although well-written characters, and strange loooong pauses in gameplay and dialogue made the entire experience jarring and uncomfortable. However, if you can appreciate a good story Cognition is not to be missed. The massive, glaring issues this game has don’t prevent it from being worth your time if you can appreciate the story without all the other stuff bothering you. You also may very well like the characters much more than I did, I’m weird about people and I didn’t like these personally. They’re not badly written. My final verdict is this: If you want to play a thriller, play this one, but if you aren’t directly interested in detective stories, point and click adventures, slow puzzle solving, and listening to people talk, stay away from this one. This is a bit of a niche, but there is an audience for it.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/nathaniel.jpg” ] Nathaniel Liles is a freelance writer, writing major, and indie musician based in Southern Indiana. While procrastinating or avoiding real-world responsibility, Nathaniel enjoys playing rhythm games, action RPGs, and very colorful games with many bright, flashing lights. You can listen to Nathaniel sing songs or download his music for free at http://nathanielliles.bandcamp.com/. [/author]