Originally posted on Steam via Greenlight, the community found it to be worthy of joining the Steam ranks, and is now available for $29.99. With a strong pedigree of developers between Phoenix Online Studios, Jane Jensen of Gabriel Knight fame, and comic book artist Romano Molenaar helping as well, the game oozes atmosphere. Telling the grisly tale of a serial killer through the eyes of Erica Reed, the FBI agent on a personal vendetta to find the killer and hunt them down, Cognition shows how the point-and-click adventure genre has matured through the years. With the murderer sending memos consisting of body parts to the heroes, the game isn't for the weak of stomach. The voice actors do a good job of pulling you into the story, and the music and graphics create an atmosphere that feels like a cross between CSI and the X-Files.
An adventure game such as this has to have a catch to draw you back, and for Cognition, it is the controlled characters' ability to see the unseen, whether it be the future, the past, or certain hidden elements. This allows you to envision what exactly you need to set up prior to a major event occuring, thereby showing you the puzzle you must solve to stay alive. As with any episodic game, the control schemes get deeper as you delve further into the series, and Episode 4 introduces a trust meter of sorts that has a heavy impact on where the story leads. Whether it be within a single scene or across the entire adventure, your reactions to other characters will fill or empty a trust meter, and this will effect how they interact with you. Make the right decisions, and you're looking at smooth sailing with all the support you need. Piss enough people off, and you'll find yourself dead on the floor.
Episodic games also rely on character development. A full retail game can draw you in with less interesting characters and situations. For a retail game, it's "you already bought the game, so big deal if you aren't as thrilled." If an episodic game section ends without you really much caring for what happens next, the developers are going to end up selling one less copy of the next bit of the game. Erica is a strong protagonist: her story resonates with you, and after the first hour of Episode 1, the game will catch you all the way to the end. Episodic games also have the benefit of tweaking gameplay. Developers get to see what works and what doesn't work out in the wild with actual gamers, and mix it up for future releases. Later episodes introduce more playable protagonists, and by the fourth episode you'll be teaming up characters and abilities in ways you wouldn't imagine in the first episode.
I've been pushing my way through Cognition from the beginning. I'm honestly not much of a horror or thriller fan, but Cognition does a good job of telling a compelling story that made even a fluffy, happy ending style gamer want to come back for more, just to see where the story goes.
At $29.99, you get a much more affordable deal for all four chapters of the series (plus an introductory comic). The bundle is being sold as "Season One"...with a name like that, hopefully we will see more out of this collaboration of game makers. Erica's world of Cognition is distubringly compelling enough to want to revisit and see what twisted plotline is coming up next.