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Cognition: Episode Three- The Oracle Review

Cognition Episode 3- The Oracle (1)

Phoenix Online Studios continues to demonstrate their commitment to create engaging games with Episode 3 of Cognition: An Erica Read Thriller. While some of the graphical glitches that have been discussed in previous reviews remain, the game itself delivers energy, suspense and involved investigative-based game play.  A rough ride through emotional terrain awaits Erica Reed as the player dives into this latest installment of the Cognition series.

Where the transition between Episodes 1 and 2 found favor with me because of the smoothness of the timing, the transition between episodes 2 and 3 impresses by jumping right into the action of a new development in Erica’s ongoing case. Episode 2 ended on a note of extreme adrenaline and tension and Episode 3 keeps the pace going by starting right into the dramatic scenario promised by the end of Ep. 2. The instant plunge into action compels the player to rush forward at a breakneck speed, adding to the atmosphere of tension which both player and protagonist Erica encounter.

Cognition Episode 3- The Oracle (2)

In Episode 3, players find Erica investigating a murder in one of the city’s fancy hotels.  Suspicions are high from the beginning and the characters Erica encounters range from amusing to creepy.  The voice work continues to be phenomenal as Erica interacts with the NPC’s, and her sarcastic asides are amusing as always. This episode also begins to flush out more of the traits and background stories of some of the characters, like Erica’s boss McAdams and her partner John.  Episode 3 gives a lot more depth and interconnection to the characters which have thus far been introduced to the series, and more tension to Erica’s struggle with her aggravating boss.

The Cognition series has utilized suspenseful music and great voice acting since the first episode and this continues to be in true in episode three.  These admirable audio details also create a feeling of urgency throughout the episode so that players feel pressure to perform quickly.  It is an effective way to inspire quick play in the absence of a timer, which is necessary in detective puzzle game since players may need more or less time to piece clues together.  In previous episodes of Cognition, players may have felt either on par with or a couple of steps ahead of Erica, in terms of figuring out clues and connections, but Episode 3 introduces several puzzles which players will find more challenging than usual.  This is another demonstration of Phoenix studio’s ability to consistently improve upon the game mechanics through successive episodes.

Cognition Episode 3- The Oracle (3)

Episode 3 also introduces another addition to Erica’s powers.  Once again, Phoenix finds a way to keep things new and fresh.  Rather than just add another power to Erica’s already impressive inventory, this psionic power ties in another character with its use.  The novelty of this new power does not wear off through the course of the game, and it creates a unique approach to character perspective while playing the game.  The power also gives players a glimpse into the history that led to the start of the Cognition series case.  The only thing that is still lacking in the cognition series is a revamp of the control schema.  The controls are occasionally clunky and sometimes inconsistent in response time.  Additionally, juxtaposed against the beautiful backdrops to the game, the occasional clunkiness of the character movements is somewhat distracting. Overall though, the controls are nonetheless useable and do not detract from the players’ enjoyment.

Without giving away spoilers for those who have yet to try the series out, I can say that the plot finds consistency in the solving of murderous mishaps while still proving innovative about the location and tasks to which Reed is assigned. And even though Erica’s own brother was a target in Episode 1, the subsequent episodes manage to keep the stakes just as high.  Episode 3 may be the most impressive installment of the series yet, and gamers should seriously consider adding this to the top of their must play lists.

Cognition Episode 3- The Oracle (4)

Phoenix Online Studios continues to demonstrate their commitment to create engaging games with Episode 3 of Cognition: An Erica Read Thriller. While some of the graphical glitches that have been discussed in previous reviews remain, the game itself delivers energy, suspense and involved investigative-based game play.  A rough ride through emotional terrain awaits Erica Reed as the player dives into this latest installment of the Cognition series. Where the transition between Episodes 1 and 2 found favor with me because of the smoothness of the timing, the transition between episodes 2 and 3 impresses by jumping right into the action…

Review Overview

Gameplay - 90%
Story - 95%
Aesthetics - 85%
Content - 95%
Accessibility - 80%

89%

Great!

Summary : The Oracle still needs improvement with movement mechanics, but otherwise offers a solid point-and-click detective game with good puzzles and atmosphere, and a great storyline.

User Rating: 2.23 ( 13 votes)
89

About Sage Morris-Greene

As Tech-Gaming's own Phoenix Wright, Sage Morris-Greene is currently balancing the completion of her law degree, an obsession of all things cyberpunk, and a budding career as a stage and film actress.

49 comments

  1. I’ve yet to try any of the Cognition games. Are they anything like Telltale’s games.

    • You can either download the demo and find out for yourself, or check out via youtube one of the many Let’s Play of Cognition. It has been somewhat compared in the past, but that’s a very subjective perception.

  2. I really like the author bios. Sage’s really cracked me up.

    I like the hand-drawn look of Cognition. I wonder who did the art.

    • Art Director Romano Molenaar did much of the art. How much, I’m not entirely sure. All the art in the cutscenes, I believe. His work is amazing, isn’t it?

      • I like it, looks living a living breathing comic book.

      • Romano Molenaar is the Art Direction of Cognition, but as far as I’m aware Phoenix has got a crew of 3 artists leads who are: Elisa Pavinato, Paolo Nagase and Rhonda Bowlin so I’m positive the main art must be from a combination of any of them. I apologize for the vague answer, I’ve been trying to contact PR with some of these inquiries and hopefully they will reply soon enough.

  3. Wow, 89! That’s a pretty high score for a game that doesn’t have cartoon penguins or lolicon.

  4. I wonder if the review score has anything with a certain podcaster working for Phoenix.

    Seems shady if you ask me.

    • That speculation theory sounds fascinating, frand. And I agree, shady as fuck!

      • Its one thing to admit it and its another to be smug about it.

        • Damn, sarcasm has failed once again. I apologize for my poor taste in jokes and whatever else you may have understood, such is not the case. However, I’ll explain again so hopefully it is all clear someday: 1) I am not a developer, I am a consultant for Phoenix (ie: third party). 2) I’ve got nothing to do with editorial choices of Tech-Gaming, let alone what Sage as an editor writes or thinks. So yeah, Sage actually likes Cognition it seems. 3) I like Chocolate.

          • I like eating chocolate while playing adventure games. That’s why I’m big boned though.

          • You haven’t learned that sarcasm doesn’t work well on the internet yet? ;)

          • Chocolate is pure win, Unknown Gamer. Also, how dare you speak such evil things, yuckman! Next thing you’ll tell me Santa isn’t real :(

  5. I got the first episode of Cognition via a indie bundle. I expected it to be just decent like a lot of the bundle games are. To my surprise It was a lot of fun, and had some good puzzles. The bad part is, like Sage said, it’s janky. I had the thing crash once and give me some graphics glitches other times.

  6. Thanks Ms. Morris-Greene, nice review. I hope you bring some spoiler-free talk to the next podcast.

  7. How much is the game? Any way to get the previous episodes for cheap still?

    • Episodes are $9.99, Season pass is $29.99 and we’ve got a season upgrade available (Ep3 & 4) for $14.99. We did have a 24 hour sales with the launch of Ep3, it was insane – free stuff and discounts and whatever else. We may have a few bundles coming out tho (Ep1/Ep2 only), best way to keep up is to follow Phoenix either twitter or facebook to find out about these deals whenever available.

  8. How the animation in Cognition? The most I’ve heard about the game is that it’s glitchy and ugly.

    • I’ve tried to talk directly with the programming lead and some designers to clear this one up in order to reply to you and I feel like now I’ve got a better understanding of the subject itself. I have received via social media and forums a large amount of feedback regarding technical problems with the builds, luckily they seem to becoming less and less with each episode and usually I just research and quantify data I don’t do development or PR but I will do my best to explain: Most of the time the problems people share with us are light/model layering problems, character movement and audio/video synch – none of these are going game breaking so to speak but instead perhaps a personal pc setting or quality issues.

      If any of you in this thread have shared a different experience and they are indeed experiencing important problems with the bug then I do know Phoenix Programming Director, Weldon Hathaway takes care of these issues personally. You may reach him out at weldon (at) postudios (dot) com

  9. 89% my ass. This game deserves a 70 at best.

    • Have you played it?

    • You know, for some reason Episode 3 seems to be rather popular. Most reviews are above 80% mark, which makes Oracle the best reviewed as of today. I heard it’s got something to do with the ending of it.

      • That makes sense. Most series improve as they go on– i.e. getting rid of bugs, knowing what parts work and which ones don’t.

  10. Thank you Sage! So glad to see you enjoyed the episode so much! :D

  11. Not really into these kinds of games, but I did like reading the review.

  12. Hey everyone!

    Thanks a lot for the review and for the great score, guys!

    For those wondering about glitches, we are aware that some (albeit minor) still exist in the game (I can assure you it’s much less than those in Skyrim!), and we do very thorough passes to find them all. We also get a lot of feedback from the press reviews (which is great to have eyes on it) in the weeks leading up to release and fix as much as we can.

    As for the animations, yes, we are working on getting better animation, but remember we only made 35k on Kickstarter. We don’t have a Mass Effect’s budget :)

    Thanks for all the comments and I hope you are enjoying the game!

    Cesar Bittar
    CEO
    Phoenix Online Studios

    • Wow, 35K is pretty much nothing for a series on games. I can overlook a few little problem considering you guys are indie.

      BTW- How long did it take to create Cognition?

      • Cesar was being somewhat kind with that information, according to Cognition kickstarter data they gathered $34,247 out of $25,000 goal they asked for back in Dec 11, 2011 (From 34k Kickstarter takes a cut). Needless to say Kickstarter did not entirely fund Cognition and Directors have had to invest their own money into the project to continue to pay the staff. There have been different situations that have changed their pipeline a lot, and somewhat leading to difficult development desicions that made them change design and production cuts.

        Regarding how long for development: Episode 1 came out in late October 2012, Ep2 late January 2013 and Ep3 in May. Episode 4 has been in production before Ep3 release, nothing confirmed yet because they work very hard to compromise on a deadline right after the build comes through.

  13. Good review. I’ll check it out on your recommendation.

  14. How long is the game?

    • Depending on each person, but usually 5 to 6 hours per episode. Cognition is: Hangman Ep1, Wise Monkey Ep2 and Oracle Ep3 – all already released. Last one is called Cain Killer, still in production.

  15. Thanks for the info. Watched a LP video but don’t want any puzzles spoiled.

    • That’s true, but it’s a lie that most gameplay videos released showed most of it – they only show the best parts, in LP’s everything is shown.

  16. Is there any action in the game or is it all puzzle based?

    • As every point and click adventure game, it’s mostly puzzles.

      • Sorry, I’m out. I know everyone worship’s Monkey Island, but I fall asleep everytime I try playing.

        It’s not that I don’t like the game, it’s just I need something else to keep me going.

        • No need to apologize, haha. Not everyone likes Adventure games, which is understandable. I personally love horror games and most of my frands think there’s something wrong with me that I can spend 6 hours in a row just shooting zombie’s heads :p

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