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.
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.
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.