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Cognition: Episode Two – The Wise Monkey Review

Cognition EP 2 (2)There have been some noteworthy Kickstarter success stories so far, and the Cognition series by Phoenix Online Studios looks like it may be the next one.  While some of the graphical glitches and tedious technical faults that Robert mentioned in Episode 1-The Hangman are still present, the game continues to evolve in the areas of detective work and psionic skill.

Cognition Episode 2 picks up right where 1 left off, and the timing of the transition is very smooth. Some series skip ahead between episodes in a way that leaves an audience confused or they may recap to the point of boredom with already seen cut-scenes. Cognition, however, has found a great balance; players who have played the first episode get a meaningful refresher while anyone starting the series at episode 2 would have an adequate understanding of the plot line thus far.  It would be hard to talk about the continuing plot without giving away too many spoilers for both this and episode one.  I can say that the plot finds a way to follow the same style of murderous mishaps while still finding ways to be innovative about the location and tasks to which Reed is assigned. And even though Erica’s own brother was a target in episode 1, episode 2 manages to keep the stakes just as high.

Cognition EP 2 (3)What players won’t know if they’re starting out with episode two is the control schema. This is one of Cognition’s few failings.  The controls are not very sophisticated, and players used to the games of today may find some of the mechanics frustrating.  Players must double click to run, but if you double click to quickly the game won’t register it.  And if you’re moving when you click on an object target, the clickable target is likely to disappear if you move the mouse to far over from where you started.  While these things are minute, they do tend to pull a player out of immersion in the game.  Luckily the other features which Cognition excels at pull a player back in.

The atmosphere of Cognition is dark and intense.  Grit and gore make occasional appearances to accentuate the suspense of the case.  It makes the plot just dark enough to keep the player intrigued without becoming gratuitous or expected.  Erica works at a non-stop pace, trying to solve the case as quickly as possible.  This creates a good momentum, but doesn’t detract from the necessary use of detective skills that Erica must employ to find The Wise Monkey killer.

Cognition EP 2 (1)Erica Reed’s psionic abilities which inspire the series title increase in power and variety in this episode.  Erica gains new power, which of course ends up being crucial to the final moment of this episode, and her existing powers are given an upgrade as her spiritual guru guides her towards better usage of them.  Erica’s usage of her powers amp up hand in hand with the plot, which is a great dynamic.  The only downside is that things that are obvious to the seasoned detective aren’t an option until you activate your skills in the order that the game has planned, usually by talking to someone first. Part of the problem is that you can’t access your inventory while talking to someone, so even if you already have the item they want, you must speak with them about it first, and then end the dialogue and go into your inventory to present the item to them.  Again, while these mechanical issues are small, they do pull a player away from the experience.

The dialogue and voice work of Cognition continue to be immensely impressive.  Aside from the somewhat inconsistent Boston accents, the voice acting almost never feels cheesy or forced, even when the lines are a little campy.  This does wonders for keeping a player entertained and engaged, especially when you have to speak with people repeatedly in regards to item communication.  If a game is going to be on rails, the scenery and the sounds had better be worth paying attention to, and thankfully Cognition is solid when it comes to both, creating a rich ambiance that leaves an impression.

Cognition EP 2 (4)If Phoenix Online could make the graphics smoother and their controls a bit more sophisticated Cognition would be a top-tier game for the simple detective point and click genre. Even the price point is appealing, it runs $4.99 but was also releases as a pay what you wish.   With Episode 3 already on the way, one can only hope that the few, but still felt, glitches will get ironed out as the series progresses.  As it is, the gameplay is engaging and ingenuitive, and your powers are impressive and intuitive, but the graphics and controls keep it from being top notch.

ScoreB

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.

53 comments

  1. Read this and wondered “Where are all the big words”?

    Answer: not a Deagle review.

    Good work though Sage.

  2. You guys are seriously pushing Phoenix Online these day. Podcast, twitter, reviews.

    I expect a cameo of Rob and Blue in the next game. 😉

  3. I played Episode 1, and didn’t really see any major bugs. Certainly nothing that caused a crash or anything like that.

    It’s east to overlook a little graphic glitch, if you know you’re helping an indie company.

  4. “Erica gains new power”

    “a new power” or “New powers” or can she lift and throw cars like Shehulk?

    • If we ever dare to continue Cognition – we should call it Hulkition! (horrible joke – I know, I should feel bad for it but I kinda don’t)

      • I’d buy a copy for sure. Welcome to the site, sayomgwtf. Did you work on the game?

        • I’m Phoenix Online Studios Marketing Consultant, I just seem to be allergic to desks and all that. I’m most known for being some sort of known community spokesperson and I work best directly with people 🙂 I did, however, work on The Silver Lining back then. I’m kind of Phoenix old school.

  5. Good work, Samurage. Keep the reviews coming and give Robert a rest.

  6. I hope the writing in the game is better than the writing in this review.

  7. Thanks, Sage. Great review.

    So does Erica Reed’s psionic abilities show your future? Am I in it?

    (Kidding just keeping the joke alive). I do like your personality, though.

    • Is that really Sektor or is it someone impersonating him?

    • So far, Erica’s power only show the past. Although she does keep getting one disturbing vision of herself dying that definitely has NOT happened yet, so there’s that mystery yet to be solved…. 🙂

  8. Will Episode 2 (or the whole series) be in any upcoming bundles?

    • So far we’ve had Episode 1: The Hangman come out in IGS and we’ve got IndieBundle.org confirmed for March. We haven’t set up Episode 2 in a bundle yet. The one update I can give you is that we are now in Desura, but still stuck in Greenlight hell 😀 Although anything you may want you can find here — http://store.postudios.com/

  9. Thank you for the review, Sage, so glad you enjoyed the Episode!

    • KatieHal is one of the lead game designers for Cognition, by the way. She is also the producer of Cognition Episode 2: The Wise Monkey. She’s super busy today but I have kidnapped her for this review 😀 Thank you for stopping by, Katie!

    • Any developer who takes the time to chime in and talk about their product freely is likely to get my money. Dowmloading the Ep. 1 demo now.

    • Wow thanks for stopping by to check out the review KatieHal. And thank you to Sayomgwtf for being so informative and having a good personality on the boards 🙂

  10. Kickass review, Sage.

    One question how long is the episode.

    • Episode 1 was about 5 – 6 hours gameplay, Episode 2 is somewhat raw and fast paced, so I’d say about 4 hours gameplay. But this is different for everyone, really.

    • You know just happens to be Sage’s birthday, so if you could offer a few wishes and tidings, that would be great.

      Sage, thanks for everything you do. I know you have to bend your schedule around for the podcast, and I appreciate your efforts. Plus, I always look forward to the posse’s time at E3; pastrami, arguing about the smartest breed of dogs, and making jokes during the boring parts of pressers. Here’s to you!!!

  11. Happy birthday Sage!! 😀 I’m glad you enjoyed the game!

  12. How many candles?

  13. Aw, you guys, Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes. i was so touched I got teary-eyed. really. Especially you Deagle–you are an amazing editor, and a loving friend, and I’m so glad you guys are in my life too.
    Sektor—I’m almost tempted, just to see what happens. Almost…
    Squidward-28, and coincidentally, someone posted a squidward birthday clip on my facebook page.

    • Aww, you guys are so cute!

      Sage, happy belated B-day. It’s now 2/25/13 3:12 PM, sorry I didn’t see the review earlier.

  14. Here’s to Sage! Hooray!

  15. A late happy birthday, Sage!

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the game =D

  16. Happy day after your birthday, Sage! I’m glad you’re enjoying Cognition so far. I’m one of the testers for Cognition. Episode 3 is looking pretty interesting so far! 😀 Hopefully you’ll enjoy it just as much!

  17. Hi, I’m one of sayomgwtf’s social media interns – just wanted to drop by to wish you a happy (late) birthday! 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the game, I thought your review was very fair.

  18. Hi, I’m another one of Say’s media elves. Happy birthday, Sage! I hope you had a wonderful day.

  19. Happy Birfday Sage. Hope the boss man gives you a Ferrari and Sektor shares his love.

  20. AMG look at all these lovely Phoenix Online people! Thank you Katharina, James, Snabbot, Stika, Oldbushie and Katie for stopping by :3

  21. Good review. I need to try this game out. I miss those old school adventure games.