Thursday, 11 April 2013

Cognition Episode 1 The Hangman Review

Cognition Episode 1 The Hangman is a point and click mystery thriller by Phoenix Online Studios. As in classic point and click style you interact with objects and solve puzzles to continue the storyline. In Cognition you play as Erica Reed an FBI agent who has the knack for seeing the past and working out how s crime unfolded. You can activate Erica's 'intuition' with the push of a button and it lets you interact with objects in a different way and find new clues for the case. With a great fully voiced cast of characters, and intriguing plot, atmospheric music and some darn good graphics and artwork my 'intuition' tells me that this might be a game series to keep an eye on.

The story begins with Erica trying to save her brother from a fiendish serial killer that targets twins. This introduces us to Erica's cognition ability and how to use items. Towards the end of this sequence (I won't give anything away just play it) you have larger puzzle to work out. This introduction, it must be said, is fantastic. It has great pacing, voice acting and the puzzles are logical and fun to work out.

Once we have finished the introduction, the games jumps ahead a few years to another murder case for our heroin. Erica struggles to control here special 'Cognitive' powers but you still end up using them throughout the game. This does, however, add an emotional backdrop and while she is a badass, it makes her feel more human. Erica is a great character, the only issue is that some of her supporting cast can be wafer thin. However, on the whole the character list has some interesting and likeable people, but some are just...well annoyingly boring. This first episode is though here to introduce the characters, the world and all of Erica's abilities.

While being a well animated and drawn cast. I have to flag up again that the supporting characters are so generic. The lab guys is a massive techie, the receptionist basically just eye candy and her partner REALLY likes donuts. Overall I feel that the cast of characters could have been made to feel more alive and less stereotypical. Take for example Erica's well built character with an interesting backstory and she actually feels alive and brilliantly flawed rather than some of her supporting friends. Cognition is at its best when don't have to interact with this thinly spread cast but are doing some great deceive work instead and Erica really has all the tools she needs when it comes to solving crimes.

While Erica's powers are frequently used they do not take anything away from the puzzles or flow of the story by 'giving you the answers'. Her powers, are in fact, a great way that Cognition sets itself aside from other detective adventure games and the game is better for them.

There is a great hint system through the method of text messaging. This works really well and keeps the hints within the world rather than some all knowing force giving you hints out of nowhere. It is instead through Erica's mobile. Far more plausible. I would be surprised if you needed to use the hints very much though. Even people who haven't played many point and click adventure games should have no trouble picking up Cognition and playing it through without getting stumped. That isn't to say it is too easy, but instead nicely accessible.

Cognition has lots of puzzles, big and small. For the most part they make sense and fit into the flow of the story and game, but at times that can feel a tad superfluous. It can feel a bit like you are just doing a puzzle so the game can try and make you feel involved or simply because it feels like throwing another puzzle at you. As I said before these are not difficult puzzles I just question how relevant they are sometimes.

I can only say good things about the soundtrack to Cognition. It really outstanding and really helps the game to shine. Atmosphere created by the music enhances all the dark and tense moments and it really helps to build suspense through the game. Top notch soundtrack.

There aren't many bugs in the game that I found, but one major one that kept happening was that it kept freezing. This might be mid puzzle or conversation and was very annoying especially if I hadn't saved in a while. It was a quite game breaking (literally) but only seemed to happen in the first few hours of the game.

Overall Cognition Episode 1 The Hangman is a great start to the series and leaves us on a fantastic cliff hanger that should leave everyone unable to wait to play Episode 2. While does have its moments where I wonder about some choices, mainly the supporting characters, it mo than makes up for it with a great main character and an intriguing plot and masterful soundtrack.

Score - 80/100

General Information

Game Name - Cognition Episode 1 The Hangman
Developer - Phoenix Online Studios
Genre - Point and Click, Adventure
Release date - 17 Jan 2013
Bundle - Indie Bundle - Point and Click Dak Bundle