Posted: May 4
Like a sandwich - the filling is the best part.
As a whole, Cognition is a brilliant adventure game with puzzles which will perplex you and a story that hooks you. You'll be solving murders as Erica Reed, an FBI agent with the ability to see into the past. Three years earlier from when the story begins, we look into the past and see a tragic case for Erica.
In terms of gameplay, Episode 1 is problematic. The puzzles hang on tenuous links at best, and sometimes you'll have to bust out the guide. What should be a throwaway line of dialogue becomes super important for a puzzle, but the logic you have to link it up requires so much thought. But wait! Episodes 2 and 3 fix it, and you're no longer scratching your head. The puzzles are clever, they'll make you think without being impossible. Each episode introduces new gameplay designs, and so they each have a different flavour.
Also, the ability to see into the past adds often unique gameplay aspects. You'll have to look at certain objects and discover what they were used for. You'll have to regress people and fix their memories by figuring out what colour their wive's shirt was, what was the day they last saw. It's clever, it's different, and it feels different from normal point and click. You truly get into Erica's head and feel like you are an FBI agent, and also one with the power to see the past.
Story-wise, all four episodes have a different flavour also. It did surprise me how the episodes turn out, and I won't spoil it for you here. However, I will say it's incredibly well-written. Episode 2 is a highlight for me. Sadness, frustration, intrigue, mystery, you have it all here, and it never feels forced. There is an overlying arc in the episodes, and each one make you to want play on further to solve the mystery. I for one finished episode 3 yesterday and finished episode 4 tonight ... and that leads onto the problem of Episode 4. It's shorter than the others, and it's very linear. You feel forced into the narrative, and it's not told as well. It's not bad, but it's certainly not as good as the rest. There are a lot of questions that remain, but it remains a good game.
Plot-wise, great, acting - great. Puzzles - frustrating in episode one, but clever in all the rest. You truly do begin to like Erica as a character, and the people you meet along the way are well-written as well. Her 'walking stereotype' partner John, McAdams, Davies ... the game is full of memorable characters, which pull the story along. Some are forgettable, like Gallagher. The plot itself is worthy of any TV show.
Problems - there are technical issues. I often got clipping with the sound, and there were a few animation glitches which took away from the story. Seeing Erica's head twist around her body like a possessed contortionist was funny, but you don't want to laugh in a psychological thriller. Also, some of the cinematic, drawn in a beautiful comic book style, sometimes ... aren't so beautiful. They can appear choppy and rushed at times. Nevertheless, they are fluid and they do work well. They go on quickly enough with higher quality images that you don't question the poorer frames.
Like Erica, I don't look back into the past and see only good memories. Episodes 2 and 3 are both incredible, but Episode 1 has flaws in the gameplay, and 4 in the story. But ... adding up all the memories together, it created a wonderful and great experience. I would highly recommend it to anyone who's patient enough to get through the first episode's diabolical puzzles. Great story, great characters and highly ingenious puzzles, Cognition is a game that takes all the best aspects of an FBI thriller film, whilst making you the actual detective.