Cognition: Erica Reed Wants to Be a Thriller But Is More an Exercise in Tedium, Episode I

Ok, I get that the click-through game genre has a rather narrow audience due to the fact that they tend to be rather slow paced, but anyone who has played Machinarium knows that this doesn’t have to be the case. What I love about click-through games is that they tend to have this fantastic world of potentials  for game play. My love for the various possibilities this type of storytelling offers is one of the reasons I was gifted the game Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Episode 1 The Hangman for my birthday.

Once I got past the bugs (and I almost didn’t), I found myself in a world where I could click on a good number of items in a room. That’s awesome, right? That means there will probably be lots of ways to solve a puzzle, and I’ll be able to take my own path, like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, right? Unfortunately, all of those items that I’m allowed to look at are purely there for the illusion of choice. This is story on rails. All decisions lead exactly where the developer intended for me to go. So, I have to decide what is worth my time and what isn’t. Clicking on those distractions just in case I miss something just adds to the tedium. I learned my lesson, and in the next section, I only click on the items that have more than just an eyeball icon. Fine, I’ll follow the developer’s story line  I’m sure he or she is more creative than I am…

Or not. The cast of stock characters is just a boring list of cop thriller cliches. Erica’s partner is a surly, lazy cop who’s seen it all. The captain, Erica’s boss, is excessively bitchy and overbearing (and has an odd penchant  for hiding evidence from her detectives purely to further the plot). The forensics expert and tech guy is an overweight neck-beard, and of course the receptionist is a cute, bubbly blond. Even our protagonist, Erica Reed, follows her stereotype: daughter of cop, sharpshooting medal winner, skeptical FBI agent.

While the secondary characters may not be particularly likable, at least the story line is usually interesting enough. It begins with Erica’s back story, the kidnapping of her brother who must be found by following clues intentionally left by the kidnapper.  It progresses to a modern-day murder mystery, where, lucky for us, again the murderer intentionally leaves clues. The pace, unfortunately, is irredeemably uneven. The clues generally require just enough thought that there are actually some great “Aha!” moments; however, it’s rather uneven and too many interrupting tasks make even the good moments less eventful. Running around getting food out of a vending machine during an interrogation might be realistic, but a horrible way to keep your audience engaged.

And just in case there weren’t enough tedious tasks to perform in the game, be warned that there are no automatic save points. If you exit the game without saving, or encounter a bug that freezes it, you get the joy of playing it all again if you want to see the end. What. The. Everloving. Fuck.

Gameplay is roughly four hours (not accounting for bugs).

In the end I’ll give it two out of five stars for graphics, decent voice-acting, and an ok (albeit head-scratching) third act.


5 thoughts on “Cognition: Erica Reed Wants to Be a Thriller But Is More an Exercise in Tedium, Episode I

    • Unfortunately, it would be quite a bit of overhaul. The basic story is good, but is too laden with extraneous tasks. Removing those would mean cutting a game that’s already played in only four hours. There is already a secondary story line, so no room there. Possibly a second murder would help. The other huge issue is with the characters themselves, so that again would make for serious changes.

  1. No offense, but it clearly looks like you’re not the intended audience for this game. I haven’t played Cognition though I’ve read about it and seen their greenlight. The game is often praises in Adventure game websites (heck their greenlight page even has a small list of awards the game won).

    You also need to understand that Machinarium follows a very different line of thinking, it’s almost like comparing Final Fantasy to Mass Effect, yes they’re both RPGs, but they’re massively different and for different target audiences.

    Cognition from what I understand follows the old Sierra line of thought (Sierra was the company that basically popularized the genre in the 80’s).

    Finally, the name of the genre is “Point and Click” not “click through”.

    • Hey, Alex, thanks for your reply! “Point and Click” is indeed the proper term (and the phrase that was escaping me as I wrote it). I’d love to hear your thoughts on the game once you’ve played it.

      • Well, I’m kind of waiting for its release on Steam before playing it, or at least a sale. With that said, I know of the studio’s history because they released a fan-made free to play King’s Quest sequel a few years ago.

        See, from what I gather, they’re fans of the old Sierra line of thought, basically, Sierra thought that Adventure games should leave you stumpt for days, the idea being you’d stop playing, carry on with your daily duties and the solution would eventually come to you. Of course now a days with the internet playing a game like this requires self control, meaning you have to keep yourself from reading the solution online.

        Admittedly there are games that tried to simplify the genre, The Walking Dead being a recent example, but a lot of adventure game fans really dislike it for its simplicity and lack of puzzles.

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