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.