The second episode of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is now available to all at a price of $9.99 if you haven't purchased the $29.99 season pass. It is then time for a short review of The Wise Monkey and a bunch of videos, so please join us inside and give us your thoughts about the game. In case you haven't played – or completed - The Hangman, we decided not to capture the "Previously on" cutscene which opens this new episode, but be aware that the first video contains story related spoilers.
Just another day at the office
Leaving Erica Reed after the first episode was not an easy task. Many questions were still unanswered and the tragic event which happened in the end – though probably not as unexpected as we would have liked – made us want to play the second part of the story. In The Wise Monkey, Erica Reed is going to work on a new case, but the determined FBI agent is obviously going to keep digging to uncover the truth behind the death of her brother and the mysterious killer of The Hangman. The Wise Monkey starts where we left off, right after Davies got killed, as she's been replaced by an old acquaintance of Erica's, someone she apparently didn't really get along with. The player barely has time to catch his breath that something terrible hits Erica and her colleagues. As Erica is just learning about the details regarding Sully's new case, the serial killer he is after kidnaps him right under Erica's nose, inside the FBI headquarters. Some will probably say that it is a bit farfetched as it seems that Erica's loved ones always end up in the most horrible situations, but it sets up the mood of the whole episode, which will be even darker, more violent and unpredictable. This serial killer called the Wise Monkey is indeed quite fond of ripping people's eyes/tongue/ears off, something all the more gruesome as the killer apparently is a woman. Feel free to take a look at our videos, but we strongly recommend you discover everything on your own if you are interested in the game.
The overall structure of this second episode is of course no different from the way the Hangman was built, as you will have to use your wits, your psychic powers (cognition, projection and regression – the most interesting of the three as far as puzzles are concerned) and your own detective skills. Interrogating witnesses or suspects leads to new clues which leads to new locations and so on. The pace is still rather slow, and there will be a lot of backtracking once again – which you may mind, or not – but the atmosphere is just as well-rendered as before. Quite rapidly in this episode, you will acquire a new ability which allows to select several objects from your inventory to find out what happened before. Of course, for that to happen, all the objects you select have to be connected to each other, which basically means they were all in the same place at some point in the past. Only when you have gathered all the necessary items can you relive what really happened. It adds a bit more variety to puzzle solving and teaches patience as not all items can be found at the same time. In The Wise Monkey, not only do you keep learning things about the characters of the first episode, but you of course get to meet a set of new ones. We must say some of them can be a bit annoying, making them more caricatures than actual people, but thankfully Raleigh Holmes is still very convincing in her role and she'll make you want to help her until the end.
To be continued
New locations are also made available as your investigation unfolds. Again, some will clearly criticize the lack of life they convey, as the environments are very still. That being said, some of the places Erica visits are nicely detailed, with vibrant colors at times, and their hand drawn look gives the game a peculiar touch that makes it pretty atmospheric. The first build we played was a bit buggy but the problems we encountered (mostly characters going through objects) shold have been taken care of in the final version. It is not just a promise as we got to play a more recent built 2 days ago and we actually didn't see some of the glitches we had witnessed during our first playthrough. Animations have not changed at all, so no doubt some will find them stiff when compared to, say, Ki No Kuni's for example, but Cognition's strong suit remains its story, not its looks. There are two more episodes to come so don't think you will have unraveled all the mysteries by the end of The Wise Monkey, but we believe you will be left wanting for more when the credits start rolling. One final word on the game's many puzzles that we think have improved, mainly because they have been implemented in a more logical way. In the first episode, some of them indeed felt a bit out of place from time to time, and that's something we realize even more now. The hint system we mentioned in our review of The Hangman is not always very helpful, but the puzzles are never unsolvable provided you use your brain correctly.
Cognition being an independent game, you can't expect it to be perfect in every possible department, but what it does it does well and we are looking forward to seeing what happens next. If you have already played Episode 1 and you enjoyed it, go for it, the second episode is better paced. If you're still wondering if the game's main storyline will come to a satisfying ending, then you still have two more episodes to wait for until we can tell you for sure. But considering how The Wise Monkey ends, there is no reason to believe the story will disappoint.