Over the weekend I had the privilege of attending the first Boston Festival of Indie Games. There were dozens of entries, each with something special to contribute. Many of the games on display were designed for iOS, but a good number of the selection were developed for PC. One game, I was able to play that really stood out was called Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller.
Cognition: an Erica Reed Thriller, or just Cognition, is a point and click adventure game from Phoenix Online Studios. It is their first commercial release, after spending over ten years developing The Silver Lining series of King’s Quest fan games. Cognition is a dark mystery game, about a woman named Erica Reed who has the ability to remember things she wasn’t present for. These happen in ‘flashes’ whenever Erica touches an object pertaining to the game’s story.
Cognition starts the player in a cemetery with the goal of finding a serial killer who has kidnapped Erica’s brother, Scott. Erica is accompanied by her partner, John. Despite Erica’s rush to get through the cemetery to save her brother from imminent death, I had to take a moment to inhale the scenery. The art and cutscenes were intended as a comic book feel, and I must say that it worked out pretty well. Unlike many indie adventure games, Cognition is fully voiced by some pretty capable voice actors.
After rushing to the spot, and yelling at John to hurry up we are given the demo’s first puzzle. The puzzle is straightforward, with a locked padlock keeping Erica and John out of the cemetery. All that was required was for me to use the typical ‘point and click adventure’ interface by opening the inventory, choosing my gun, and using it on the padlock.
The user interface is typical of the genre giving an inventory menu, and allowing a few actions on any item. We are able to examine a subject, use inventory with a subject, or activate a subject. Activating objects covers both talking to NPCs, and when Erica uses her hands with it. The game begins to become more complicated with Erica’s ‘flashes’, or her Cognition ability.
We are introduced to the Cognition ability when we enter the cemetery. A glowing icon appears in the lower left portion of the screen, that when used like an inventory item with any in-game object, will give a flashback. Not to a time in Erica’s past, but in the recent history of the object. For example, when using the Cognition ability on some footprints, a flashback begins that shows the killer walking behind a tomb. I then followed the ghost of the memory, to be greeted by another puzzle.
I won’t spoil the end of the demo, but after using the above skills I was able to finish the demo fairly quickly. After a very dramatic cliffhanger, I was left wanting more. Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Episode One – Hangman is scheduled for release this autumn.