Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 2: The Wise Monkey

Posted by Gustavo Calvo-Simmons.
First posted on 10 February 2013. Last updated on 17 October 2013.
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Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 2: The Wise Monkey
Erica remembers seeing Cordelia at the time of her brother's death.
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 2: The Wise Monkey
A new serial killer is on the loose.
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 2: The Wise Monkey
Erica chats up with her colleague at the bureau.
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 2: The Wise Monkey
Erica is passed out on the floor after being drugged.
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 2: The Wise Monkey
The ears of the victim have been removed by the sadistic murderer.

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller

The season is comprised of 4 episodes:

Episode 1: The Hangman

Episode 2: The Wise Monkey

Episode 3: The Oracle

Episode 4: The Cain Killer

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 2: The Wise Monkey is the second episode of the Cognition series from indie developer Phoenix Online Studios, created in collaboration with veteran game designer Jane Jensen. At the conclusion of the first episode, the criminal known as The Hangman is still on the loose, leaving FBI agent Erica Reed emotionally devastated in the wake of the unsolved murders. In this episode, Erica has been reassigned to track down a new serial killer, giving her an opportunity to redeem herself and to perhaps repair her shattered reputation from failing in her previous case.

The second episode takes place immediately after the events of the first episode. A new director named Samuel McAdams is now in charge at the bureau. Erica is still emotionally affected by the death of Madison Davis (former director of the bureau) at the hands of The Hangman, who is also the killer of her brother Scott from years earlier. The new director refuses to let Erica continue on with her investigation of these murders. Instead, he assigns her to a new case involving a female serial killer with a twisted predilection to remove the eyes, ears, or tongues of her murder victims. All of these victims are musically inclined and are associated with the Berklee College of Music. It is up to Erica to solve these bizarre murders, discover the vendetta that the serial killer has against her victims, and put the serial killer behind bars before she can strike again.

The superb graphics and audios in this game immediately set the game apart from other indie productions. Visually, the game also takes on the style of a graphic novel and evokes the experience of reading a golden age comic. The 2.5D cel-shaded artwork lends a really smooth visual aesthetic that puts an air of mystery into the game's atmosphere, with a superb emotive soundtrack further complementing it. The voice acting is excellent, featuring the talent of Raleigh Holmes (who, incidentally, is the daughter of Robert Holmes, Jensen's husband) playing the role of Erica. Holmes also provides the lead vocal for the game's theme song with her band The Scarlet Furies.

Compared to the previous episode, this episode is shorter and can be completed in a few hours. The length is similar to that of other contemporary episodic adventure games. Despite the shortened length, the story in this episode is fulfilling and engaging from beginning to end.

Without giving out any spoiler, the victims in this episode, unlike those in the previous episode, are in some ways being victimized unknowingly for their own actions and life decisions. As well, this episode offers a glimpse of the inner working of a FBI agent who is forced to witness the brutality of humankind on a daily basis. Probably the greatest draw of the series as a whole is that the narrative frequently deals with the psychology of the murderers, the victims, and even the police investigators.

Aside from the trio of psychic powers (cognition, projection, and regression) that are introduced in the previous episode, Erica now possesses a psychic power called synergy. This new psychic power allows Erica to abstract useful memories by grouping multiple related items together. Not surprisingly, the game sometimes overuses these powers as an easy crutch to resolve the puzzles or to advance the story. Still, for most of the game, these powers are aptly used by Erica to pursue leads in her investigation and to eventually uncover the identity of the murder.

Unlike the previous episode, this episode is a bit more challenging as the puzzles are not as straightforward. The game offers you subtle hints by way of Erica's clairvoyance ability. Erica also relies lesser on her dad, whom she can call with her cell phone, for support in this episode. For some of the puzzles, you have to think more outside of the box to take full advantage of Erica's psychic powers.

The game is being released as a standalone purchase, as part of a season pass purchase, and as part of an upgrade bundle purchase to a season pass for fans who have already purchased the previous episode. While it is not necessary to have played the previous episode before playing this episode, knowledge of the previous episode helps to put context in much of the backstory for the series.

In all, Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 2: The Wise Monkey is a competent follow-up to the first episode for the series. The story is more gruesome and introduces a new killer whose modus operandi is even more sadistic. Gamers who are squeamish may be turned off by the excessive graphical imageries in this episode.

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