Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 3: The Oracle
First posted on 01 November 2015. Last updated on 01 November 2015.
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
There is an intangible compelling quality about a good detective novel—it simply transcend time. Similarly, many classic detective mystery games are remembered because of their great storylines. Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, from indie developer Phoenix Online Studios in collaboration with veteran game designer Jane Jensen, is another example of a great adventure mystery game because of its amazing script that immerses you deep into a multilayered story. Playing this game is almost like reading a great novel, with characters come to life (literally) before your eyes—but without any words on paper.
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 3: The Oracle is the third episode of the Cognition series and takes the series to a completely different direction. As with previous episodes, the new story is fantastic, almost like a cross between a classic detective novel like The Maltese Falcon and a modern television detective drama. Of course, like any good detective mystery, there is a twist—and a big twist it is, indeed.
Once again, you play as Erica Reed, a FBI agent who possesses paranormal abilities. However, in this episode, you also play as Cordelia Smith, a young woman who lives at the luxurious Enthon Towers where the current case takes place. In fact, the entire episode centers exclusively on the Enthon Towers and lets you alternate as Erica and Cordelia. However, whereas Erica's story takes place in the present and is told as the events unfold, Cordelia's story takes place in the past and is told through a series of flashbacks. Yet, somehow, Erica and Cordelia must work together to solve the serial murders purportedly carried out by the Cain Killer in previous episodes. The series' dynamics change up quite a bit by exposing the story to an intersecting timeline where different individuals from different times but with similar special abilities can alter the life of each other, either for self-preservation or for altruistic sacrifice.
Compared to previous episodes, this episode is more intriguing simply because you get to experience the same case from different perspectives and even from different timelines. As the case progresses, you get new details about Erica's abilities and (more importantly) Cordelia's abilities that allow them to work together across time. It is an admittedly clever story device—which the episode leverages from start to end without dropping a beat.
Gameplay has also been modified to reflect Erica's increased psychic abilities, such as her ability to enter deeper visions that are not of her own but of another individual who shares similar psychic abilities. This allows her to see events from a different perspective and even from a different time period. Because Cordelia's actions take place in the past, the choices you make can alter the present. Needless to say, the story conveniently avoids any time paradoxes that may have otherwise been created because of this newfound power.
The interface remains minimal as ever. The puzzles are intuitive but moderately difficult, though they are not likely to impose a problem for any experienced adventure game fan. Not surprisingly, a number of puzzles make uses of Erica's psychic powers such as synergy. Those puzzles can take some effort to find the proper objects to mark, as the game does not mention exactly what they are and what scenario in where they can be used to trigger the powers.
For an indie game, the production quality is amazing. The soundtrack is superb—the incidental music, whenever present, lends an eerie atmosphere whenever Erica is seen snooping around to further her investigation but brings just the right dose of melancholy whenever Cordelia is seen struggling to deal with her family secrets. Likewise, the voice acting is professional and great sounding. With few exceptions, the actors bring realism to the characters they play. The performances of Raleigh Holmes (who, incidentally, is the daughter of Robert Holmes, Jensen's husband), who is the voice of Erica, and Amy Browne, who is the voice of Cordelia, are particularly noteworthy. The characters they play are believable, as are their characters' struggles and aspirations. Despite the gruesomeness of the murders depicted in the series, it also explores the frailty of the human condition that few other games dare to do.
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 3: The Oracle succeeds in taking the series to a new and different dramatic direction. If you enjoy an engaging mystery with a good dose of whodunit, then this game may just be the right diversion to spend a few hours of your time.