When someone close to Erica is kidnapped by the Wise Monkey, a serial killer fixated on the gruesome mutilation of her victims, Erica is in a race against time to save his life. With the Wise Monkey case in her hands and the FBI’s resources already stretched thin, she’s on her own to find the killer before it’s too late — again.
What We Think
Wherein we cover the second episode of Cognition “The Wise Monkey” – a point-and-click indie adventure game starring Erica Reed – a detective with emergent psychic abilities from developers Phoenix Online Studios.
Deja vu all over again
Beyond a new ability gained by Erica in the early moments of the chapter, Cognition Episode 2 plays almost identically to its predecessor, and as such, this review will strictly be covering improvements to visual/audio components, and a concise spoiler-free overview of the game’s most important feature, the storyline. For the full preview of the series’ game mechanics, please check out our review of Cognition Episode 1: The Hangman.
Psychic Cops never get a break (but they knew that before they took the job).
Cognition: Episode 2 picks up a few hours after the cliffhanger ending to Episode 1. After a brief introductory dialogue, disaster strikes, and Erica is forced out from behind her desk and back into the path of danger.
Noticeably darker in tone and even more graphic in its visuals, Episode 2 follows Erica Reed as she tries to track down a ruthless criminal known as “The Wise Monkey,” a sadistic serial killer who excavates the eyes, ears and tongues from all of her victims.
As might be expected from an episodic game, Cognition treads a lot of the same ground from the previous episode. Many of the game’s characters are re-used, however some are given a little more time in the spotlight, while others don’t get any screen time at all. It’s a welcome change, and though not every character is a great addition (once again, some voice acting comes up slightly short), it’s nice to see the developers branching out into new characters and plotlines.
With the bulk of the story still centered on Erica, it falls to Raleigh Holmes, the voice actor who plays the lead to keep us in the world of the play. She still misses the mark on the “Bostonian” accent here and there, but the story that’s presented still delivers some fairly powerful moments, and Raleigh does an excellent job of hitting the emotional notes just right.
Unfortunately, not all of the characters are as believable and this does hurt the game’s overall tone, but the audio stumbles are few, even if there is some incredibly annoying and unnecessary impromptu singing from one of the game’s lesser characters (I actually had to remove my head phones at this point), but it may be a personal gripe, and can be overlooked.
Cop a Feel
Many areas from Episode 1 are revisited in his new installment, but the game’s new locations are as strikingly crafted as the ones prior, and fit wonderfully into Phoenix Online‘s vision for this growing game world. Some environments attain an incredible feeling of depth, whereas many of the sets in the opening chapter tended to fall fairly flat. The design team has definitely gone that extra step to bring the player into Erica’s world.
The cinematics in the game have clearly received more care and attention this time around. The level of polish found in the cut-scenes help move the story along, and provide far more tension than the previous episode’s primarily motionless “comic book” style moments.
I continue to take issue with the game’s frequently inconsistent animations; characters still pop into place, spin randomly when asked to move to an area, and generally feel out of sync with many of the game’s dialogue-driven moments. Though none of this is catastrophic on its own, it does a fair amount to hurt the overall suspension of belief.
A game so centered around story and character development needs its characters to feel solid; unfortunately, this vital component of the game feels as overlooked as it did in the previous episode, and it practically counteracts all of the wonderful work achieved in the environmental design and story arcs.
The Case is Afoot! And an Eye, Ear and Tongue…
Cognition Episode 2: The Wise Monkey, does a solid job of progressing the series forward in terms of story and character development, as well as some admirable jumps in environmental design, however there are still some highly distracting blemishes that are becoming more of a nuisance the longer they go unchecked.
While I was okay with these occurrences on the game’s initial outing, I had hoped that they would be ironed out in any future iterations. They really are moments that no finished game should contain. I’m once again hoping that future episodes (there are two yet to be released) will have these wrinkles ironed out.
Episode 2 definitely brings an intriguing new story to the table, and anybody who enjoyed the first episode will more than likely want to check out episode 2.
Get Cognition Episodes One and Two at the Phoenix Online Studios website