Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode 2: The Wise Monkey Review
When I was reviewing the first episode of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, half of the text was devoted to questions and speculations. I was afraid what will become of the plot, I was worried that the NPCs will remain paper-thin and that we’ll get buried under tons of supernatural elements. Now, after finishing the second episode called The Wise Monkey, I still have rather mixed feelings. On the one hand, this instalment of the series is better than The Hangman in many aspects, but on the other, it’s not free of a bunch of sins, which you can’t simply let slide.
I’ll try to spare you all the glaring spoilers, but I can’t guarantee that the review will be absolutely free of them. After all, this is the second chapter of the story and it’s rather pointless to play it without knowing the first one. Anyway, better safe than sorry. Consider yourself warned.
The Wise Monkey begins not long after the disastrous events from the ending of The Hangman. Erica tries to somehow regain her mental balance while in the meantime the department gets a new boss, who definitely has some issues with Miss Reed. This is just the tip of the iceberg of problems our protagonist has to face. A new serial killer, titular The Wise Monkey, is on the loose and is eager to gouge people’s eyes out and cut off their tongues and/or ears. Lovely fellow, isn’t he? When the psychopath kidnaps the agent close to Erica’s heart and leaves the man’s ear behind to show his ill intentions, the heroine has to search every nook and cranny to find him before it’s too late.
I must say that when it comes solely to the plot, I found the second episode much more interesting. The investigation we conduct is dark, sufficiently tangled, abundant in plot twists and, above all, really gripping. What’s more, it’s soaked in macabre, so if you are squeamish and do not tolerate the sight of human sensory organs lying about, you should better pass this game over. The ending is nearly as intense as the epilogue of the first episode, so it keeps us on edge while we wait for the next part and the resolution of the whole intrigue.
Unfortunately, not everything is fine and dandy in this crime story. Firstly, if a few scenes and allusions were removed from the game, The Wise Monkey could easily be considered a separate production and not a part of a bigger whole. I was counting on more tie-ins to the “main quest”, which is solving the mystery of Cain, or maybe even getting some answers. Too bad we don’t really get much in that matter. A few minor snippets of info here and there are not nearly enough to satisfy our curiosity. I only hope this is just a build-up to something truly spectacular or I’ll be seriously disappointed. Secondly, the supporting cast turned into nearly absent cast. All the people we have acquainted previously have a marginal role in the story, often limited to a brief, skippable conversation. Well, it can be viewed as a good thing, since they were rather boring anyway, but maybe it would have been better to try and develop their personalities somehow instead of simply throwing everyone into oblivion of “whatever”. What’s more, the conversations are still, mind you, quite cheesy. I hope it will change in the next episode. Finally, the third gripe I have is that we don’t feel any tension or pressure when we’re racing against the time to save the agent. We know that he’s out there somewhere face to face with a maniacal psycho, but, to be honest, we couldn’t care less. No wonder that we don’t feel any connection with him, seeing that even his friends don’t seem overly affected by his predicament.
As for the gameplay, nothing really changed. Just like in the previous part, majority of the puzzles are inventory-based, designed quite cleverly and based on the common sense, so we can solve them without much difficulties. This time though the game is free from time puzzles (huzzah!) and task aimed at deductions (boo…), apart from one conundrum at the very end of the game. It won’t be a big spoiler if I say that it is a sophisticated riddle that checks the condition of our brain and the degree of attention we paid to the progress of our investigation. That is really great, I wish to see something similar in the third chapter.
In The Wise Monkey the repertoire of Erica’s mind tricks gets expanded by another power – synergy. This ability affects the items that we have gathered. When we use the skill, we have to open the inventory and single out one object. If it has a hidden memory within it, a blurred picture appears on the screen. To sharpen it, we have to connect at least two items together. If done correctly, the picture starts glowing and we gain access to a given memory. After the first episode I hoped that the paranormal elements won’t be dominant and fortunately it isn’t so. The new power is interesting and it fits nicely with the other ones. Besides, we’re not forced to use them all the time. After all, the point of a crime story is to conduct an investigation, collect evidence et cetera, and not to dive into the world of obscure hocus-pocus.
The music is once again one of the biggest pluses of the game. We can hear here a few familiar melodies as well as new compositions, in which even the opera singing can be spotted. Overall effect is pretty satisfying. When it comes to voice-acting, the situation is fairly similar to the first episode: Erica is cool, the rest of the cast deserves a loud “meh” and a shrug. The graphics is much more controversial issue. It’s hard to deny that we have here nicely done and dynamic cut-scenes and pretty backgrounds, but we can’t forget about dozens upon dozens of glitches like objects merging into one another or really bad animation. Just look at the weird gait of Erica. What’s more, after telling the heroine to do something, she often tends to stand motionlessly for a few seconds before she teleports to a designated location.
I have my own private list of complaints and suggestions towards The Wise Monkey, but it doesn’t change the most important fact: the second episode of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller was a fun game to play. Despite some bugs, glitches and unused potential, we still get a piece of a solid crime story that keeps us entertained for five hours tops. It’s worth downloading if you don’t mind a bit of macabre.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10
+ intriguing, dark plot
+ logical and interesting puzzles
+ Erica’s new supernatural power fits nicely with the others
+ great music
– totally marginalized supporting cast
– tsunami of graphical glitches