Review: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller: Episode Four: The Cain Killer

Erica: “So this is what a serial killer family sink looks like. Pretty much like everyone else’s.”

Previously on Cognition…

2_Erica Rear View

I previously reviewed Episode One: The HangmanEpisode Two: The Wise Monkey, and Episode Three: The Oracle. The Cognition story concludes with The Cain Killer, and I will not spoil this final episode at all. However, it would be difficult to discuss this episode without referencing the previous three, so there are spoilers for them.

Watch the finale trailer:

Plot

10_Whisper

We get a better “Previously on Cognition” segment than in episode three, but I still wish it was more specific in reminding us about what happened previously – it’s been four months since I played episode three, and I definitely forgot some of the details. The game begins with a flashback to Scott’s funeral, and then a further flashback to the circumstances of Scott’s death (which, looking back after finishing the game, was perhaps unnecessary). We also get a lot of backstory/character development for Rose, which is cool. This is done through an elaborate sequence that calls upon your regression power. McAdams, who has basically been a complete jerk the entire game, gets some overdue humanity in this episode as well, which is always nice to see – even if it is coming in pretty late.

This is the shortest episode – it took me about two hours to complete it.

Graphics and Sound

7_Warehouse Group

Pretty much all of the music in this episode is really, really ominous, starting with the menu music. The music has never been happy, but we really get into some creepy-sounding stuff for this episode. At one point, you have to turn on a radio, and it produces some good music I wish we could have heard some more of. There are no new voice actors, and everyone continues to do an excellent job (even the inevitable over-the-top villain monologue fits in well with what’s happening).

Graphics really stood out in this episode – I am not sure if more resources were available in this episode or what, but the water effects were well-done and the backgrounds in general were beautiful, especially at the lakehouse that features prominently in this episode. There were even some lens flares thrown in! There are a few graphical glitches, and walking can still sometimes get a little funky, but by this point it doesn’t really bother me.

Gameplay

4_Cordelia Erica basement map

No new powers are introduced in this final episode (which I believe is a good thing – adding anything else would be confusing at this stage, especially since there’s so many to work with already). Instead, you have to put powers to use in more combined ways to solve longer, more involved puzzles. There is one new mechanic added to this episode, and it’s one I would have liked to see throughout the entire game; it seems odd to only introduce it now. It’s a trust meter with certain characters in the story – a thug at the beginning (who serves as your tutorial to the process), Cordelia, and McAdams. It goes up or down depending on your dialogue choices, and it’s not always obvious which is the choice that will endear you to the character. You also can switch between Cordelia and Erica as you did in episode three, but this time, you are working together in the same physical space. This causes a lot of tension (for obvious, murder-related reasons).

The Cain Killer actually has the least amount of gameplay of all the episodes – I felt like a big chunk of time was taken up by cutscenes. This didn’t bother me, but it might bother some people. I think in the context of the larger game, it would seem more natural. There aren’t as many puzzles, but they are more involved and require more steps. Nothing is illogical; however, one puzzle requires you to use both Erica and Cordelia’s powers to look at the same object, and I don’t feel like the time given to you to do this is enough; I ended up using a walkthrough for that particular part. Also, I question where Erica suddenly and conveniently obtained caltrops 3/4 of the way through. The game has two endings, which depend on the trust level you maintain with Cordelia.

There are more opportunities to die or otherwise have to restart in The Cain Killer than in any of the other episodes…so tread lightly. The game over screen isn’t frustrating though – you get brought back right to where you were, and sometimes even have a choice of where in the sequence you want to go back to. There’s only one part where you can get a game over that requires an entire conversation to happen again. Something I noticed in this chapter was that it’s harder to find places to save, both because the game is so short and because there are certain sequences where you are not allowed to save (mostly when in mortal danger). You’ll probably play this episode in one sitting though, so it’s not a big deal.

Final Verdict

1_Erica and John Van

Cognition is the first episodic game where I had to wait between all of the parts to play it (and I’m also currently experiencing this with my ongoing reviews of The Raven games). I find it much more enjoyable to play once all the parts are released, in order to experience the game as a whole. The Cain Killer is a satisfying conclusion to Cognition, but I think it was less impactful than if I had played through all four episodes in close succession. Cognition is a tightly-plotted thriller that I have very much enjoyed reviewing since January of this year. It is well worth your time, and kudos to Phoenix Online Studios for making an excellent game with an awesome lead character.

Score: B- for the episode, A- for the entire Cognition series.

You can get The Cain Killer from the official site, Steam, GOG, and many other online stores. Like Phoenix Online Studios on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

[Disclaimer: A review code was provided for me to review this game.]

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One thought on “Review: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller: Episode Four: The Cain Killer

  1. Pingback: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Remake |

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