Sawbuck Gamer

Cognition

Mind Over Matter

Cognition’s old-school structure overshadows its psychic-sleuth twist.

By Ryan Smith • November 13, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

The faux-psychic cops of TV’s Psych and The Mentalist live in inexplicable universes where the protagonists conceal their Sherlock Holmes-like abilities of observation to pretend they’re more like Miss Cleo—presumably because science is way scarier than witchcraft.

But in Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, the titular F.B.I. agent’s bona fide psychic abilities don’t seem to garner nearly enough attention. For instance, her gruff, egg-sandwich-loving partner John merely suggests that Erica might want to chat with the town antique dealer/psychic about her ability to see the visual history of an object by touching it. (“You gotta deal with these flashes of yours somehow,” he casually suggests.)

Luckily, the game takes her powers way more seriously than the secondary characters do. The inclusion of the “cognition sphere,” an object that grants you momentary flashbacks and secret insights about murder scenes or pieces of evidence, delivers a sense of freshness to a game that too often adheres to the well-worn tropes of traditional point-and-click adventure games. You solve puzzles mostly by completing tedious fetch quests or through trial-and-error, by finding random objects in the environment that will conveniently come in handy later—you might use a gun to shoot a lock on a gate, say, or bring a box of donuts to the fat guy at the office to steal his lighter. Still, Cognition deserves credit for stretching its legs and allowing the mystery of a sibling-hunting serial killer to unravel in a measured pace that recalls the slow-burning tension of the PlayStation 3 drama Heavy Rain or AMC’s The Killing.

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  • http://twitter.com/HttpLovecraft Http Lovecraft

    Gameological/Ryan, thanks for saving me the trouble of hunting for the start-to-crate (starttocrate.tumblr.com(!))score by including that tucked-away-but-highly-identifiable cardboard box in your screenshot.

  • Ghostfucker

    “…recalls the slow-burning tension of the PlayStation 3 drama Heavy Rain or AMC’s The Killing.”

    Hmm….think I’ll give this a pass.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      Like The Killing?  Oh boy!  So at the end of the game, the answer to who committed the main crime will be “Who cares?  Look at this new shiny thing instead!”

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        The rain did it.

      • http://twitter.com/RyanSmithWriter Ryan Smith

        Honestly, I never finished watching the first season of The Killing, but I did hear it went downhill fast.

    • hastapura

      Yeah I don’t know of any two references that would shut me down faster. Chuck Palahniuk and Glee?

      Isn’t that just American Horror Story, though?

  • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

    Wait, is that Walter from The Big Lebowski?

    • Effigy_Power

      He can get you a toe no problem.

  • Chum Joely

    I won’t be playing this game. However, I was amusingly confused for about 1 second by the subtle switch between the graphic on the main page (Erica Reed pointing at Walter-ish dude) and the one at the top of this article (Walter pointing at Erica). That is all.

    • Fluka

      Whoa!

    • lokimotive

      I noticed that, too. Sadly that’s probably all the excitement I’ll get out of this game.