PC Review: Cognition Episode 1 — The Hangman
By: Casey Curran
It hasn’t even been a month since Telltale’s The Walking Dead snagged a number of “Game of the Year” accolades, and already we have a clone of their games with Cognition. The art style is a clear rip off. It’s an episodic point-and-click adventure as well. So I have to give praise to developer Phoenix Online Studios for their quickness in making a game leeching off Telltale’s success. Unfortunately, that is the only praise I can give to them.
Ever since I first played a point-and-click adventure, I felt comfortable that at least this was a genre that could not produce anything with awful controls. There could be nothing like Bubsy 3D or Superman 64 where it was completely broken. While Cognition is not as broken as those games, the developers did indeed find a way to make me eat my words. Cognition is the worst point-and-click interface I have ever seen.
Everything in this game requires one click too many. Clicking on something will bring up a wheel with commands. It is here you select whether to interact, analyze or use an item. The problem is this wheel is very finicky, often disappearing because I did not move my mouse to it perfectly. When this is used in normal scenarios, it is just annoying. During quick-time events, which still use this, it is game breaking. It is a very annoying interface that sucked any fun and immersion I had.
Character models are a wholesale rip off of a Telltale adventure, with one minor exception. Rather than use fully 3D backgrounds, it uses pre-rendered 2D backgrounds similar to the PS1 Final Fantasy games. The problem with this choice is that these elements do not mesh together at all. The character models have a very comic book look to them while the graphics feel more like something from an art painting. This creates an art style where the characters look out of place; and it was always very noticeable.
The one upside is that the graphics are better than the music and voice acting. One track in particular was so repetitive and annoying that it reminded me of those Simpsons episodes where Bart and Lisa ask Homer to do something over and over until he says yes. If you stuck me in a room with that music for 10 minutes I would even give a kidney to Dick Cheney just to make it stop.
Voice acting meanwhile, is atrocious. Main character Erica Reed’s delivery is as bad as the first three Resident Evil games. Her partner John, who is supposed to be “witty,” is instead one of the worst characters in any game. In one segment, Erica is trying to save her brother who is about to be murdered by a killer (don’t worry about spoilers, this happens in the beginning with no exposition), and he jokes about the situation with lines too corny for Nathan Drake. Every time he spoke, I wanted to shut off the game. The rest of the characters do not fare much better.
Puzzles take a page from Uncharted in that they are impossible to solve until you use this power Erica has to see into the past, which then gives you the answer rather than a hint. I do not think there was one puzzle that stumped me without being way too vague for its own good. To make things worse, the objectives are just plain stupid. One instance forces Erica to break into her boss’ office when everyone else is looking and the door is in clear view. The game expects the player to not think about how stupid she is for breaking in and how stupid the rest of the people are for not noticing. In a genre dependent on the story, that is just lazy writing.
The absolute worst thing about the gameplay though is the load times. Every single time I did something, no matter what the graphic settings were, I had to wait at least five seconds for the game to load. Pick up an item? Wait for it to load. Look at an object? Wait for it to load. It was ridiculous how poorly made this game really was.
This is as bad as clones get. It is even worse than Telltale’s Jurassic Park game. Expect the company to get more clones as time goes on and like most clones, expect to avoid this one like the plague.