Review: Cognition: Episode 2: The Wise Monkey rips apart body and soul

Under new management, the FBI orders redheaded agent Erica Reed to step away from her previous investigation and pursue a new assignment: apprehending the killer known as the Wise Monkey, the focus of Cognition: Episode 2 (available today). The new director of the Boston office thinks she’s grown too “close” to the case and that a break would do her some good. Neither of them suspects that the clues might lead them full-circle.

Part two of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is a little shorter than the previous episode, requiring about five hours of playtime as opposed to six or seven. In a lot of ways, it fixes what was broken in The Hangman: mostly a drawn-out and overly involved Regression puzzle, where helping a witness remember key information required too many steps and too great an effort. While you do use Erica’s Regression ability a couple times in Episode 2, it’s much simpler — basically a “put these events in order” kind of challenge instead of one long, complicated affair.

The new power that she learns is called Synergy, which lets her psychically group related items in her inventory and discern useful memories from them. So she might be able to get a phone number off a piece of paper, for example, by “linking” the pen that wrote it to the memo, where the digits appear jumbled — jotted down in the wrong order. This is the only new ability that you gain, but the developers at Phoenix Online Studios put it to good use throughout the episode, and it never wears out its appeal.

Cognition Episode 2 - 1

Erica’s fierce personality still drives the story — only now she’s replaced her superfluous swearing of male-gendered insults with female ones and adopted a cheesy fist pump for when she’s angry. This time, she’s on her own, without a partner to accompany her. Some of the humor is lost; I was disappointed that funny forensics guy Terence never made a cameo.

The pace moves faster than before, allowing you to reach new areas and meet new characters more quickly. I still progressed in fits and starts, but I wasn’t stuck for hours like last time. In a clever twist, The Wise Monkey brings in a minor character from the first episode and gives him (Or maybe her? I’m not telling.) a bigger role, but the developers could have used some of that creativity to spice up the interaction in headquarters, where — for example — talking to your usual partner, John, yields the same canned dialogue. I understand why they didn’t change it — it doesn’t make sense to since these episodes comprise one big game — but I was already sick of hearing John’s “Go get ’em, red!” halfway through The Hangman. I don’t care to hear it again.

Cognition Episode 2 - 2

The Wise Monkey does contain a few minor graphic hitches here and there (including quite the disturbance of a certain office assistant’s bosom), but they shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying the game, at least not from the ones I encountered. The second episode maintains that great dramatic tension that we experienced previously, and I might even like its plotline more.

This killer’s victims are all musically gifted, and Erica’s Synergy is a good fit for a case where the removal of body parts — eyes, ears, and tongues — are the murderer’s MO. Together, the pairing makes for a few intense last-minute puzzles and an awesome cliffhanger that will keep fans talking.

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