Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 4

"Erica Reed is an engaging character: flawed but good-hearted, and learning as she goes along — much like the game named for her."

The four episodes of Cognition, now available in their entirety, provide a fascinating look at the progress of a nascent development team — and, quite fortunately, comprise one of the more memorable modern point-and-click adventure games on the market. The series started out with promise and a premise, and I'm pleased to say that with The Cain Killer, they've delivered on both.

The game continues directly from the shocking events of episode 3's finale and offers an exciting, briskly-paced epilogue. Both of the previously playable characters return with their unique abilities, and the developers have truly created some great puzzles to put them to the test. Many of the small criticisms I had with earlier episodes' pacing and puzzles were refined in episode 3, and in The Cain Killer, things are better than ever. Most importantly, though, the story delivers. As I've said before, certain aspects throughout the series have strained believability (even in the face of people with supernatural precognitive abilities), and that's still true here. However, the character development and overall arc of the storyline come to a satisfying and even unpredictable conclusion. Several revelations late in the game honestly shocked me, and I was pleased with the satisfying resolutions for all major plot threads, even as the writers offered potential material for future games.

There isn't much more to be said visually about this series that I haven't before: gorgeous artwork and design, but marred with bad 3D models and animation. The music, as always, is excellent, and it's clear the developers paid close attention to how the use of sound plays into the narrative. The voices are as good as they've ever been; some accents still sound forced to my ear, but overall performances are satisfying. Mechanically, the game feels as tight as its immediate predecessor — a marked improvement over the first two installments.

No longer the barren wasteland it once was, adventure gaming now offers more options than ever that compete for your time and money. Budding developers and veterans alike are producing quality experiences at an astounding rate, which makes the choice of investing in any particular game a difficult one. However, over the course of Erica Reed's four-part storyline, I've experienced a game that has evolved from mere concepts and promise to an exciting, well-paced piece of interactive storytelling. Erica Reed is an engaging character: flawed but good-hearted, and learning as she goes along — much like the game named for her. This was a trip I'm glad I went on, and one I advise any fan of adventure games to take for a spin.

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