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Things got a bit mental at the office Christmas party

SPOILERS FOR EPISODE ONE AHOY!

If you played Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Episode One through to completion, you’ll know it ended on a bit of a melancholic cliffhanger. Irritating boss-lady Davies met a suitably nasty demise, and that pesky killer slipped away after a suitably dramatic gun battle, leaving our feisty psychic heroine both shaken and empty-handed...

Gripping thriller

Cognition Episode Two kicks off with just as much drama, although this time it’s a new nemesis who stirs things up, by drugging Erica in the middle of the station and kidnapping her colleague and possible squishy love interest Sully. Nicknamed ‘The Wise Monkey’, this femme fatale is clearly madder than a basket of spider monkeys, with a penchant for pushing people off of things and slicing off bits of them as keepsakes. Erica is stuck straight on the case and it’s up to her/you to single-handedly track down the killer.

The story is mostly stand-alone so you don’t need to have played Cognition Episode One, but it’s worth it to get a full grasp of the characters and to understand the occasional reference back to earlier cases. You’ll revisit many of Episode One’s locations and talk with a lot of the old cast, including the gripey coroner, your waste-of-air partner (who thankfully can be pretty much ignored this time around) and amicable fellow psychic Rose.

We were surprised by the massive departure from the first episode’s story, but this doesn’t hurt Cognition Episode Two. In fact, the plot is strongly written, with plenty of grisly moments, a hefty dose of suspense and a couple of killer twists towards the end. The pace has been tightened too, while the final puzzles were so tense that it took three complete play-throughs of a Taylor Swift album to calm us back down.

Less talky, more solvey

Our major problem with Cognition Episode One was the saggy middle section, where Erica treks from location to location chatting with people. Thankfully there’s a lot less of that in Episode Two, and you’ll have a fair few conundrums to work through. These are all real-world problems, such as getting a character to leave a scene or proving that someone is lying to you: there’s almost no ‘hit the squirrel with a banjo to get the clown to jump into the pond’ weirdness.

Of course, Episode Two does make full use of Erica’s psychic powers, in particular the new Synergy power which allows you to combine related inventory items to catch a glimpse of the past. It’s a simple but effective power that helps you out a few times, and Erica’s existing powers also come into play once or twice. As before, it’s an interesting gameplay mechanic that helps Cognition to stand out from other mystery/thriller titles.

The whole thing's over rather quickly (as you'd expect from an episodic game) and hardened adventure gamers shouldn't struggle at any point, but for the budget price we'd say it's a must-buy for grisly adventure lovers.


The verdict

Cognition: Episode Two is a solid detective thriller adventure game which should keep you engrossed for its short running time. The plot may not move the overall story forward much, but the hunt for the Wise Monkey is a gripping one and the tense, twisty ending is a fantastic payoff. Plus, of course, this game is requirements-light, so you can play on any reasonably powerful laptop or ageing desktop. With two more parts still to come, we’re already looking forward to Episode Three...

Things is about to get a little bit crazy