Cognition is a frustrating game to play.
Not just because the fundamentals are frustrating—and they are frustrating—but because there's so much good stuff buried underneath them. I love the tone, the music, the characters. I just can't get past how clunky it all feels.
Let's start from the beginning: Cognition is a point-and-click episodic adventure that was successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2011 and first released for PC late last year. Episode 1 came to the iPad yesterday.
Cognition, which is made by the same folks who created the King's Quest fangame series The Silver Lining, tells the story of Erica Reed, a feisty FBI agent with some psychic powers who suffers through a serious tragedy in the game's opening act. You guide her around, solve puzzles, and use her supernatural abilities to investigate and hunt down a nasty serial killer.
The writing is smart, and it's got a really cool, stylish, comic-book-inspired presentation. But the game just feels so rough. The screen sometimes doesn't register your touches right away, and sometimes the transition between a cut-scene and a gameplay scene is jarring and laggy. Using Erica's psychic abilities requires one more tap than it should, and she'll sometimes take a few seconds to pivot before she starts moving across the screen. Tons of little annoying quirks add up fast.
There are also quite a few animation glitches:
And then there's the art style. While it's true that good graphics don't make characters worth caring about, it's also true that bad graphics can take you out of a story entirely.
I sent that image to Luke and he made this for me:
If you can look past these glaring technical flaws, and if you don't mind the creepy faces, Cognition's story will probably pique your interest. And hopefully the folks at Phoenix Online Studios can work out some of these kinks for the next three episodes.