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Video Game / Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller

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Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is an Episodic Indie Adventure Game by Phoenix Online Studios, the people behind the King's Quest Fan Sequel, The Silver Lining, with writing consulting by Jane Jensen of Gabriel Knight fame.

In it, the player assumes control of the titular character, an agent at FBI's Boston division, as she unravels complicated murder cases and chases serial killers, aided by her trusty partner John McCoy and her strange "cognition" ability, some sort of sixth sense that allows Erica to briefly glimpse into the past by touching objects that are imprinted with memories.

The first season of the game is available now, and consists of the following episodes:

  • Episode 1: The Hangman (Released October 30, 2012)
  • Episode 2: The Wise Monkey (Released January 30, 2013)
  • Episode 3: The Oracle (Released May 16, 2013)
  • Episode 4: The Cain Killer (Released September 19, 2013)


  • Abusive Parents: Cordelia & Max's father used to beat Max with a belt.
  • Action Prologue: The first episode opens with Erica and John trying to save her brother, Scott, from the Cain Killer.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: You almost start to feel sorry for the Cain Killer and the Oracle by the end.
  • All There in the Manual: The prequel comic contains the details of the Cain Killer's victims until Scott & Erica Reed. This is especially important for Episode 4, where you don't do detailed investigations of past incidents of a case like you had done for the Hangman and Wise Monkey.
  • American Accents: Considering it takes place in Boston, expect strong Boston accents.
  • Amoral Attorney: While it isn't shown if the Smith family's lawyer, Skorobeus, acts like one in court, he certainly is one outside of it.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: In the third and fourth episode, the player gains control of Cordelia Smith in several segments.
  • Anti-Villain: For all the stuff that Cordelia does, the one thing she doesn't want is the death of Erica or anyone in her family.
  • Asshole Victim: Antony Longmore and Joey Goethals were both murdered by the Oracle as part as her plan. Both of them were serial killers who had murdered various people in horrible ways with no sign of stopping.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: All 4 of the killers are taken out by Cordelia aka the Oracle.
  • Bastard Bastard: Keith Smith is also known as Jeff Therrien, who is Skorobeus' son, and is also known as the Cain Killer.
  • Batman Gambit: You have to get McAdams angry enough to grab Erica, thus allowing the use of regression on him. The whole plot is a larger one for Cordelia, as she is trying to make Erica kill Keith.
  • Cain and Abel: The Cain Killer was probably so named because of his focus on siblings. Turns out, it's because Keith acted as the "Cain" while Max was the "Abel".
  • Calling Card: The Wise Monkey leaves a music related sliver charm next to her victims, as well as sending them out to people she plans to target.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Cordelia, the woman who catches Erica stealing a flower, turns out to be the Oracle, and deeply involved in the whole plot.
  • The Chessmaster: Cordelia, to the point of exploiting her shared visions with Erica to make her shoot John. The Cain Killer one-ups them both, despite knowing that both Erica and Cordelia are psions.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Doesn't really come into play before Cordelia becomes playable, but her pre-cognition aura is colored light-orange to contrast with Erica's light-blue cognition aura.
  • The Confidant:
    • John is the only other agent who knows about Erica's gift.
    • Rose is this to several people, including John and Erica.
  • Criminal Mind Games: The Cain Killer, the Oracle, and the Wise Monkey are all fond of these. Turns out it was the Cain Killer and the Oracle working together to give hints and deathtraps to the FBI.
  • Da Chief: Davis and McAdams.
  • Damsel in Distress: Conversed. Erica mentions in passing that she hated those kinds of stories as a child.
  • Dead All Along: Kelsey Gardner, the main suspect of the Wise Monkey case, was actually the Wise Monkey's first victim.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: John is mentioned to have an affinity for donuts.
  • Finger in the Mail: Poor Sully ends up being at the receiving end of this, as the Oracle takes one of his eyes for Erica to find.
  • Freudian Excuse: Each of the killers has some rationalization for how they ended up the way they are. The Cain Killer, in particular, has a thing or two in common with the Origami Killer.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Rose.
  • Eye Scream: What The Wise Monkey does to some of their victims. It's done to Sully partially, albeit not by that particular killer, but another known as The Oracle. Also, the Wise Monkey themselves gets this treatment by the Oracle.
  • Ear Ache: What The Wise Monkey does to some of their victims. It's also done partially to Sully, again by The Oracle. Also done to The Wise Monkey themselves by The Oracle.
  • Fiery Redhead/Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Erica, of course.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: Cordelia purposely does some things so that Erica will see them.
  • Hammerspace: As it is standard fare for adventure games. It is kept fairly realistic for the most part, but some moments stand out. Pretty much every item is compressed inside of Erica's shirt. The most egregious example of this is when Cordelia grabs an orrery that's about half her height and much wider than her, has to hoist it with both hands with difficulty, and stuff it into her skinny little abdomen.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Cordelia and Erica can see each other's visions. Cordelia manages to be one step ahead of Erica, though, most of the time.
  • It's Personal: The Cain Killer targets Erica and her brother. Then the Wise Monkey targets her love interest. Turns out it was Cordelia personally attacking Erica and everyone around her, the whole time.
  • Jerkass: Mc Adams is an abrasive and unpleasant man. That said he is entirely right in a lot of his criticism and it is possible to earn his trust.
  • Karmic Death: The Hangman and Wise Monkey are both killed in the same way as the people they murdered.
  • Karma Meter: Episode 4 brings in a Trust Meter where saying the right thing raises people's trust which leads to multiple situations later on.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: The Hangman and Wise Monkey are both examples of this, being killed by Oracle using the same methods they themselves use.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Erica. Lampshaded by Cordelia who notices how "natural" Erica looked when taking a flower from a grave.
  • Mental Time Travel: Erica and Cordelia do this by getting inside each others' visions.
  • Necromantic: The Wise Monkey's motive.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Davies wrote off the death of Robert's fiancé as a suicide. Robert ended up wasting his fortune trying to learn what really happened and became homeless. Not only was Robert RIGHT but the actual perpetrator ended up murdering another women in the three years between Robert's case and the present day, stopped only when another serial killer (the Oracle) learned of his true nature and killed him as part of their Deadly Mind Game.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Sometimes Erica talks like a stereotypical southie, but sometimes she talks in a standard manner.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Two of the Oracle's victims are Antony Longmore (a serial killer who indirectly destroyed a man's life by murdering his wife and sending him into a downward spiral) and Joey Goethals (a possessive creep even before he became a serial killer). Oracle not only murders them but uses the same methods as the killers themselves.
  • Power Incontinence: Erica's cognition has a tendency to get extra sensitive when she is emotionally distressed, causing her to involuntary use it in situations where it is very inconvenient for her.
  • Psychic Powers: DUH! It IS called Cognition, after all! Erica has these, specifically post-cognitition (the ability to see the past), while Cordelia has the opposite, pre-cognition (the ability to see into the future) as revealed in episode 3.
  • Recurring Boss: The boss of the first three episodes is the Oracle. The Cain Killer is the boss of both the prologue and Episode 4.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Erica is the red - hotheaded, not afraid to shout a Cluster F-Bomb to express herself, an Action Girl, etc. Cordelia is the blue - with a much more calm demeanor, getting sad rather than angry, making big plans, etc. Inverted for the colors of their powers, however.
  • The Reveal: Cordelia and Max were aware that something was off about Keith but loved and supported him anyway. Then they find out Keith's disturbing behavior was the seed to becoming a brutal serial murderer in the worst way possible.
  • Samus Is a Girl: An inverted villainous example. The Wise Monkey, who is assumed to be a female serial killer, turns out to be a man, more specifically the boyfriend of the main suspect, who, it turns out, was Dead All Along.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The reason that the Cain Killer was inactive was because his sister got the drop on him, captured him, and than chained him up in the basement.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: The Oracle, complete with killing the killers by their own M.O.s.
  • Shout-Out: Terence asks Erica to do the Thief Sign from Quest for Glory when she asks him for a set of lockpicks.
  • Spiritual Successor: The developers has mentioned the Gabriel Knight series as a main inspiration, and Jane Jensen is indeed listed as a Story Consultant in the credits.
    • Moebius: Empire Rising is one to this game for being written by Jane Jensen, using the same (slightly buggy and awkward) engine, having a lot of detail in furniture and decorations, and an emphasis on psychic powers.
  • Start of Darkness: Episode 3 is one for Cordelia as well as Keith, aka the Cain Killer.
  • Tongue Trauma: What The Wise Monkey does to some of their victims. Done to The Wise Monkey themselves by The Oracle.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Erica does this in Episode 4. In the ending, she quits the FBI for good.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Erica is attracted to Sully, and it is indeed requited, but she prefers to keep a distance to him as her gift had a tendency to make her previous romantic relationships very awkward. While touching him, she can see him doing... typical... bro... things...
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Skorobeus. Not only is he Keith's biological father, his legal maneuverings to make sure Keith got all of the money set in motion a chain of events that led to him snapping and becoming the Cain Killer.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can do things like keep a poor grieving homeless guy in prison. There's even achievements for some of the crueller acts.
  • Villain Has a Point: Cordelia says that Antony Longmore and Joey Goethals both needed to be stopped, and that she saved lives by taking them out. Considering that Davies had failed to realize that one of Longmore's previous cases wasn't a suicide, that Cordelia herself only learned that he was a killer by pure chance, and that Longmore and Goethals had both been scoping out other targets when Cordelia killed them its hard to argue even if her methods were excessive.