Cognition Episode 2: The Wise Monkey




Genre:   Adventure

Developer:  Phoenix Online Studios

Publisher:   Reverb Publishing

Released:  January 2013

PC Requirements:

• Operating System – Windows: XP/Vista/7, Mac: Snow Leopard (10.6.X)
• Processor – 2.0 GHz*
• Memory – 4 GB RAM
• Video Card –ATI or NVidia with 1 GB RAM**
• Hard disk – 2.5 GB free space  

Walkthrough   Additional screenshots





by Rushes





When Boston FBI agent Erica Reed's colleague is wounded and abducted by a serial killer known as The Wise Monkey, it's a fraught race against a ticking clock to save him. The Monkey's other intended targets have each received a silver bracelet charm as a warning they might be next. Erica has her suspicions – not to mention a full set of cognitive abilities – and is on the killer's trail.

The Wise Monkey is the second in a four-part adventure series by independent developers, Phoenix Online Studios. 

Why, Monkey?

Not having played the first episode in the Cognition set, it feels a little disconcerting to land smack dab at the start of Episode 2, where the player is expected to know who is who and what is what. The dialogue makes repeated references back to the previous instalment. For a little while I feel like a dazed and confused cast member from an East End of London soap opera. “Woss going ahnnnn?” I moan softly, as I stumble around the comic-strip style environs of Cognition's FBI office. The severed and bloody ear upon the carpet struggles to answer back. Eventually, I find my bearings and the adventure begins in earnest. 

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this graphical style. The background detail is pleasant enough, for the most part, but the characters are awkwardly drawn and jerkily animated. When Erica opens a door, her legs bow. When she walks from one side of the room across to the other, it's as if Groucho Marx is channelling through her with knees akimbo and all that's missing is the cigar and the knowing leer. Sometimes, Erica refuses to move despite repeated clicking. Playing a preview copy of the game, I experienced a large number of graphical oopsies: from characters facing the opposite way during dialogue, to drifting through background objects, to Erica's “sitting down” at a desk only to miss the chair entirely and be effectively perching in mid-air. These errors were promised to be corrected by the episode's release, and I do hope that to be the case, for the overall effect was distracting if eye-rollingly amusing. I encountered occasional sluggish cursor movement and long screen-loading times.

Three icons at the top left of the game screen allow access to the main menu, Erica's cell phone and the hotspot feature; the space bar also working as an alternative for the latter. A cognition sphere sits at the bottom left, where the player might click on it for the purpose of examining certain evidence, obtaining clues and seeing past events. The majority of The Wise Monkey's puzzling bases itself around the sphere, and as such there are very few stand-alone puzzles. Where one might think an opportunity would arise for a challenge – for example, the opening of an intricate wooden puzzle box, or a lock-picking – the player simply uses the sphere to help Erica channel her special powers and the puzzle automatically solves. The inventory appears as a vertical bar on the right side of the screen, where items may be combined or examined in closer detail. There are unlimited save slots.

From a stuttering beginning, the story does pick up to become an engaging one, keeping the player guessing up to the end. Severed ears and tongues, gouged eyes; this is no meagre fare. The detail is never truly grotesque, drawn as it is in the colourful comic-strip fashion which serves in diffusing the horror. It is mostly a psychological game of cat and mouse, as Erica uncovers multi layers of information and secrets. The amount of dialogue is about right, not too excessive, and the voice acting is convincing for all characters such as we meet along the way. There are not so very many of them, mostly minor; the focus being primarily on Erica. There are a number of locations to visit, although contained and with reduced opportunity for exploration.

The game installed and ran without any problems, and I encountered no dead ends or bugs.

At around 4-5 hours of gameplay, I would say that The Wise Monkey has much to offer if you enjoy your heroines young and feisty and your plotlines dark and pondering.

Grade: B

I played on:

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1

AMD A6-3650 APU @ 2.60GHz

4.00 GB of  RAM

Radeon HD 6530D Graphics


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February 2013

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