The early stages of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Episode 3: The Oracle don’t lead you to believe that the unfolding mystery will continue to grow in intensity, but plot twist after plot twist reveals a story where each new shock is greater than the last. Phoenix Online Studios goes above and beyond to keep players on the edge of their seats for the entirety of their playthrough. If you’ve followed Cognition from the first episode, expect a big payoff as the story elements begin to come to a head in the penultimate entry of this point-and-click adventure series.
The Oracle begins immediately after the previous episode’s grueling events. Protagonist Erica Reed enters the mysterious Enthon Towers — a place from which a body plunged to the ground — after her partner, John calls to say that he has business to handle there.
The entire game takes place at the closed-off Enthon Towers, so there’s no traveling from one location in the city to another like in previous installments of the series — and it works for the better. Enthon Towers’ setting resembles a creepy House of Horrors plagued with off-putting secrecy and urban myth. The eerie feel is enjoyable, but there are only approximately three to four locations in the towers you can visit. It would have been much more satisfying to have more areas to explore to give this gigantic location more depth.
That said, this episode doesn’t hinge on where it’s being taken place, but when. As the story progresses, Erica uses her psychic abilities to visit the past and help Cordelia, a recurring character. In this episode it’s revealed that Cordelia can see into the future. As a result, when Erica goes into the past to find information, the player is actually controlling Cordelia and using her then newly developed power of insight to solve the mysteries of her time, which in-turn assists Erica in the present. This role-switching a unique use of gameplay and narrative. In the midst of going back and forth in time, Erica and Cordelia develop an interesting sort of long-distance relationship that’s hindered by the unclear way of how they become aware of each other.
Despite this small arcanum, past Cordelia begins to trust Erica in this helpless and innocent way makes you reconsider your feelings on present day Cordelia. This constant role-switching between the past and the present creates mysteries that boarder on brilliant. Phoenix Online Studio creates puzzles that require you to absorb everything in Erica and Cordelia’s surroundings, and pay close attention to detail.
The Oracle introduces three new people — Max, Keith and Skorobeus — who receive more characterization in Cordelia’s story than in Erica’s. These new characters suffer from the same hit-and-miss voice acting as mostly every other character in the series, save Skorobeus, who’s devilish delivery and clean-cut appearance make him a standout villainous character. The more you find out about Cordelia’s past, the people involved in it, and how much it connects to Erica’s present, makes everyone who takes the screen in this episode suspicious. It’s that “Guess Who?” aspect drives the story and heightens anticipation.
My review build contained glitches noted to reviewers beforehand, such as characters phasing through solid objects (Phoenix Online Studio promised to patch the retail version). But there were other technical issues I ran into that weren’t listed. For example, a few characters’ eyeballs will move in very awkward and sometimes disturbing looking way. Or Erica/Cordelia will bend their legs a bit too much while walking. None of these issues are too serious, but are very noticeable.
What I love the most about the Cognition series is that each installment is better than the previous, and offers a plot twist more devastating than the last. The Oracle brings things to a head as the final episode draws near. Besides a few technical difficulties and the hit-and-miss voice acting, Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Episode 3: The Oracle represents the best that the series has to offer, and sets up a cliffhanger that makes not completing the series damn near impossible.
You can buy Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Episode 3: The Oracle for $9.99 at Phoenix Online Studio.