Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode 4: The Cain Killer Review

After months of carefully putting together puzzles and helping agent Reed along in her investigation, it’s finally time to end it all. Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller comes to a satisfying close when Erica finally comes face-to-face with the Cain Killer in arguably the best episode of the season.

Dubbed quite simply The Cain Killer, episode four starts off with a flashback and moves on to show another side of a few characters we’ve come to hate during this season. Reed also has a different view of her career, working undercover – and getting under her boss McAdams’ skin.

2013-09-18_00002Pieces slowly start to fall into place as Erica starts a rocky alliance with Cordelia in order to finally catch the mastermind behind all of the murders, including her brother’s. Answers come with a dear price, though, and it doesn’t take long for things to turn ugly for just about everyone involved.

The Cain Killer makes great use of the psychic power mechanics introduced during earlier episodes. Now in control of both Erica and Cordelia, smartly using both of their capabilities proves vital to solving the puzzles thrown your way. Some of these also show how far Phoenix Online has come, showing a much more logical sequence than in previous episodes.

That gap in logic takes a toll in many adventure games, including some in previous episodes of Cognition, but The Cain Killer smartly uses of the tools that were taught to you throughout the season with puzzles that make sense. Thanks to that, for the first time ever during the series, I didn’t make use of the help tool.

2013-09-18_00004This season of Cognition certainly had its ups and downs. Technically, each episode has its share of hiccups, but in terms of presentation, the comic book styled panel cutscenes helped convey the suspenseful thriller motif, even though some of the polygonal work in the game happened to be weirdly animated at spots. The Cain Killer feels much tighter and rarely drops the pacing throughout. It also maintains the overall voice work and script quality seen throughout the season, which is quite a high bar to reach for and pass for an indie game.

It’s exciting to think where Cognition might go next if Phoenix decides to take it further. That’s even more so enticing after getting to see some of Moebius during E3, their new game in collaboration with Jane Jensen, author of classics such as the Gabriel Knight series and King’s Quest. That continuation might still be far off, but one can hope it will come to fruition.


Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is now available via Steam Greenlight as a full, four episode season, or via Phoenix Online Studios’ store at

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