Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode 1: The Hangman
The game uses a 2.5D cel-shaded visual design with animated cut-scenes and text that appears with the font and design of comic book panels, accompanied by voice-overs. Reed is controlled through the mouse and can be freely moved around the screen. Clicking twice in the environment makes her run. Objects or elements in the environment that can be interacted with are highlighted when the mouse cursor hovers over them. Clicking them then displays an overlay menu with context-sensitive options such as examination, interaction, or storing items in an inventory. The inventory with collected objects can be accessed separately in the top right corner of the screen. She also has access to a smartphone to receive messages. At the FBI bureau she has access to a computer to read email, consult a database of cases, review evidence and search for people.
When she finds a clue, Reed can rely on her intuition. Once needed, a cognition sphere in the bottom left corner can be accessed. It changes the visual design of the current environment and puts a faint aura around certain objects. It is explained that Reed can see certain images of the past by touching or focusing on them. This gameplay mechanic is often required to progress through the game, but is also a burden on her health as she struggles to cope with her paranormal vision. Next to the main mechanic, two additional powers are introduced in this episode: projection and regression.
The story starts with a flashback how Erica lost her brother Scott in the Cain killer murder case. That parts also acts as the tutorial. The game then continues three years later in the present day. Erica still cannot let the case go, but her main focus is a new case about a brutal, midnight hanging. While she investigates the case, many characters are introduced.