Best Music: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller – Episode One: The Hangman
The first episode of Phoenix Online’s new episodic paranormal mystery Cognition is soaked with gloomy style. It is a game that has many different emotional gears: On the trail of a serial killer, Erica Reed finds herself performing a normal FBI investigation around the city of Boston, but she’ll also spend time in thoughtful conversations with a grieving family member at the cemetery, as well as experiencing very intense moments of jeopardy with an evil murderer close at hand. These narrative highs and lows would have had much more trouble resonating with players if they were not framed with an appropriately atmospheric soundtrack, but the brilliant score by Austin Haynes consistently hits just the right notes at all times.
Cognition’s music is soft and reflective when it needs to be, moody and ambient when circumstances dictate, and jarringly intense at the game’s darkest and most dramatic moments. During scenes when audio should be less prominent, the mood is kept light and unobtrusive, but the soundtrack is always a benefit to the events playing out on screen, which is a very impressive feat for an indie endeavour. The composer's work on The Silver Lining was notably one of that game’s strengths as well, and Phoenix Online clearly made the right choice by once again putting their music into his hands, as Cognition proved itself a deserving winner of our Best Music Aggie for 2012 over some very tough competition.
Runners-Up: The Walking Dead, Journey, Botanicula, The Journey Down: Chapter One
Readers’ Choice: Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller - Episode One: The Hangman
If you've never played The Silver Lining, you may not be familiar with the work of Austin Haynes. But even if you have, it was no sure thing that Haynes could jump from the fantastical adventures in Daventry to a dark, disturbing serial murder thriller. But the self-proclaimed "composer for the imagination" did just that with Cognition, delivering a top-notch score that evoked all the right moods at just the right times. We clearly all hope to hear more from him in future, in more ways than one.
Runners-Up: Botanicula, The Walking Dead, Deponia (series), Journey
Next up: Best Voice Acting... the envelope, please!