The Turing Test Review: Puzzles With An Enthralling Narrative

Summary:

The Turing Test is a challenging first-person puzzle game set on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. You are Ava Turing, an engineer for the International Space Agency (ISA) sent to discover the cause behind the disappearance of the ground crew stationed there.

Upon arrival a series of puzzles awaits you – tests which, according to the station’s AI, Tom, can only be solved by a human. These puzzles have apparently been set by the missing ground crew – but why have they created them and what are they hiding from?

In an evolving story based on mankind’s instinctual need to explore, protect and survive, you’ll delve deeper into Europa’s ice crusted-core and discover that the lines between man and machine begin to blur. Armed with the Energy Manipulation Tool (EMT), solve puzzles to open the way forward as you learn the true cost of human morality.

Developer: Bulkhead Interactive

Publisher: Square Enix

Available on: Xbox One and PC

The Turing Test is one of the most enthralling puzzle games I have played in a very long time. I find one of the biggest hurdles between a puzzle game being good and not great is the story element. Generally, it’s often assumed that puzzle games might not have the best story/narrative aspects but The Turing Test does away with this line of thought. Incidentally, it also helps that our protagonist in The Turing Test shares the same first name as Ava from one of my favorite films from 2015, Ex Machina. You awake from a cryogenic sleep when the station’s A.I. named TOM informs you that contact with the ground crew has been lost. TOM exudes an eeriness with a British accent and dialect that exudes intelligence.

Now, this set-up to the plot reminded me a lot of some typical sci-fi movies such as Alien but the tropes really do stop there; you soon discover that behind each room is a new puzzle for you to get past. Each puzzle is designed to differentiate between man and machine (hence, The Turing Test) and the intriguing nature of this story immediately kicks in. Who put these tests here? Where’s the crew? What happened? You will soon find yourself diving into a spiraling story of intrigue and mystery.

This blend and harmony between the puzzles and narrative becomes apparent from your very first steps on Europa. It’s obvious that the interior of the space base has been given a makeover. Turing Tests owe their name to Alan Turing, who developed a test  in 1950, designed to test a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. The test, as Turing designed it, is carried out as a version of an imitation game (that’s where the 2014 film of the same name gets its title). On one side of a computer screen sits a human judge, whose job is to chat to some mysterious interlocutors on the other side. Most of those interlocutors will be humans; one will be a chatbot, created for the sole purpose of tricking the judge into thinking that it is the real human. If the human judge fails to differentiate the robot from the human, the robot has, in theory, successfully proved its humanity.

In terms of graphics, the game looks very pleasant on the eye and is supplemented by a theme-appropriate aesthetic. In particular, the opening cinematic of crashing down to Europa is noticeably stunning and, as such, enthralling. It reminds me of Portal but with a lot more detail. However, graphics aren’t exactly the focus of this game, the puzzles/narrative is clearly the main selling point so it’s nice to see that the console versions (the version tested in this review) was given so much care because it truly does look really impressive. Again, the real treat is the aesthetic and style, it just supplements the sci-fi theme so well.

Every room brings a new puzzle, a new challenge so to speak and, at first, this might seem a little repetitive but the puzzles really do differentiate quite a bit as you progress. The intriguing aspect to the puzzle-solving is the constant communication between Ava and the A.I. TOM, their interactions is the backbone of this entire game. One attention detail that is eerily impressive is the attention given the backstories and personalities of the lost ground crew, you can check their profiles etc. whilst browsing various rooms and there’s a real sense that you get to know these crew members without actually even running into them.

Thankfully, the puzzle are not too overwhelming or neither too easy that they become tedious; it appears quite a well-thought-out balance has been struck with the level of difficulty in the game. As expected, puzzles do get progressively harder as you get further in the game but that is, of course, to be expected. The majority of puzzles have you using a tool called an E.M.T. which collects and can use blue balls of energy.

Ultimately, I don’t want to venture into spoiler territory with this review because I wholeheartedly believe you should check this one out for yourself. It’s a great game and even better, an excellent puzzle game. However, puzzles aren’t the be all and end all; the narrative is enthralling, mysterious and intriguing – any sci-fi lovers out there will find a good story here. There’s some seriously thought-provoking dialogue and moments in the game that I hope you take the time to experience The Turing Test for yourself – it shouldn’t be missed!

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