What’s with the tests? Why do I need to take them?
The Turing Test is a title that I remember being interested in, but it faded from my memory rather quickly. I kept getting it confused with Tacoma. I do love me a good puzzle game though, and The Turing Test delivers on that, to some degree. It has an interesting premise as well, even if it falls flat in some areas, and leaves me with thinking “Why?” most of the time.
Gameplay in The Turing Test consists almost entirely of solving simplistic puzzles, with the aid of a gun-like tool that can manipulate energy from a distance. On occasion, you get to flip some switches and lug around objects, though the goal remains the same throughout; complete each section using the tools you have on-hand by unlocking and passing through a final door.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve likely played a game like that before… Portal.
As you progress through The Turing Test, you’re gradually exposed to greater challenges, though I use the term “greater” rather lightly. The Turing Test isn’t what I would consider to be a challenging game, at least until the later stages. These greater challenges involve new tools that are necessary to move along to the next area, like robots and camera systems you can control (kinda like in Watch_Dogs), as well as different energy types which have special characteristics.
It’s strange, that in a game that takes in space, that the main character has probably the most realistic jump I’ve ever seen in a video game. Ava can hop about five or six inches into the air at the maximum, which means that you won’t be doing much platforming at all. Thankfully, those few times you’re required to jump are rare, as The Turing Test is at it’s best when the use of logic is the only puzzle mechanic, rather than the use of physics or luck.
The Turing Test is technically impressive, with great lighting and visuals, though there’s little to marvel at beyond the looks. The environments look sterile and boring, outside of the few times you end up in lived-in locations. Since the majority of the game takes place in test areas that the astronauts have set up for some reason, you’ll be treated to multiple hours of white walls and flashing lights. Again, it’s reminiscent of Portal, though without the benefit of GLaDOS’ near-psychotic humor to alleviate the mood.
At least on consoles, texture pop-in and resolution is an issue, though thankfully it isn’t a consistent problem. The issue is most apparent if you attempt to read text from a display or a tablet lying around in the environment, which are necessary to read if you want to fully understand the plot. Sometimes, the textures and text fully renders, while other times they do not. While it isn’t a huge issue that happens constantly, it’s annoying when it does.
The most jarring moments are when there are transitions between sections and levels, where the game simply cuts out to a loading screen, or you’re stuck between test areas as the game loads in real time. It’s possible that this is only an issue on consoles, but it doesn’t bode well for a game that has frequent transitions between areas.
Luckily, players are at least treated to a nice soundtrack to complement their time on Europa, along with some talented voice acting. That isn’t to say that every line hits the note they’re going for, but it does the job. There were a few moments in my time with The Turing Test when I felt the voice overs felt flat, as if the person behind the mic just wasn’t interested in saying the lines, but those moments were generally limited to the audio clips you can listen to on terminals you’ll occasionally find.
I won’t get into the minute details, but I will say that The Turing Test focuses less on the question of what it means to be “alive” or the morality of creating conscious artificial intelligence (AI), and more on the concept of free will. It’s an interesting take on the formula of games dealing with the relationship of AI and humanity. To add onto this, not everything you’re doing in The Turing Test is as it would seem. I won’t divulge any major plot points, but you should know that there’s more going on than meets the eye.
The Turing Test puts you in the boots of Ava, an astronaut from the International Space Agency, sent to investigate the loss of communications with a crew on a small outpost located on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. The AI, T.O.M., is unable to obtain contact with the crew, and is concerned about their safety. Ava soon finds herself working alongside T.O.M. as they work their way through the facility to find the crew.
It’s noted rather early on, that the reason Ava and T.O.M. need to get through each of the test areas is because the crew set them up as a counter-measure to keep AI out of the complex… Or something. I’m still a little fuzzy on why the tests are necessary at all, given that the actual plot has absolutely nothing to do with the puzzles themselves. I know there’s a point to it all, though there were a few times when I felt as if the tests were simply a way to make the player take long enough for the exposition to finish before heading to the next area.
And heaven help you if you decide to try to listen to the audio logs, because it’s a gamble about the volume on these things. You’re either going to need to jack the sound up to 11, or you’re going to be heading to the ER for ruptured eardrums. And that isn’t even taking into consideration the static you’ll be listening to…
WILDCARD: PNUEMA: WITNESS THE TALOS PORTAL
As far as puzzle games go, The Turing Test does little to set it on its own. It definitely carries inspiration from other puzzle games, like The Talos Principle, The Witness, Portal, and Pneuma: Breath of Life, but it doesn’t do much to make it something I could recommend over those other titles. I will say that Bulkhead did a good job with The Turing Test, but it isn’t exactly unique in the genre.
After playing through The Turing Test, I’ve found myself simultaneously loving the science fiction concepts that were played around with, and disappointed that the developer didn’t take those concepts and run with them. The Turing Test feels like a pretty good puzzle game that doesn’t match with its plot at all. That said, it’s certainly not a terrible game. In fact, it grew to be just challenging enough that I started looking for help near the end. However, when there are other games on the market that handle puzzle elements far better, and possess more engaging stories, it’s difficult to say that it should be a game you purchase in lieu of the others in the genre.
So with that, I’ll leave you with some sound advice. If you’ve already played The Witness, The Talos Principle, or either of the Portal games, The Turing Test is a great game to get into if you’re looking for something new to rack your brain with. If you haven’t tried those other titles first, you should probably go back to them and give them a shot.
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I’ve played Portal and also The Talos Principle (but never finished the latter), so I’ll probably give this game a chance in the near future, but after reading your review, I’m going with low expectations (that’s usually the best).
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I hate that I didn’t like The Turing Project much, but I really couldn’t get into it at all.
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As you were explaining the premise, I immediately thought, “Oh Portal.” It’s a shame The Turing Test didn’t live up to its potential, but I will say the visuals do look breathtaking.
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