The Turing Test tells the story of Ava Turing, a space engineer who is sent to research the sudden disappearance of a crew on Europa. Upon arriving at the station, the station’s AI enlists Ava to solve a series of puzzles that can only be solved by a human. When it’s discovered that the crew themselves assembled these puzzles, it opens up questions to what is really hiding in the depths of the labs below the surface.
A human and an AI, working together to solve puzzles. It’s a tale as old as 2007, when the original Portal released. The Turing Test, however, skips the maniacal, ironic humor for a more serious tone. TOM, the AI in the game, provides the story through descriptive narration, and more importantly, provides you with an idea of what the Turing Test actually is, indicating the parallels between what is happening in the story and its namesake.
Puzzles are presented room by room, and Ava’s means of manipulating these puzzles are handled with the use of her Energy Manipulation Tool. This gun allows you to manipulate energy balls by extracting them and expelling them into wall outlets that work as switches. There are different types of orbs, including some which flicker on and off, adding additional trickery to the formula of using the orbs to open doors and apply power to static and moving platforms. Naturally, the difficulty of the puzzles scales up as you get further into the game, increasing both the number of orbs and complexity of the rooms themselves.
Beyond the manipulation of these glowing orbs are powered boxes that house orbs which are entirely manual in operation. Instead of using the EMT gun, you must physically pick up and move the boxes by hand to their next destination, even if the said destination is the ground within a corridor while trying to figure out what in the world you’re supposed to do with it. You will also run across switches that you can flip in different directions, and at that point, you’ll arrive at nearly the maximum complexity of options for The Turing Test‘s puzzles to be designed around, aside from some additional options available to you at the latter half of the game which I won’t ruin for you. The puzzles themselves, however, take more legwork than thought process in a lot of cases.
Perhaps it’s the spacesuit she’s wearing, but Ava is a bit clunky when moving, and the physical requirements of moving to different spots in each puzzle room is often a chore. Even during some of the game’s first puzzles, you’ll find yourself moving back and forth through a room a half a dozen times before placing everything correctly in order to unlock the doorway to the next room. This is easily the biggest difference distinguishing Portal from The Turing Test.
While Portal is all about speed and momentum, especially when you’re portal-jumping to higher ledges, The Turing Test takes a slower, more intellectual approach, giving you time to both take in the complexity of the puzzles and the gravity of the story as it unfolds before you. They both have their fair bit of walking, but Ava is certainly logging some extra steps on her Fitbit.
The environments that Ava finds herself in are perhaps a bit too sterile. Each room feels like the last one and while there is an advancement in the complexity of each puzzle, you’ll quickly lose a visual interest in the things you’re interacting with. There are some in-between moments between puzzles where you can interact with objects left behind by the crew, which certainly helps to give you a sense of connection to the characters you are searching for with a bit of silent world-building, but that’s about all you get other than the vocal interactions between Ava and TOM.
I didn’t really feel a sense of awe at any point in the game other than the final interactions that brought the story to a close. I will say for certain that the final moments are worth the price of admission, but I feel that the puzzles are perhaps too simple and the interactions too mundane to encourage most players to reach that point.
The Turing Test is a good game that could have been made great by a bit of embellishment in the graphics and design department. The story is top-notch, as the interactions between Ava and TOM deliver tough questions about what it means to be human and the true purpose of a test that seeks to define them. Most of the puzzles felt a bit too easy to me, but the drive to discover the true motives behind TOM and the researchers helped push me along to discover the truth in the grand finale. While The Turing Test never sets new heights for the genre, it puts into action an excellent, thought-provoking tale that challenges the very definition of free will and demonstrates how a tool we created could one day surpass us all.