The Turing Test Review

It has occurred to me that I really have not ever really explained how I select the games I review.  Quite simply, I have a list of titles that I keep based off of games that I catch a glimpse of or hear about while perusing around my regular sources of game related news.  I collect these titles into a list that I then update once the game is released, setting a reservation price for myself to pay based on the often brief snippet of gameplay I played.  Once it reaches that reservation price, I then glance at its reception on Steam to quickly double check the game’s quality, and then buy it.  This is exactly what happened with The Turing Test.  Also known as a case that makes me want to rethink this process.

The Turing Test Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
Developer: Bulkhead Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix

In trying to describe The Turing Test, I find it hard to not immediately begin by comparing it to what was most definitely a major inspiration for the title, Portal.  Seeing as how The Turing Test is a first person puzzle game where the players put in control of a lightly detailed female main character who must go through a multitude of test chambers.  Wherein she must use a series of easy to grasp mechanics in order to progress and some lateral thinking skills in order to reach the end and stop the actions of an AI with questionable morals.

More specifically though, in an effort to prevent this entire review from being a comparison, The Turing Test is about a team of scientists who are sent to a research facility on Saturn’s moon of Europa in order to examine it for the sake of science and such.  Yet as is customary with any fiction revolving around a group of spacefarers, things naturally go wrong and it is up to fellow scientist Ava Turing (yes, really) to investigate this disturbance along withe the help of the facility’s artificial intelligence, TOM.  Said investigation has Ava going through a series of puzzles that were presumably designed so that artificial intelligences could not solve them.

This is where both the gameplay and presumably the title’s namesake come into play, but from my own research and how the concept is brought up in the game, an actual Turing Test is done by a human who speaks to both a machine and a human and must determine which is the machine and which is a human based on their responses.  This never really happens throughout the game, and the closest example of this are the puzzles that Ava needs to solve in conjunction with TOM near the end of the game, but that is something different entirely.  

Part of me assumed there would be a twist ending involving the ambiguity of whether or not Ava was a human or machine, but instead the game seems to grow bored with the concept entirely during the latter half after a really interesting and completely unrelated concept is brought up and never explored beyond the surface levels, which truly bit considering how it was easily the most interesting element of the game.

As a whole, I can tell that the game wants to be seen as a philosophical and intellectual exploration between man and machine, and the rationality of humans versus the logic of an artificial intelligence, but the whole thing features a level of depth and understanding that I would expect of a first year philosophy student.  It is not as smart or clever as it wanted to be, and aside from the aforementioned botched concept, simply bored me most of the time.

As for the gameplay, The Turing Test features methodical and often seamless puzzle solving that is only given a momentary pause when the environment overstimulates with its quantity of interactives and as the player needs to take in what exactly does what and how they can manipulate the pieces that they are given.  These mechanics range from simple things such as weighing down switches and are primarily driven by Ava’s science gun, which can be used to fire and absorb balls of light that can be placed in sockets to stimulate parts of each puzzle in four ways, signified by the color of the ball.  Though, that really only means that one ball is always on, one ball loses its charge after it is placed in a socket, and and two follow different patterns of electrical flow.

Combine this with the ability to use TOM to control other machinery in the latter half of the game, and I would say that The Turing Test certainly has enough to remain conceptually interesting throughout 70 levels, and most of them are very well designed.  Many of them have a good way of guiding the player through the motions and present information in an almost instinctual and easy to grasp way, but it is clear that the small development team should have omitted some of these puzzles.  

While only a minority, there were still a handful of puzzles where I was left wandering around for a few minutes trying to figure out what the game wanted me to do as it pelted me with a lot of information at once.  This led to some confusion and a few misinterpretations of what various puzzles wanted of me, but I still managed to persevere through the game on my own despite my fairly poor puzzle solving skills.

Visually, nothing about the design of this facility of the assets used to compose the puzzle rooms hold a level of memorability or iconography that the game could have had.  Its rooms are metal boxes with various interactables strewn about them, and despite trying to achieve high graphical fidelity, to the point where it’s recommended system specifications are absurd for this kind of game, it may as well be made with assets from a console generation ago.  Also, the game does a weird thing where text from far away looks completely unreadable until Ava gets very close to it, almost like she is nearsighted.  It is firmly unappealing, and led to me never reading any of the assorted text logs throughout the game.

Despite featuring some surprisingly good puzzles strewn about its overly elongated playtime, I cannot say much positive about The Turing Test.  It was an experience marred by a pompous and unfulfilling story and a sizable chunk of content that should have been omitted.  The mechanics are not very interesting, the world design is bland, and while not being necessarily bad, the game is ultimately lessened by its more mediocre components to the point where the entire experience is simply forgettable.  More than anything though, it just made me want to play Portal again… for the eighth or ninth time.

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