The Turing Test Review — Man, or Machine?
Portal-inspired puzzle game–The Turing Test–finds a new home with a great port to the Nintendo Switch.
The Turing Test is a first-person puzzle game by Bulkhead Interactive that first released for current systems and PC in 2016. The game’s design draws heavy inspiration from Valve’s Portal series, while the narrative is an original mind-boggling adventure. The puzzles don’t develop into a worthy challenge until late into the game; however, the story is unique and intriguing and keeps you playing until reaching the game’s greatest sectors. This 2016 puzzler runs wonderfully to the Nintendo Switch’s hardware, hopefully allowing a new audience to experience a Turing Test of their own.
Over recent years, game ports have been controversial, especially when porting to the Nintendo Switch; a relatively weak system compared to competitors. I’m happy to report that this is a masterful port. The game is absent of bugs–or at least I didn’t experience any–and the game looks great on Switch. Aside from some brief slowdown within one of the game’s 7 challenge areas, The Turing Test ran perfectly smooth.
The Turing Test is one of the most aptly named games I’ve ever played. A Turing Test is a test created by famous English mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing in 1950. The test involves a human having 2 separate text conversations, one with a human, and one with a machine. However, the human participating in the test is fully unaware of which conversation is with a fellow human, and which is with a machine. Ultimately if the human participant is unable to determine which conversation was with the machine, then the machine passes the test. Turing created the test to answer the question, “Can machines think?” a question you’ll be asking yourself while playing The Turing Test.
You control Ava Turing, a researcher sent from the International Space Agency to excavate Jupiter’s moon Europa in the 23rd century. Awoken from cryogenic sleep by T.O.M., an artificial intelligence that surveys Europa’s excavation for the ISA, you depart for Europa’s freezing surface. Greeting you is a seemingly-empty space station, prompting the question, “Where is the research crew?” To answer that question, you’ll need to work your way through the game’s 70 puzzles and pay close attention to the dialogue and your environment along the way.
Along with having an AI as your only conversation partner, puzzles are solved by using an EMT gun to power different machines–drawing obvious comparisons to the Portal games. The puzzles take place in white and grey environments very reminiscent of Portal’s testing chambers. Each level is called a sector, and there are 10 sectors and 1 challenge level called “restricted areas” in each chapter. The first few chapters are extremely simple and introduce new puzzle elements too quickly without fully testing players on recently learned mechanics.
These levels were simple enough, but I often had trouble properly aiming my EMT gun; an issue that gyro controls could have easily solved, if included. Each chapter’s ending rewards you with an explorable area of the station packed with notes and audio-logs which help you understand the story in a similar fashion to games like Gone Home.
Fortunately, about 65% of the way through the game, a new mechanic is introduced which gives the game a unique twist. This new gameplay element–which I don’t want to spoil–complicates all sectors following its introduction, and gives the game a level of challenge that it had been missing. At this point instead of breezing through puzzles, I encountered a few rooms that had me thinking for 20-30 minutes before finally conjuring a solution. Honestly, I wish this mechanic would have been introduced sooner, or have been the main gameplay mechanic rather than the EMT gun. Regardless, this mechanic’s introduction is a needed change of pace and breathes life into the game which felt like it had been dragging for a few sectors until that point.
The game closes with its most difficult puzzles, and the story ends at a climax which may satisfy, depending on the choices you make. I’m very impressed by the story in The Turing Test. After learning that Ava’s last name was “Turing”, I spent the first few chapters hypothesizing whether T.O.M. was the computer, or I was. I noticed that I was working my way through puzzles purely because a computer was ordering me to; in that sense was I in charge, or was T.O.M.? The dialogue between the two characters only contributed to my theory.
T.O.M.’s voice acting is wonderful, he sounds intelligent and robotic, while also slightly sinister. Meanwhile, Ava sounded genuine but didn’t appear to understand any information read in notes or heard in audio logs. I really wish Ava would’ve learned with me instead of being seemingly clueless as to what was going on. However, when I finally reached the game’s conclusion and the credits appeared on my screen, I was blown away by what I read.
The Turing Test is a well-made puzzle game that translates well onto the Nintendo Switch. Although its mechanics could be better utilized to create slightly more challenging puzzles in the first few chapters, Bulkhead Interactive started to perfect the formula by the game’s conclusion. Meanwhile, the narrative features solid voice acting performances and motivates you to keep playing through the game’s slow sections which are few and far between. Bulkhead Interactive did a lot right, and if they take another shot learning from the few mistakes they made, they could have a puzzle masterpiece on their hands. Regardless, The Turing Test is a very good, well-priced puzzler that is well ported and certainly worth trying on Nintendo Switch.