I was always terrible at tests. Multiple choice? I hate you. What do these shapes have in common? I detest you. Fill in the blanks? You sicken me. If I have to do a test I always get instantly sweaty, start to panic and stare at the ceiling looking for divine inspiration. So it was with great trepidation that I loaded up The Turing Test. I was ready to run away and call in sick. But what I got was some lateral thinking, philosophic discussion about humans and machines, and then a twist that blew my socks off.
Scientist and genius Alan Turing proposed the actual Turing test in the 1950s. The test is able, by asking a human and computer a number of emotive and creative questions, to tell which is the computer and which the human. In this game you play as Astronaut Ava Turing who is woken up from her deep sleep by super computer T.O.M. who needs your help. You have been working on the Jupiter moon Europa and communication with your other colleagues has been lost. Also the ships quarters have been rearranged into a number of lateral thinking puzzle rooms that TOM needs your help (because his computer brain can’t work it out) to get through.
This game plays like a certain first person puzzle game called Portal. An A.I. voice talks to you from beyond and instead of a portal gun, you have a gun that can grip energy balls and place them across the room into other electrical receptors. As you progress through a room you use these electrical receptors to open doors, platforms, light bridges and more. Later on in the game you get to control cameras and robots to help you across those areas. There are seven chapters with about 10 levels per chapter, and these range from the very simple to the OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO KILL MYSELF. Gameplay wise it’s very simple as you have a small jump button and a fire button to grab and throw the energy balls across the room. There is a button for controlling bridges, or giant magnets to grab items and put them in hard to reach areas. All of this is fairly simple and feels very familiar as you breeze through the early levels. The mechanics of the puzzles are well thought out, even though the later levels do get very tricky. I accidentally did a few of them by fluke, as I had no idea what I was doing. Overall though it’s a pleasant experience, especially if you space out the number of times you play, taking a break if one gets really tough so the solution will eventually come.
Now the story, and how you came to be here, is played out through conversations between Ava and TOM. There is much more to the premise than meets the eye and maybe TOM’S intentions aren’t what they seem. Most of the discussions are about what it is like to be a machine and what it is to be human. Grand ideas around big subjects and perceptions of reality are talked about throughout the dialogue between the machine and Ava. There isn’t really anything new to be gained from the subject matter. Films such as 2001 and most recently Ex Machina deal with the subject very effectively, as well as a host of recent games. The dialogue is well written though and still interesting to listen to. Then there is a twist about half way through that is wonderful and a dilemma that is really thought-provoking with a terrible choice to make towards the end of the game. There are also, between chapters, areas of the ship you discover with clues about what has happened so far and information about the crew. These are some nice moments as you discover emails, pictures and audio logs giving you a deeper understanding of the characters and their stories.
The look of the game is clear, concise and measured. There isn’t anything special as it’s all white pristine Apple style corridors and generic portal style doors and walls. There is nothing wrong with this, but it just doesn’t shout out at you that there is anything new or exciting. But the nature of this game isn’t about graphics I guess; it’s about puzzle solving and story. The sound effects are great with the right noises attached to the right objects as well as creating the right atmosphere. The score is very understated but well used in the right moments, especially towards the later stages when it really comes into its own. Now the voice work is very good with Ava and the smaller parts all doing a very good job, but the work of TOM voice is wonderful. It sounds the spit of Jeremy Irons, so much so that I trawled through the Internet looking for the voice actors, but couldn’t find who did his voice. If it isn’t him then that’s a very good impersonation.
I enjoyed my time with The Turing Test, at least for the seven hours or so it took to finish it. The puzzles are tricky, but if you’re into games like Portal you will find this a blast. The story has a nice twist and the debates between the two leads are sharp and insightful. After you’ve done the main story, you can get back and hit the seven secret areas to give the game a bit more of a life.
There is nothing new here in content and style, and visually it’s not spectacular. But if you want a good puzzler with an interesting story to delve into, let’s see you try to pass The Turing Test.