The Europa ground team is lost, no communication from them in two weeks. To find them or at least figure out what happened, Ava Turing descends to the planet and the research installation. She finds devious puzzles barring her path, and it quickly becomes clear they are another form of The Turing Test.
Genre(s): First Person Adventure
Developer: Bulkhead Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: August 2016
Played: Full Story (both endings)
Purchase At: Steam
Source: Review Copy provided by Publisher
The game opens with Ava Turing on the space station overlooking Europa waking up from cryo-sleep. It’s been two weeks since they lost contact with the ground team. The AI, T.O.M. tells her that the crew is in danger and she needs to go down to the planet ASAP.
On landing and entering the research station, you notice the crew modified the installation, locking out doors behind complex logic puzzles, which T.O.M points out are nothing more than Turing Tests, and that he, as a machine could never solve them, as they require lateral thinking and creativity, which machines lack. As he puts it:
For a machine, creativity is to try every possible solution until one works.
After every few rooms you enter a story area, where you find evidence left behind by the crew, to help you piece together the plot of the game and it’s in these moments that game lost me, at least in terms of immersion. The reason is that Ava is oblivious to your discoveries. During the first such room, I found enough evidence to tell me that I shouldn’t trust my AI partner, but Ava doesn’t bring it up, and in fact doesn’t react to any revelations until it’s determined by the plot that she should, around halfway through the game.
What is the point of finding evidence and documents if my character won’t learn from them? There is an element of the plot that might explain this bit, but only if you stretch the suspension of disbelief to its very limit, and even so it’s inexcusable as the argument becomes void once you reach that mid-point in the game. I know I’m being a bit cryptic on this but I don’t want to ruin the plot. But it’s something to do with memories and free will.
Overall, the plot is pretty good, making you think about the possibilities of a conscious computer, of one that can pass the Turing test and impersonate a human. In fact, a subplot of the story focuses on this, on the AI’s attempts to prove its own consciousness and becoming increasingly erratic with the crew, who dismiss his claims. It adds another layer to what is a rather simple story. In fact, at times I often thought this was the real plot of the game, and that the ‘main’ objective was nothing more than an excuse to push you forward and explore the intellectual conundrum.
But there are some weaknesses, the main one being its rather wonky timeline. Once you figure out the backstory, only one question will remain in your mind: The crew modified the entire facility for puzzling in two weeks? How? The more you think about it, the less sense it makes.
The other issue is the ending. There is no real conclusion, no matter what path you take. You don’t witness the consequences of your choices, making the story feel incomplete.
Visually, it’s stunning. Yes, it’s pretty simple in its visual design, but it looks gorgeous and I love the colour coding for the different energy sources and mechanisms, particularly once you can interact with cameras. When you find non-puzzle rooms, they often have a good colour variety, with brighter tones to balance out the somewhat monochromatic environment.
I have often found that when you have a good soundtrack, it can evoke feelings in you that perhaps the written or spoken story cannot, and The Turing Test has some phenomenal music in that regard. During the third chapter, there is a particular piano piece that I’ll remember for a long time, especially for how sad it was. The music is slow and lovely but the sadness and longing in it moved me. Later tracks add some somber elements, to match the developing story and I loved every moment of it.
But in terms of sound, my absolute favourite thing is T.O.M’s voice actor, James Faulkner. Before reading his name in the credits, I could’ve sworn it was Tony Jay back from the dead. It is a fantastic performance and gives the AI a level of humanity it needs for the story to work, yet at the same time, the coldness in which he delivers the lines fit what you’d expect a calculating machine to sound like. When T.O.M mentions that as a machine he can’t do wrong, as he’s not capable of evil, being just a talking clock, I had chills running down my spine.
I loved The Turing Test’s puzzles. One thing I complained about Bulkhead’s previous title, Pneuma, was how it was a one-trick pony, all of its puzzles centred on line of sight and observation. The Turing Test however, while having the main mechanic of the energy gun, has a lot more complexity in its puzzle design, having a multitude of different elements that play along with the gun or even independently of it.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of transferring energy orbs from one power source to the next. Other times you use these orbs and some charged power cubes, and others you have to use platforms, levers, magnetic cranes and the power sources in conjunction to reach the exit. It’s great stuff! I particularly loved a puzzle near the end in which the elements in the room hint at there being a very complex puzzle but in truth it’s fairly simple and the other things are just there to misdirect you.
The challenge level of the main rooms is acceptable, though only a handful are truly challenging, but that’s why I loved the optional rooms so much. These lead to secret information and a few Easter Eggs, but they’re locked behind some really devious puzzles that often require you to exercise that lateral thinking T.O.M mentions as being beyond machines.
Some of the latter puzzles, the ones involving drones and cameras stretch the limit of my suspension of disbelief, as it seems highly improbable that the crew would have created them considering the overall game plot. Mechanically they’re great fun, but the storyteller in me feels they’re a bit of a stretch.
The Turing Test is a fantastic adventure game and I’m happy to see that the same amazing level of quality I saw on the Alpha version months ago is still present in the final product. I just wish a bit more attention had been put into the storytelling and the character’s awareness of evidence found in the levels, as it can break your immersion.
4.5/5 – Amazing!