The Turing Test featuring some robots?

Published in Gaming on Jul 6, 2022

The Turing test is a game that was released on the Xbox 360 & Windows platforms on August 30, 2016, with fantastic critical acclaim. Published by Square Enix and developed by Bulkhead Interactive as their first game as a new studio. The game's whole soul is based around the 2007 release of Portal from Valve. Thus in saying that the atmosphere in The Turing Test oozes clean industrial design over the entire facility, with an overwhelming sense that as a player you're utterly and completely alone. The sound design of the game is incredible, the buzzes and whirrs of the fans. The OST slapping the background with it's choppy low tempo techno tunes, it screams keep pushing. The game uses a complex series of puzzles and challenges for the player to overcome while a semi-strong narrative drums onwards in the back. Each new room offers additional exchanges of dialog, in each new room you're further invested in these two characters that we've been invited to partake in a portion of their lives.

In the first few moments of the play, our character is just coming out of some sort of cryostasis. Within the next few moments, we're greeted by TOM. TOM is an evolutionary AI that was created by the ISA (International Space Agency) so that he can watch the exploration of Europa as a means to manage contingencies and maintain control of the facility.

We hop into a pod and shoot down towards Europa, as we're traveling we can see the boreal mountains dwarf the ISA base. We head inside and get a big whopping scoop of what's been going on inside the Europa ISA base for the last 500 hours. From there it's a straight railroad of linear gameplay that includes puzzles, conversations between the two characters of Ava & TOM, rooms that are dedicated to lore building and storytelling of this world, and even the more difficult optional puzzles that have optional storytelling once completed.

The story runs smoothly and effortlessly, with no seemingly difficult-to-believe bumps. The puzzles are the highlight though, if you're going to remember one thing this game gives you to deal with it will probably be the creativity of these puzzles. While they're not indiscriminately difficult to deal with, they're certainly moments where you need to stop and graph everything out to figure out what needs to go where. In those shining moments, I could feel real excitement and a genuine rush from when I knocked down another difficult set of trials. Hell, the puzzle that stuck with me the most was the optional puzzle before Sector F56. The gist is you have a set amount of energy balls and you need to progress through 7 rooms with the perfect amount of energy balls to open up the last gate. It's perhaps the only genuine programming puzzle, with Or And and Xor gates in this entire game. Unsurprisingly enough, it's heralded as the most difficult puzzle in the game as well!

While the game stood incredibly strong, there were unfortunately a few blemishes that made the overall product lose a bit of its luster. The glaring ones are that the story is told in a way that you have a genuine emotional investment and with nothing more than small excerpts of dialog between the two characters you have no other way to interact, which when one thinks of the ending it seems as though it's intentional. The glass wall that separated me from that fictional world felt immensely thick, and I wanted nothing more than to have a deeper way of interaction between both characters.

Despite that oversight, or perhaps even because of that oversight with every other choice the game directors had made throughout I have to say that I genuinely admired this game from a narrative perspective. The ending left me with a feeling of emptiness regardless of which end I had chosen. One of the defining ways I know that I've played an exceptional game is once I've beaten it, I feel a dull sadness or almost emptiness afterward. That feeling of personal loss, having known everything to know in that story and game. I love it though, that's what keeps me searching for the next title to play.