If you know anything about British History then you’ll have heard of Alan Turing. Back in 1950, he developed a test to determine a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour that would be the same as, or as similar to, that of a human. The Turing Test, then, is designed so that you won’t know if you’re talking to a computer or a person. The ultimate measure of intelligence.
UK based developer, Bulkhead Interactive have teamed up with publisher, Square Enix to bring you their own take on this, with their new release. The Turing Test takes place in a mining base on one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa. You are Ava Turing, an engineer for the International Space Agency. The mission’s Artificial Intelligence, T.O.M, has roused you to investigate the strange antics of the remaining crew of the mission.
In your effort to discover the reasoning behind what seems to be a crew rebellion, you will be faced with a series of rooms. In order to progress onwards through the various sections of the base, you’ll need to solve puzzles in order to unlock the door to the next room. As you do this, you have T.O.M in your ear, talking you through some of the stranger antics of the crew. The premise is quite simple; solve the puzzles to solve the bigger narrative-based puzzle. What has happened between the crew and the A.I for them to have decided to try to cut themselves off from it?
The game is set from a first-person perspective, as was Bulkhead’s other puzzler, Pneuma: Breath of Life. Yes, Bulkhead Interactive used to be Deco Digital. The parallels are there from the start. The graphics are amazingly detailed and frankly, lush. The team have spent many hours perfecting an almost Alien or 2001-like environment for Ava to wander around. It’s the perfect setting for the storyline to unfold.
Initially, you wander around the crew quarters where you can examine objects and listen to some fairly innocuous audio clips as you do so. It’s a good idea to listen to these though, as they assist with the atmosphere and pace of the story. Once you’ve had a wander around and you’re used to the controls, you get to pick up your energy storage and manipulation device. This looks to all purposes like a smart semi-automatic pistol. It’s not, which is slightly disappointing, but it’s still fun to use.
With this device, you can retrieve the balls of energy that power various parts of the rooms you might be trying to get through. A lot of thought has gone into these rooms and there is usually a single solution to solving the puzzles within that may, or may not, use all of the energy cubes or ball options available to you. Once you’ve solved the puzzle in that room, the door opens and leads to a connecting corridor, where any remaining energy balls you try to sneak through are purged from your device.
There are three types of energy ball available to you. The blue balls provide constant power to the object in question. Green and purple balls will pulse and provide regular bursts of energy, but they pulse at a different modulation to each other so how you use them will be key. These balls power all manner of things from doors to walkways, magnets and stairways. Later on in the game, there is a new mechanic introduced, but I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing what that is.
The standard area puzzles are fairly devious, to the point of giving you a sense of pride when you complete them, but like Pneuma, they’re not so difficult that you’ll find yourself stuck in a particular room for a long time. There are some side-missions in the game that are worth completing, sort of restricted areas. These are generally found in the corridor leading towards a new sector of the base, after you’ve completed a chapter. The puzzles for these bonus areas are, on the whole, a lot more challenging, but solve them and you’ll get rewarded with extra audio clips. These give you more insight into the rationale of the crew and the relationship they have with T.O.M.
These audio clips are well presented to you, with some great voice-acting by the cast. Nothing here feels strained as the story unfolds before you. The in-game sounds are well constructed too, with the mechanical doors, switches and industrial setting all adding to the haunting music of the backing soundtrack. The feeling overall is quite eerie.
The game mechanics are largely spot-on too, with controlling the various machines and of Ava, all responsive to your movements, but not overly responsive as to get frustrating. The energy device you hold works at great distance too, which is handy for quite a few of the upcoming puzzles. The storyline involves itself with the mechanics too in places, where it seems as is Ava is being controlled, but I’ll not reveal any more on the plot-twists that turn The Turing Test from a more sci-fi puzzle base-crawler into more of an introspective on the meaning and indications of consciousness.
It’s all designed to make you think, not necessarily out of the box, but like a human. This seems to be a theme with Bulkhead Interactive’s titles as Pneuma not only challenged your logical thought, but also your theological thought processes. It’s a welcome challenge and different to the usual star based system you might get from other puzzle titles.
As you progress through the game and find out more about the circumstances surrounding the crew, you start to question not only T.O.M’s motives, but also his involvement in the original incidents surrounding the crew. It’s an interesting take on the test that Alan Turing devised.
On the whole The Turing Test is a visual feast with more lens flare than your average Michael Bay movie. There are challenging logical puzzles to crack and although they don’t all require a degree in logical thinking to solve, they are difficult enough to feel pleased with yourself when they’re solved. It’s the storyline that interests me the most, however. The idea that a machine can think like a sentient being, or can it? This is all complimented by some great voice acting and atmospheric music. If you liked Pneuma, you’ll love The Turing Test.