The above is the core meaning of not only the namesake of the game, but also the central driving force behind the story and the characters' motivations within The Turing Test. The Chinese Room is another concept that players will need to be familiar with: A thought experiment to challenge the claim that it is possible for a computer running a program to have a mind and consciousness in the same sense as humans do. This statement pops up again and again during your journey through the game.
In The Turing Test you play as Ava Turing, a budding scientist researching on Europa - one of Jupiter's moons, prematurely awoken after many years of sleep by T.O.M., the base AI, because the other crew members have gone missing and T.O.M. needs your help finding them.
Straight away, as soon as the game started, we knew what we were getting with The Turing Test. It's a first-person puzzler in the vein of Portal and The Talos Principle, where you have to solve various three dimensional puzzle rooms in order to progress. Much like Portal, you do this by wielding a gun of sorts. A gun which, in this case, has the ability to absorb and disperse energy balls making it easy to do things like opening doors and platforming on elevated platforms.
In the early levels you'll use this ability to progress through the game with just the need to move one ball of energy to a hole next to a door to open it, however very quickly you soon realise that your wits will be stretched the longer the game goes on. You'll not only deal with blue balls of energy but also other colours with different properties. Some have time limits on their actions, and some you cannot suck up with your gun so have to manually carry them.
There are also switches that you have to keep pressed with an object for a certain amount of time while you rush into a doorway hoping the pressure still holds, and towards the end you'll be doing a whole combination of intricate sequences in order to progress. Now, we found the casual ramp up on difficulty a bit jarring at first, not because we found it getting harder naturally as you progress, but because the spike in how hard the puzzles were varied in such a way where we could quite easily complete the puzzles half way or near the end of any given chapter but found certain puzzles at the beginning of a chapter quite perplexing.
Not only this but at a certain point in the story you get the ability to control electronics. The story reason for this is unfortunately rather contrived and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Don't get us wrong, it adds a lot of cool gameplay and puzzle opportunities, but it's still not well explained.
Scattered though out the chapters in between the normal puzzle rooms are secret bonus puzzles which in some cases are more challenging than the regular rooms. However, the reward for solving and completing these puzzles is added backstory for the characters, which comes on top of the overall story told through various audio logs on tape recorders and computers. It's something we thought was a neat little touch in revealing what has gone on in the time you've been sleeping.
The game's main method of storytelling is a few lines of dialogue just after you enter a new puzzle room, mainly between Ava and T.O.M., in which the latter brings up deep theories regarding The Chinese Room concept and how it effects his decisions and reasoning, while in response Ava tries to understand what it means to be human. We thought that the voice acting through the game was superb, even though there's not a huge amount of it; it emanates the right amount of emotion on Ava's part, but also in contrast to that there's a good balance emotionlessness in T.O.M.
Although we played the Steam version we quickly came to the conclusion that while the PC controls are fine, the gamepad controls worked extremely well if you're in to that sort of thing. Much like most first-person shooters The Turing Test uses the back triggers on any Xbox controller to suck up and distribute the energy balls, with the option to run on the left analog stick and jumping on A. It's just a shame the game didn't quite utilise these abilities often enough or efficiently enough.
One thing to add is that on a few occasions we did manage to essentially solve our way into a corner, meaning that certain puzzles became unsolvable, or at least they appear to be after an extended period of trying to solve the same one. It's a bit of an inconvenience but the game does have a handy "restart area" option if you feel you've messed up and want to go back and work it through again.
Overall The Turing Test could be described as a Portal clone, but that would be doing Bulkhead Studios and their game itself a massive disservice. It may tread somewhat well worn ground but it does it well, in fact it does it great; the puzzles are immersive and varied enough and you don't go into each chapter thinking you're doing the same thing over and over. Not only that but with excellent voice acting and an interesting point of view on the Turing test and the Chinese Room method means that The Turing Test stand up on its own merits.
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