The Turing Test is yet another first person puzzle game where the player is stuck in a strange environment with a possibly malevolent “mission control” (yet another AI, this time), solving a series of puzzles to try and navigate through an environment.
In this case, you are controlling a woman called Ava Turing, who is being commanded by TOM, the AI of the mission, to go down to the surface, reacquire communications with the crew (which is rebelling against him), and to eventually help him to stop the crew from escaping Europa with an organism they found there which potentially threatens life on Earth.
The core story here is actually fairly decent – the premise of the tests being set up to prove you are human (as they are designed to keep out TOM, the AI, but not Ava, the human), as TOM is not programmed to be creative (in fact, he is specifically programmed not to be, making him inflexible and rigid – exactly what the mission needs in its AI). As you go through the tests, TOM and Ava talk about the Turing Test, the Chinese Room, and various other ideas about free will and whether or not AIs are really “intelligent”. TOM himself seems to argue both sides when convenient; he claims he is nothing more than a calculator, but clearly has feelings and emotions and gets angry when treated like nothing more than a machine.
There’s a twist about halfway through the story; I had thought it was going to be either that the whole thing was a simulation (i.e. none of it was real, it was all a test of the AI to determine how it would respond to a situation like this) or that it was going to just repeat the Bioshock plot twist straight up. Instead it went for something a bit new, which I liked, as while I’ve thought about that particular twist before, I’ve never seen a game actually do it.
Sadly, while the twist ultimately unlocks the last gameplay element, the gameplay element of looking through cameras and controlling robots and triggering switches through them is something that Watch Dogs did several years ago. And given that the other puzzle mechanics of the game are standing on switches, putting heavy things on switches, and grabbing and manipulating balls of light from a distance to put into power slots to power things… it ain’t exactly the most innovative game ever.
Indeed, the actual puzzle gameplay is just not very good. The rooms are thankfully very short, each relying on a particular bit of lateral thinking, and are mostly quite simple puzzles, with only a few really being all that long. This is mostly a good thing, but it ultimately makes the game feel a bit shallow – I never got any great sense of achievement or reward for solving the puzzles, and most of them were very easy. There were 77 puzzles in all in the game, and overall it took me about 6 hours to 100% it.
And I have to say, even on top of that, I wasn’t overly fond of the characters, either. TOM at least has some personality, but Ava is pretty bland, and by the end of it, I never really identified a single major character trait from her. The other characters – who you get to hear the audio logs of – are not particularly interesting either, with only the captain feeling like he has more than one note to his personality. And even TOM doesn’t always feel like he is written all that consistently – he argues with the crew about how he is really a person, and argues with Ava about how he isn’t. While him being two-faced and untrustworthy is a big part of the plot, it would have been nice for him to more directly acknowledge his own hypocrisy – instead, not even the characters arguing with him do so.
The result was that this game didn’t really touch me. It had a couple interesting ideas in its story and playing with its medium as a game, but as a game, it felt dull, uninspired, and unoriginal, without any memorable gameplay or setpieces. While it tries to be philosophical, it is nowhere near the level of something like The Talos Principle, and while the sterile testing environment (and some of the elements, like the switches and light bridges) are reminiscent of Portal, it is lacking in the character of those games as well.
Ultimately the game as a whole just ends up being rather flat. It never really did anything particularly interesting with itself, the story isn’t good enough to be worth playing through the game for, and the characters aren’t memorable. Is it terrible? No. But it doesn’t excel in any way.
You’ve got better things to do with your time and money than play this game.