What’s the difference between intelligent imitation and true thought? A computer can analyze, sort and decode, but is that even in the same realm as genuine comprehension? And what enables humans to make that extra cognitive leap that machines supposedly can’t?
Those were the questions at the core of computer scientist Alan Turing’s computer-versus-human thought experiments back in the 1950s. And they’re also the hook that The Turing Test uses as story fodder for its puzzle-solving fun.
As this game begins, players awaken in the space boots of one Ava Turing, a scientist who’s been cooling her heels in a cryogenic sleeping chamber while orbiting Jupiter’s sixth moon, Europa. T.O.M., the ship’s artificial intelligence, lets us know that down on the moon’s surface, things have somehow gone awry. The computer has lost control of the base, fellow crewmates are in great danger and only Ava and the computer can help.
Upon reaching the base on the planet’s snowy surface, though, she discovers an unusual and unexpected conundrum: The crewmembers have locked themselves away behind a series of … puzzles. Only with the aid of an energy manipulation tool—one that Ava uses to suck up and spit out balls of energy from a distance—can she move forward from room to room and level to level. And these rooms are filled with doors, platforms, and objects that must be opened, moved and manipulated in exactly the right way.
As Ava progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that these tests aren’t just simple, connect-the-dots challenges, but something much more sophisticated. They require both logical and lateral thought: creative twists and turns that T.O.M. struggles to solve relying upon his by-the-numbers processing. Is that an important clue to the overall mystery at play? Are there hidden messages and hints that her struggling friends are trying to convey? Is there more to this puzzling riddle that T.O.M. isn’t sharing? Is T.O.M.’s uncle really HAL 9000?
If you’re a puzzle video game fan, you’ll probably see a lot of similarity between The Turing Test and the popular past puzzler Portal. The difference is that this collection of well thought-out brain teasers and multi-dimensional bafflers isn’t nearly so whimsical as that jump-through-a-black-hole groundbreaker. The challenges grow increasingly more difficult, and the tale takes a much more serious tone. No giggles to be found here.
That makes things a bit more thoughtful as you move forward. But it also injects a sense of suspense lurking just around the next corner. As Ava moves deeper into the base, she begins to find recordings of people and entities making potentially harmful choices. In one case we hear a man calling out for help after being locked outside in a deadly environment. We read about someone surgically removing his hand. And another scene gives players the choice to hit a pair of women with a laser beam blast (though the digital camera here cuts away quickly if that choice is made).
Those are small drawbacks compared to many games out there, but they’re still worth noting. Other than that, however, this is a diverting, engaging riddler that keeps players as entertained with its many-layered storyline as it does with its twist-and-turn, find-a-new-angle puzzles.
In fact, it’s the sort of compelling gameplay and storytelling that might just leave you wondering who has actually passed Turing’s test once the final knot is untangled.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.