REVIEW: ‘The Turing Test’ is Superb Puzzle Gaming, with a Narrative to Match (Xbox One)

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The Turing Test
The Turing Test is a narrative puzzle game published by Square Enix and developed by Bulkhead Interactive. Ava Turing is an astronaut who is awakened from cryostasis by her ship’s A.I. known as T.O.M. as her ship orbits above Jupiter’s moon Europa. T.O.M. informs her that there is a problem with the research station below. Shrugging of the lingering effects of cryostasis she stumbles her way to a shuttle to find out what is going on. None of her training could’ve prepared her for what comes next.

The Turing Test is a game marked by great accomplishments. Whether it be narrative,  game design or music you will find greatness permeating every aspect of this game. But, even with all these aspects showing such skill and execution, where the game truly shines is in it’s subtleties. From the moment Ava awakens and is greated by T.O.M. something is just a little off. But not in a clearly definable way, it’s just there, at the edge of your mind.

Tones from the music constantly reinforce this unease. As you progress through the story the sense of foreboding slowly increase. But it’s baked so naturally, and so fluidly into the experience that I hardly noticed. At least not till major plot points were reached. And trust me, this game has some MAJOR plot points.

There isn’t a whole lot I can say about The Turing Test’s plot without giving things away. While I can’t say much, I can say this; There is a narrative moment in this game that changes everything I thought I knew about the game to a degree I haven’t experienced since I learned the secret behind “Would you kindly” in Bioshock. It floored me to look back at the game and see all my actions in a different light.

There is another similarity that The Turing Test bears to the aforementioned classic. It’s exploration of morality. While traveling between puzzle rooms Ava and T.O.M. have a running dialogue, about a great many things. Morality, ethics, the nature of A.I.s and other topics pass between the two characters. The voice work for these characters is excellent and seeks the authenticity of the discussions beautifully.

The Turing Test

Both Marie Westbrook, and James Faulkner do excellent jobs voicing Ava and T.O.M. respectively. Faulkner in particular does fantastically. A.I.s are always tough to voice right. Too much emotion and they sound human. Too little and they sound like a crappy text to voice program. T.O.M. Faulkner lands so squarely in the middle that T.O.M.has easily become one of my favorite A.I.s in video games.

While The Turing Test‘s story and character’s are equal parts depth and subtlety the same can certainly be said for the puzzling challenges that await the player. With 70+ puzzles to solve I never once felt like the developers at Bulkhead Interactive recycled a concept or phoned in a challenge. This would be impressive in itself, but becomes even more so when considered with the fact that they never made a puzzle who’s solution felt cheap or ridiculously difficult to solve.

As each new element of The Turing Test’s puzzles are revealed the player is slowly introduced to the potential challenges. Furthermore the game never throws away a concept. There was never a one of trick that never came back. But whenever they did bring tricks back, they always felt new. By incorporating all the various elements the game had taught the me together Bulkhead Interactive showed me endless brilliant, and meticulously crafted, challenges. Even the few times I got stuck on a puzzle, upon resolution, it was always my fault. The answer, like that to all the best puzzles, was always right in front of me. I just didn’t see it.

The Turing Test also brings with it a strong, if not mind blowing, visual look to its experience. Everything is clearly identifiable, and character models, when seen, are solidly designed. The best thing about the visual presentation here is the lighting. The hard colors and hues used to illuminate various areas do a lot to reinforce the atmosphere of the game. Another subtle little touch that reinforces the whole tone of the presentation.

The Turing Test

The only real fault I can find in The Turing Test comes with how it’s narrative collides with its gameplay. As the story picks up in the last third of the game it feels like play should speed up with it. However, due to the nature of puzzles, this is not the case. The story is mildly hampered by the fact that I would get an ominous bit of dialogue that makes me want to know what’s next, but I won’t find out soon cause I’m stuck on this puzzle. This dissonance doesn’t  do a great deal of damage, but just keeps it from hitting that perfect narrative rhythm.

The last thing I feel must be noted about The Turing Test is a game that was designed around the precision of a mouse and keyboard setup, which makes this Switch port have issues. There are frequent times the player is required to click on objects a solid distance away and my Switch Joycons were not up to the task. Usually this was a minor inconvenience and I had ample time to line up my click. However, there are a couple of tight timing moments that led me to out right anger as my targeting would not do as I wanted. If possible, I would have to recommend playing this on PC. However, if your only option is the Switch it is still well worth the experience. Just be ready for a couple of rough patches when your controls struggle to keep up.

There are few things I love more in video games than when a developer questions real world morality within the narrative of their game. Bulkhead Interactive does this magnificently in The Turing Test. It balances this moral questioning with well designed puzzles that provide depth of thought, and fairness, into an excellent package. It all comes together to form an experience I cannot recommend enough.

The Turing Test is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC.

The Turing Test
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

There are few things I love more in video games than when a developer questions real world morality within the narrative of their game. Bulkhead Interactive does this magnificently in The Turing Test