It really makes you think.
Bulkhead Interactive has brought the world The Turing Test, a new entry in the every growing first-person puzzle genre. In its simplest terms, the game finds you going from room to room solving a series of puzzles that get progressively harder the deeper in to the game you go. You manipulate what can best be described as portable batteries to charge up objects like doors, industrial sized electromagnets, and more all in an effort to progress to the next room. All of this takes place on a base located on Jupiter's moon, Europa, where it's just you and an ever-present artificial intelligence that serves as your guide and, dare we say, friend?

The formula may not sound vastly different from the other puzzle oriented games but it's the presentation, the environment, and the interactions between the main character, Ava, and the A.I. voice that set The Turing Test on a plateau rarely seen. Between the puzzle rooms, the game presents the player with story-focused areas that help to fill out the narrative. These areas give the player a chance to relax their minds as they explore the environment to unravel the deeper mystery of what happened to Ava's mysteriously absent colleagues.

Naturally, some will shout out that the theme reeks of, "but Portal did it!" At first glance, yes, but over time you realize that the two games took different paths very early on in terms of both the story and gameplay mechanics. The Turing Test is less about the humor and more about asking the questions that really make you take pause and actually think about what is being discussed. For those that become invested in the story, it pushes players to actually think about the ramifications of the topics at hand. The beauty is that the story is dished out in small but satisfying doses throughout the roughly 9-12 hour long campaign. Discussions between the two characters feels organic and I'm honestly happy that Bulkhead Interactive decided to have a protagonist that isn't perpetually silent. I understand that some developers feel the need to make silent protagonists in order to let the player draw their own conclusions or to more deeply immerse the player. Fortunately, The Turing Test strikes a solid balance between feeding you those nuggets of information while still allowing you to draw your own conclusions for most of the game.

The puzzles in The Turing Test never quite cross the difficulty threshold into aggravating. Of course, difficulty in puzzle games will vary from person to person but there was never really any time that I can recall where I felt like a solution was impossible. Some puzzles obviously required a bit more effort in the thinking department, but it never reached a point where I was hitting my head against a wall. Sadly, as the difficulty does ramp up through most of the game, it seems to stagnate a little after the halfway mark. That doesn't mean the game suddenly becomes boring, but it does cut back on those exciting moments where you see new mechanics introduced into the game. Fortunately, there are a number of optional rooms in the game that provide a fair bit of added challenge beyond the standard puzzles. Some of these bonus puzzle rooms can be easily missed, so you will want to keep an eye out.

Level design in The Turing Test is, for the most part, quite well done. There were a couple of cases where puzzles could be solved by seemingly unintended methods. These cases were few and far between but it does show that the game lacks a fair bit of extra polish. Most players will probably never encounter these situations but for those that do, it could put them into situations where they leave behind critical objects. This could also lead to situations where players think that their unintended solution is the intended path. Yes, that's great that you can think outside the box but it will suck if you or others unintentionally break the game or somehow manage to break the narrative by accidentally bypassing story triggers.

Thanks to some solid work on Unreal Engine 4, The Turing Test ran very well. The clean aesthetic and lack of many large environments means that the game should run quite nicely on a wide variety of systems. The style works very well with the narrative presented throughout with just a few small exceptions. There were some odd model or texture discrepancies that stuck out like a sore thumb from the otherwise great visuals. For a bit of context: The Turing Test allows the player to pick up and examine a good number of environmental objects. One of the worst graphical offenders that I encountered fairly early on in the game came from a jar of pills. The bottoms of the glass pill bottles simply disappeared when examined and immediately slapped my immersion across the face. For a game that is usually quite the looker, these moments stick out all the more. This all goes back to the game needing just a tiny bit more polish to address issues like that. Otherwise, I have no complaints about the visuals. The environments between the puzzle levels were interesting and full of a number of items, objects, and story related elements that I wanted to look at, I wanted to read, or that I wanted to stop and admire.

The package that is The Turing Test is rounded out by solid voice work and sound design. I really heard no fault with any of the dialogue from either Ava or the artificial intelligence during my playthrough. Line reads came across as natural with proper emotion conveyed where it made sense. The generally pleasing visuals were complimented nicely with some terrific soundtrack work and ambient background noises. It seems weird to have to note this, but I did not have any issues with improper sound balancing. With many games coming out these days that lack proper sound balancing between spoken word and music or background noise, it is nice to have a proper auditory experience. I just wanted to ensure I made a note of that for those that may have been curious.

Bottom Line
The Turing Test isn't just another "dime a dozen" puzzle game. It is a thoroughly enjoyable experience that does a tremendous job of separating itself from the herd. It is a game that compliments and neatly expands upon some of the best that the puzzle genre has to offer, games that you have come to know and love over the years. With only a small number of rough edges remaining in the game, there should be little surprise when I say that The Turing Test is one of my personal gaming highlights of 2016.

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The Turing Test (Developed by Bulkhead Interactive; Published by Square Enix)
Starting at $19.99 (USD; pre-order starts at $17.99 on Steam) for PC & XB1
The Turing Test was provided to Total Gaming Network for preview and review purposes.