Bulkhead Interactives' The Turing Test, originally released on PC and Xbox back in August of 2016, sees you assume the role of Ava Turing (yes, we know), part of a team of International Space Agency research engineers sent to one of Jupiter's moons, Europa, in order to carry out a bunch of top-secret excavations and experiments.
Stirred from hypersleep some time after her fellow researchers have left for the moon's surface to begin their work, Ava is informed by the Technical Operations Manager – a very 2001-esque AI named T.O.M – that the rest of the crew are in great danger and she must get down to the surface ASAP to help save them. On arriving at the moon base, you soon discover that the other researchers have completely altered the inside of the complex, turning it into a series of seventy tests which you must now solve – with the help of T.O.M – in order to reach them and find out just exactly what on Europa is going on.
It's a pretty strong setup for a first-person puzzle game, and one that's stylistically highly reminiscent of the Portal games – however, it does trade that series' constant goofy humour for a more serious stance with the ever-present T.O.M constantly questioning Ava on matters of the mind as she progresses through puzzle rooms. Ava is pressed on the nature of human consciousness and how it differs fundamentally from that of an AI, and she and T.O.M discuss at length Alan Turing's 1950 experiment, designed to test an AI's capability to behave in a way that's indistinguishable from a human.
The game also takes in John Searle's much later Chinese Room argument that a computer which is executing a program can never be shown to have an actual understanding or real consciousness in the way that a human being does. As T.O.M puts it, he can never think outside of the box as he's just following orders. Ava may throw a piece of a puzzle through a window to complete the task or bend the rules in some other manner, but T.O.M could never do this as he's constrained by the rules within which his program has him work.
There's lots of back-and-forth between the pair and it's all pretty fascinating stuff, even if it's never really examined in anything much beyond a surface level. Ava also comes across as quite strangely lacking in knowledge in most of the ideas they examine, especially for someone who's been chosen to go on an intergalactic expedition, but, regardless, the conversation here makes for an interesting and thought-provoking backdrop to the main meat of the game, which is the seventy puzzle rooms you'll need to make your way through in order to reach your research team.
The vast majority of the puzzles on offer here see you charged with simply re-routing power around rooms and doors using your very Portal-esque EMT gun to suck up electrical charges from power points and redeploy them in such a way that you can make it to the final exit point. Things start off nice and slowly with just one colour of electrical charge to deposit between points, but the game gradually introduces various colours of charges which behave differently as well as eventually incorporating switches, controllable magnets, light bridges, cameras and drones into the equation.
Overall the puzzles in The Turing Test are entertaining to work your way through, however, the level of difficulty is a little bit disappointing all things considered. There's certainly lots of fun to be had and the slick controls and easy to understand interface makes blasting through each sector satisfying stuff, we just felt as though there's a lack of real eureka! moments and far too few really testing roadblocks along the way. For a game that takes so many pointers from the Portal series, it definitely fails to raise its puzzle game to the same level of mind-bending and ingeniously executed challenge.
The final third of The Turing Test does change things up and the puzzles get much larger in scale at this point, but the difficulty only really ramps up here because you're forced to carry out tasks over multiple rooms and floors – not because the actual design of the puzzle gets any tougher or cleverer. Don't get us wrong, if you're a big puzzle fan there's plenty to like here; it's just a bit of a shame that the game doesn't really match its cerebral setting with a gauntlet of tests that really force you think outside of the box a little bit more.
However, difficulty problems aside, The Turing Test is a very solid first-person puzzler. The voice-acting, especially on the part of T.O.M, is top-notch, and the story even manages to stay interesting right to the end. There are a bunch of optional puzzle rooms spread out over the seven chapters you'll play through and not only are they probably the cleverest puzzles in the game, but they also gain you access to areas where you can go through your crew's belongings and bits and pieces of extra info in order to fill in some backstory – we highly recommend you take the time to do these little extras. There are also two different endings – at least that we found – to enjoy, and although they're not essential nor is it necessary to replay the entire game to see them, it's a nice touch that shows the effort that was put into the narrative aspect of the game.
In terms of this Switch port, everything runs beautifully smoothly and we didn't encounter any bugs or slowdown whatsoever during our five-hour playthrough. There are some slight loading pauses as you transition between sectors, but this is also something you'll find in other versions of the game. Graphically, although the setting doesn't do much more slap you into that a few slightly differently coloured sterile space lab locations, this is still a good-looking game overall that nails that Portal-style it's aiming for. Oh, and it doesn't have gyro aiming, which is a shame.
The Turing Test is a solid first-person puzzler with an interesting and well-executed premise that provides a pretty enthralling backstory to its central gameplay. The tests you face here may not be quite as mind-bending as we might have hoped for, and they certainly don't force you to look at things from as many different angles as those found in this game's very obvious inspiration, Portal – or even The Witness – but overall, there's still plenty to like here for fans of the genre as long as they're prepared to blast through it all quite quickly and without too many major headaches.