Now you’re thinking with power.
Science fiction has always been used for more than just the exploration of fantastical worlds and aliens. The genre lends itself especially well for reflections on humanity, our role in the universe, and broader philosophical concepts. The Turing Test embraces the legacy of science fiction with several interesting ideas, and the puzzles and gameplay make it a great addition to the Switch library.
The Turing Test begins inside the spacesuit of Ava after she wakes up from hypersleep in a small space station hovering over a moon of Jupiter, Europa. The scientists in a base on the moon have stopped responding, and it's up to her to find out what happened to the crew. However, the chambers in the base have been altered to make sure that not just anyone can enter. Accompanied by an AI called T.O.M., wonderfully performed by James Faulkner, you solve these puzzle-chambers in order to progress and search for the scientists. At a glance, the gameplay is reminiscent of another first-person puzzle platformer, where the female protagonist carries a gun and solves puzzles in large white chambers while accompanied by an A.I. Though the comparison is easily made, The Turing Test brings plenty of its own ideas to the table. Ava’s tool allows her to absorb energy cores from power outlets and redirect them to other ports in order to open doors and activate machinery. This starts off fairly basic with moving energy blocks and absorbing and shooting cores to other points across the room. But the game wastes no time building on these ideas and introducing new mechanics. Certain cores only activate for a set amount of time, and other cores slowly power down, leaving you to think of how to distribute your energy and position yourself within the chambers. Sometimes you need to cleverly aim your shots through windows while other times you move back and forth from using machinery to manipulate blocks or other objects. The story is very interested in exploring ideas like humanity, morality, our relationship with machines, and free will. These themes work well and intermix poignantly with the gameplay. To avoid spoilers, let’s just say the game really throws a twist into your perception of Ava and what her role is. The ending does leave a bit to be desired, though. Whereas that other first-person puzzle platformer with a talking A.I. clearly favors charm and character alongside the gameplay, The Turing Test is more focused on the puzzles than its own ideas. It doesn’t fully deliver on its own premise and skews more towards cliché.
Where the experience truly shines is in both the writing and the puzzle solving. New abilities are directly implemented into more complex puzzles as they are discovered. For example, in one chamber you have to multitask controlling a robot who guides a core to one part of the room, while also having to create a path for Ava to progress to the exit. Solving these puzzles is very satisfying and makes you feel clever after finishing them. As well designed as the puzzles are, one negative is that from time to time the difficulty can seem a bit unbalanced. In one chamber, I was struggling for over 15 minutes but solved the next chamber in less than five. The progression is rather linear in that regard, but the difficulty doesn’t necessarily follow this line. Regarding performance, The Turing Test runs smoothly on the Nintendo Switch. Some of the textures and visual effects are pretty impressive in motion, but there was some slowdown in the larger chambers near the end of the game. Nothing that ruined the experience, but it was noticeable nonetheless. If you’re looking for a clever puzzle game, The Turing Test definitely delivers. The puzzles are great and involve a lot of mechanics that introduce a good deal of variety and some clever uses of the power-shooting tool. One of the challenges of a puzzle game is providing a reason to replay, and unfortunately everything the game has to offer can be seen in your first playthrough. A good number of nice twists in the story will keep you engaged, but it doesn’t quite reach the heights it seems to be aiming for.