The Turing Test Review

Dom Peppiatt
The Turing Test is Escape The Room: The Game. You do it about 70 times, overall, in various scenarios. The most obvious comparison you can make straight away is Portal, though the game doesn’t really feel like Portal other than ‘it has rooms with puzzles in them’.
There’s a simple narrative running through it all that you can completely ignore if you wanted: you’ll get more than enough satisfaction from this game if you’re simply into puzzlers that look good and leave you with something in your head to mentally chew on once you’ve put the pad down.
The game guides you through its chambers via an intrusive AI called TOM. TOM has taken lessons on being an AI from GLaDOS, maybe, since his slightly menacing helpfulness and very specific way of talking seem to suggest, from the off, that TOM isn’t a good guy. But you can never really be certain of that, can you? So you continue walking the odd path the game sets out for you, low-key menace lacing every interaction, and try to figure out exactly how the hell you ‘escape the room(s)’.
The game isn’t scared of living up to its name - after all, the Turing Test was originally a term named after tech-philosopher extraordinaire Alan Turing, who came up with the concept of a human and a machine chatting over a text channel whilst an unknowing spectator tried to decipher which avatar is human and which is machine.
In the game, TOM informs you that this is what the crew of the ship you’ve found yourself on - the Europa - have done, and why these chambers are set up the way they are: it’s all a test that only humans can solve, because they require creativity. Handy that - the game telling you that you need to be creative to solve it - because, honestly, while there are some really inspired chambers knocking about, some of them can be quite dull, too.
We think that the game plays with this idea of person versus machine in some slightly deceptive ways: there always feels like there’s an invisible hand guiding you along. It’s not like there are BIG SIGNS everywhere telling you to PRESS THIS, but instead the way certain visual language is used, the way certain elements of the puzzle design come together… it all feels like it's helping you along. Like the game has convinced you that you need to outsmart it, but really it’s outsmarting you all along.
But perhaps we’re just paranoid. Paranoid because we’re trying to find something more under the skin of The Turing Test; we couldn’t shake that Portal-a-like snap judgement we made early on (which, honestly, was more down to the aesthetic of the game more than anything gameplay-related anyway). Thing is, the puzzles aren’t nearly as creatively charged as the Portal games’ are, which is ironic considering TOM’s early-game statement, and they mostly feel like assemblies from a big puzzle-game phone-order catalogue: light beams, pressure pads, colour-coded keys and doors… so many doors… are all integral to the game’s DNA.
When the puzzles start you messing around with line-of-sight and playing with multi-layered solutions, though, things start getting a bit more interesting. More parts of the puzzle-game catalogue start being bought then; cables, junction boxes, moving platforms, interactive scenery. The layers start to deepen, but never by too much - the trickiest it gets is when you start getting many-layered cable-to-junction-to-thing-to-door puzzles, which evolve in distinct stages. We actually felt like some puzzles could be called ‘bosses’ in their own right because they expected you to deal with stuff the game has just been teaching you, but you’ve got to deal with all that stuff right now otherwise you’re an idiot.
What we do like about The Turing Test as opposed to its genre stablemates is the way it doesn't really like to make you backtrack. This comes back to what we were saying earlier about that invisible hand: the game always seems keen to make you want to progress, and where other puzzlers can pad out time by going ‘aha! See this panel? You saw a similar one earlier, didn’t you? Go back to it!’, The Turing Test never does that. It’s got more respect for you and - likely - just wants to show off as much of its world and puzzles as it can, rather than get you racking up playtime just because it can.
So the result is a game that has something to say, but never really wants to say it too loudly. The reaction to the developer’s last game (Pneuma: Breath Of Life) was mixed, by all accounts, and it seems like the creative thinking that’s gone into this new project has been more… subtle. But not diluted in any way. The Turing Test is a great example of what a good-looking puzzle game on the current generation of consoles can achieve.


A nice understated soundtrack supports the kind of mindset you need to get into for the game to click. Strong voice acting all around, too.

Unreal Engine 4 supports a strong, well-realised art style, but after 70 rooms you begin to see through the engine and repeated assets become easily identifiable. Lighting's nice, though.

We don’t know if this is the sort of game you’ll be coming back to a lot once it’s done, but the experience itself is entertaining on the first run through.

It looks good, it sounds good and the overall tone of it had us quite interested the whole way through. A good, philosophically charged story underpins an entertaining puzzle game, but it’s lacking the absolute top-class gameplay that genre rivals like The Witness or Portal seem to portray so effortlessly.

There are 15 achievements on offer here for 1000G. Complete the game once and, well, that’s the vast majority. We don’t want to spoil too much, but if you value achievements and like puzzlers, this is a no-brainer for you.

The Turing Test is delivered well, resplendent in Unreal 4, and carries a few genuinely interesting moments that make some of the more languid ’downtime’ easier to swallow. We've had moments on our commute just mulling over some of the (ridiculously!) dry jokes in the game, but we love that - they feel like the bytes of humour you’d hear a museum curator crack as they show you their favourite exhibit. A puzzler for anyone who wants an aperitif after The Witness and The Talos Principle.

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