Ever since Portal 2, puzzle shooters have been on the rise when it comes to puzzle games. Going from one room to the next, solving the puzzle at hand and then proceeding to the next, sometimes guided by a voice to help (or not help) you. Many developers have tried their hand on this newly found genre and the Nintendo Switch now finally has another one of these sorts of games to play on the go with The Turing Test from Bulkhead Interactive.
The Turing Test is no stranger to computer scientists with a focus on AI research: The tasks presented by Alan Turing in 1950 should show whether a machine can have a human mind equivalent. It is hardly surprising that the game also takes up the topic and that the philosophically inspired dialogues with the omnipresent AI called TOM often revolve around the limits of the machines in terms of creative solutions as well as human thinking and emotions.
You take on the role of astronaut Ava Turing, with whom you leave the spaceship in the prologue to look for the ground crew on Saturn’s moon Europe. They suddenly broke off the contact and has been missing since then. When I arrive, TOM can present itself in such a trusting way with its friendly voice and interesting statements: A certain distrust is inevitable, because films like Ex Machina or the experiences from Portal with a certain AI called GlaDOS have left their mark. In addition, the question arises right from the start why the crew not only disappeared, but also converted the base into a gigantic test laboratory with 70 chambers. The seven chapters provide answers in the form of dialogs, documents and audiologs.
The goal within the test chambers is always to reach the exit. However, the way to get there is more or less complicated, because among other things, the right doors have to be opened, platforms have to be positioned, light bridges activated, levers thrown, objects placed in the right place or chain reactions triggered, which also involve the right timing coming in to play. To solve this puzzle madness. You are given the EMT (Energy Manipulation Tool) which proves to be an indispensable high-tech tool: it not only shoots small balls, for example to supply door locks with energy, but can also suck up up to three of these energy balls again, provided they are visible to the player , You quickly get to know the different variants of the energy balls.
Later, the question increasingly arises as to which type of balls should be placed in which order in which place in order to achieve the desired (or hoped for) effect. And then there are the typical cubes, which on the one hand also provide energy when placed appropriately, but on the other hand can also be transported and can activate switches with their weight. In addition, they are ideal for interrupting open energy beams or jumping in as a door stop. Around the middle of the game, the gameplay is expanded to include additional mechanics, by hacking into cameras and even taking control of mobile robots that have similar functions to the EMT. From this phase, the line of sight becomes even more important, because you can only take control of objects that you see. Switching back to the character is possible without visual contact.
The test chambers are almost perfectly tailored to the game mechanics available – dead ends are not to be feared here. Only occasionally annoying pixel-perfect alignments to keep the line of sight or isolated trial & error passages, if, for example, a cube has to land on a switch on the floor after a long throw. Such moments of frustration are the exception.
Since the chambers are all quite clear, the options for action are also limited. Most of the time you have a quick idea of what to do, although there are occasionally good moments when you don’t get the solution straight away. Nevertheless, the level of difficulty is rather low – especially players with experience from Portal or The Talos Principle should march through relatively quickly and are rarely challenged properly. Especially since the requirements for the interspersed skill passages are in the lower area and, in contrast to other puzzle representatives. Dangers such as deadly laser beams, falling into the depths or nasty traps are imminent. In this way, you work your way through the rooms, which are interrupted by occasional brief moments of exploration, in which you don’t have to solve any puzzles.
It’s just a shame that you get to see so little of Europe as a foreign world – the test chambers could just as well have been set up on any other planet or anywhere on Earth. Potential outer sections would not only have provided more variety in scenery, but might also have opened the door for situations involving gravity or lack of oxygen.
Visually, more would certainly have been possible on Switch, but like Portal & Co, The Touring Test relies on the sterile presentation of the test chambers, which is often typical for puzzle games. Apart from a long loading time at the start of the game, the breaks between levels are pleasantly short. This makes the port to the Switch a good experience as the game has been out on other platforms for a few years now: the visuals are clean in both docked and handheld. It is a shame that there is neither an HD rumble nor any other vibration effects that would have enhanced the landing approach in the prologue, or interactions later in the game.
The Turing Test on Switch is a good puzzle experience and a great port. Sadly long time fans of the genre might find the game a little bit to easy in the long run.