Walk the line between man and machine in The Turing Test


Second chances

Around this time last year, a first-person puzzle game called Pneuma: Breath of Life released. Although it was built around an interesting conceit, I didn't find myself too enamored with it. The puzzles mostly failed to grab me, and I thought that the thought-provoking narrative was overshadowed by dull game design.

The Pneuma creators are at it again, this time with another first-person puzzler called The Turing Test. After spending about half an hour with it, I have much higher hopes for the team's second outing.

The Turing Test -- the scientific concept, not this game's title -- is the idea that a machine can exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. The Turing Test (the game, this time) is about Ava Turing, an employee of the International Space Agency. She has been called to a research base on Jupiter's moon Europa after something went wrong. The story is said to gradually unravel and explore the concepts of consciousness and human intuition, and the line between man and machine, all while traversing deeper into Europa's frozen core.

All that heady ideological narrative stuff is the part I wasn't able to get a grasp on in my time with The Turing Test. I was only shown a slice of the beginning of the game, far from where the secrets probably lie. Besides, the venue was very loud and I wouldn't have been able to hear much even if those moments had spoiled its greatest truths.

What I was able to get a feel for is how the puzzles work. Ava is equipped with an Energy Manipulation Tool on her arm -- a piece of machinery that is thematically appropriate in helping a human do her job. The EMT can suck energy out of a source and transfer it elsewhere. A very rudimentary example of a puzzle might be to walk through a door that's powered by energy, suck it out which causes the door to shut in front of you, and then use that same energy to open another door ahead to progress.

Obviously, that's about as simple as a situation could get. But, The Turing Test quickly threw more examples at me that were multi-stepped, required exploring the environment to solve, and necessitated learning two different types of energies. This was all early game stuff, but the solutions weren't always immediately recognizable. They required some thinking and logical sorting.

In short, I think I was more interested in the half hour of puzzles I saw in The Turing Test than I ever was with any of the puzzles in Pneuma: Breath of Life. Speaking with producer Joe Brammer, he relents that the developers know that Pneuma had its shortcomings. But, it was financially successful enough that it's enabling them to make another game. Brammer says the team is taking what it learned from Pneuma and applying it to Turing (which, to be fair, is what all developers say all the time).

Another thing Brammer commented on with regard to Pneuma is that they got strong feedback from players that the price was too high for the amount of content -- something that's sure to make creators everywhere cringe in discomfort. Brammer says that The Turing Test is shaping up to be considerably longer -- probably in the six-to-eight hour range -- and, while they haven't nailed down a price yet, it'll likely be a little cheaper than Pneuma. Basically, double the game for the same (or lower) cost.

All that considered, I'm looking forward to The Turing Test. Bulkhead Interactive has already proven that it can write provocative and intriguing subject matter. It just needs gameplay that can work hand-in-hand with a narrative. From what little I've seen of The Turing Test, it's already heading in the right direction. If that's the case, then Brammer's correct: The developer really is learning and adapting as it grows.

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Brett Makedonski
Brett MakedonskiManaging Editor   gamer profile

While you laughing, we're passing, passing away. So y'all go rest y'all souls, 'Cause I know I'ma meet you up at the crossroads. Y'all know y'all forever got love from them Bone Thugs baby... ... more + disclosures



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