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Turing Test review: Puzzling over the mind’s exquisite flexibility

Players must solve complex puzzles to help Ava the engineer and TOM, an A.I. life form, find a crew lost in space in this challening game. (Credit: Bulkhead Interactive)

PLOT An engineer and a robot use their heads to find a crew lost in space.

RATED E 10+ for Everyone 10 and older

DETAILS Xbox One, PC; $19.99

BOTTOM LINE Puzzles with pizzazz.

In The Turing Test, you play as Ava, an engineer who has been revived from cryogenic rest by TOM, the A.I. on a space station orbiting Europa, Jupiter’s sixth closest moon. TOM tells Ava that communication has been lost with a ground team and that it’s imperative that she assist in finding them. After landing on Europa, it becomes evident that the robotically built base where the astronauts were last spotted has been given an interior makeover. Specifically, the base’s rooms have been reconfigured into puzzles or Turing Tests meant to differentiate machines from humans.

Turing Tests owe their real-world status to the ideas raised by Alan Turing, the 20th century mathematician who was a pioneer of computer science and immortalized in the 2014 movie “The Imitation Game.” Here, the imitation game is subjected to an ironic reversal. There is a computer on the base of Europa that the player can interact with that’s convinced the player is a robot.

The game dramatizes the concept of machine thinking by creating a scenario in which it may be said that an A.I. demonstrates a higher level of moral reasoning than the humans around it. The exquisite puzzles demonstrate the power of lateral thinking — what machines can’t do. The player is made to reflect on the fact that Ava has been tasked with learning rules — for example, that blue power spheres provide a continuous flow of electricity while green spheres generate it on and off — that must be combined in creative ways to demonstrate a meaningful, as opposed to a haphazard, understanding of the underlying logic of the puzzles she encounters.

The Turing Test achieves a rare harmony of gameplay and narrative. It should make one think about the flexibility of the mind and what it means to consider one’s species the apex of creation.

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