This time around we’ll be covering two indies at once. The Talos Principle by Croteam, and The Turing Test by Bulkhead Interactive and produced by Square Enix. Both of these games share many similarities in that they are first-puzzle games (with an option for 3rd person for The Talos Principle) with a suspicious voice guiding the player throughout the game similar to Portal, but with an overarching theme about artificial intelligence, philosophy, and whether or not an AI can be considered a thinking, conscious being.
First let’s talk about The Talos Principle. The game starts out with you waking up in the middle of a meadow surrounded by ancient ruins. Your hand moves up to block the sun and show you that your character is a robot. A voice from above that calls itself Elohim (Hebrew for “God” or “Gods”) guides you through the game and advises you to go through several puzzle areas to collect sigils. Eventually you will be lead to the main hub area of the game that is split into three buildings and a tall tower. Elohim will ask you to go through the three buildings, collect all of the sigils, and then advance beyond a great big door in the third building to reach immortality. His one rule is that you have to stay away from the tower at all cost.
The idea behind this game is that it greatly resembles the biblical tale of Adam and Eve (only with just the one character.) Elohim is meant to represent the voice of God in the biblical story, whereas the tower is representative of the forbidden fruit. Periodically as you advance through the game, you will stumble upon computer stations that connect you to “The Library,” a program made to contain all human knowledge cultivated throughout the millennia (Representing the Tree of Knowledge). However, the Library also contains its own AI made for indexing the knowledge known as “The Librarian” who will also regularly hold conversations with you and ask you some difficult philosophical questions on whether or not you believe your robot could be considered a person. Elohim will warn you throughout the game to ignore what The Librarian tells you, calling him “The Serpent” (Also a reference to the biblical story.) In the end, it’s your decision on whether or not to listen to Elohim, or explore the tower, all the while trying to uncover what happened to humanity and what the purpose of these tests are.
The Turing Test is a game that takes place in the far reaches of space. Specifically one of Jupiter’s moon’s, Europa. You play as Ava, one of the engineers in a space crew sent there to examine samples of microscopic life found on Europa. To make the most efficient use of their time, the crew has cryogenic pods installed on an orbital station named The Fortuna that they will freeze themselves in periodically when they aren’t needed for a while. Ava had put herself in cryogenisis with the idea to stay under for ten years, but is woken five years prematurely by the crew’s AI named TOM. TOM advised Ava that the crew has gone missing and that communication has been cut. You take a pod down to Europa’s surface and enter the main base to find that many have the rooms have been changed from their original purpose and now host a variety of puzzles to solve. TOM informs you that these puzzles appear to be what is referred to as a “Turing Test” which in science is considered a type of test that can tell the difference between a human and a machine. This will lead you to understand that these Turing Tests were made so that you could get further in, but TOM could not, though the reason why may not be entirely clear at first. Throughout the game, you will gain more story info through a mixture of optional side puzzles located directly in the middle of each chapter and the areas you find at the end of each chapter. You’ll find documents, email transcripts, and audio logs from the crew members, and many times you’ll find conversations involving psychological tests designed to prove whether or not an AI can successfully imitate and understand human consciousness.
The messages in these games can be a bit heavy-handed, but the experience is very worthwhile. Both games are relatively short much like Portal, but have some very well thought out puzzles in both of them. If you’re big on puzzle solving or love philosophy, these games make the best of both worlds really well. If you’re interested, both games are available on Humble Bundle where a portion of your payment goes to charity and another portion helps support me. Also, as of today, The Talos Principle is on sale for cheap for the next 11 days!