I was pretty hyped when I saw the trailer for Twelve Minutes at E3 as I don’t usually favour point and click type games but the time-loop premise, the mystery plot and star-studded cast really caught my eye.
You play as an unnamed married man voiced by James McAvoy. As you arrive home from work you are greeted by your loving wife, voiced by Daisy Ridley, and spend some time chatting over dessert or wandering around the oppressively small apartment, until your evening is interrupted by Willem Dafoe posing as a cop, who accuses your wife of murdering her father and looking for his pocket watch, for some reason..
The loop ends in a variety of ways but the most common for me involved being stabbed, knocked out or strangled. That twelve minutes sure escalated quickly! You can restart the loop prematurely by just leaving the house if you choose, which I ended up doing on a few occasions because I managed to click on the wrong thing or select the wrong dialogue option, completely ruining what I was trying to achieve. I even managed to piss off my wife so much she just left and when I tried to follow her, I also reset the loop.
Speaking of my wife, I didn’t get off to the best of starts with her and managed to repeatedly piss her off to the point where she either left or refused to talk to me. One time I also accidentally committed the most heinous crime of starting dessert without her, and another time ruined a special surprise she had for me. I found her particularly frustrating when I was trying to prove to her that we were stuck in a time-loop but it was pretty satisfying when I finally nailed how to convince her. The game does make you work for its revelations but sometimes a little too hard.
So what’s with the murderous cop who’s determined to get this watch? As you make your way through the loops you uncover more and more nuggets of information and slowly begin to fill in the gaps. The loop will keep repeating until you uncover enough information to get one of the game’s multiple endings. Apparently you can complete the whole game in only nine loops but I’ve seen it advised in other reviews that it takes six to eight hours to complete. After getting frustrated within the first two hours of gameplay I was a bit discouraged to read this. It does feel like it can be hard to progress through the game and I ended up advancing the plot largely through trial and error, along with accidentally managing to have the right conversations at the right time. I went through a phase of not making any real progress at all, so it came as a relief when I finally had new lines of dialogue to listen to. If you find yourself stuck like me you can just fast forward through the dialogue to avoid having to repeatedly hear the same lines. though it is still irksome having to repeat the same plot points to make a very minor progression in the story.
Twelve Minutes has a few challenges that are typical of the point-and-click genre in that if you don’t click on the precise pixel you need, it doesn’t work. Not being able to find where to click, and getting stuck for long periods of time isn’t exactly ideal when you’re repeating the same short time period again and again: Doomed to the same grizzly fates and having to endure that same dessert endless times. Overall the gameplay and voice acting is great, as you’d expect from the cast. This did help to alleviate the repetitiveness of the game, and I was genuinely keen to see how the story unfolded with these characters.
For me, the premise of the game is a good one but the delivery just fell a bit flat. In order for me to play the same small portion of time again and again, the game needed to really hook me. Unfortunately though it didn’t. I powered through because I heard the tedium was worth it for the ending, though I did enjoy the unfolding mystery and the backstories of all the characters. I found the pace a bit slow and it’s frustrating having to go through the motions for each loop. The game also has multiple endings which boosts the replayability but the tedium involved to get to any conclusions was simply not worth it.
As you’d expect, some of the endings are better than others. I did make sure I could see all endings and which one you end up with will ultimately drive how satisfied you feel with the game. You certainly shouldn’t be proud of yourself if you end up getting the cowards ending. Much as I didn’t overly enjoy the game, I at least wanted to make the effort to avoid ending things like that. If you do get on with the gameplay style, I think you’ll enjoy exploring the multiple possible endings. There is definitely something satisfying about seeing all the hours you’ve put in come together. The various threads are all tied together pretty neatly, and I genuinely didn’t see the game’s true ending coming. I can see why people have been saying the game is worth it for the conclusion.
Twelve Minutes has a good narrative but with a tedious delivery. I think I would have enjoyed it a little more if it was closer to twenty minutes to take the edge off the repetitiveness. Fans of point and click games will probably enjoy this, along with fans of slowly unravelling a mystery.
This game does seem to be universally well-received by critics, and Hideo Kojima even tweeted about how much he loves it but something just doesn’t quite land for me and I feel like I’ve managed to miss something that would make me love this game. I would not say this is a bad game by any means, I just don’t think it’s for me. User reviews do seem pretty polarising too, with people either loving or hating it, and not much in between. So with this in mind, I would encourage you to have a read of other reviews before making your mind up. Personally I think I would have been quite content taking a more passive approach and just watching someone else play this game. Twelve Minutes is developed by Luis Antonio who is a former artist from Rockstar Games and Ubisoft, but ultimately left to pursue indie game development. You can find this game on PC and Xbox, and it is also available on GamePass.
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