Twelve Minutes has been a fascinating little indie game since it was first introduced. Created by gaming industry veteran and 3D artist Luis Antonio, backed by Annapurna Interactive, and featuring the voice talents of James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe, there’s a lot to recommend right out of the gate.
It’s a point-and-click narrative game, for starters. On the genre side of things, it’s part sci-fi timeloop, part mystery-thriller, and part romantic drama. That’s a lot to pack into a relatively stripped-down game free of frills, especially when you only get 12 minutes (at most) per loop to figure out what’s going on, but Twelve Minutes absolutely delivers on its premise.
Without getting into too many spoilers, here’s what the new game, launching Thursday, August 19th, is officially all about:
You take the role of the husband, on what should be a romantic evening with your wife. The night turns into a nightmare when a police detective breaks into your home, accuses your wife of murder and beats you to death.
Only for you to find yourself immediately returned to the exact moment you opened the front door, stuck in a TWELVE-MINUTE time loop, doomed to relive the same terror again and again…
Unless you can find a way to use the knowledge of what’s coming to change the outcome and break the loop.
An interactive narrative that blends the dream-like suspense of THE SHINING with the claustrophobia of REAR WINDOW and the fragmented structure of MEMENTO.
Check out a link to the recently revealed launch trailer for Twelve Minutes here before diving into my spoiler-free review below:
To give away the story beats, beyond those introduced in the trailers and synopsis, is to give away the whole experience of the game itself, so we obviously won’t be doing that here. What I’ll talk about instead is the feelings you get from experiencing the narrative.
Equally fascinating and frustrating, Twelve Minutes uses both relationship tropes and time-travel mechanics to peel back the layers of the unfolding mystery, 12 minutes at a time. Most of your loops will be a lot shorter than that; they felt that way for me, at least. A couple of rounds through the story and you’ll refine your movement a bit, make your dialogue choices and order of events more efficient, and maybe even make some decisions that you would never, ever do in real life. Why? Because time will reset, wiping the slate clean, but your memory (and your soul) will be forever stained with what you’ve witnessed and what you’ve done.
For starters, however, I’d encourage players to explore as much as possible and experiment with what you find in you and your wife’s small one-bedroom apartment. Classic point-and-click mechanics like combining items, examining things you find in the environment, and presenting them to different people at different times all exist here; the right combination of all of the above might just open up a new dialogue tree or reveal a new clue that will help you take another step forward towards solving the mystery. Sure, sometimes doing silly things (which I won’t mention here but you’ll know them when you try them) will lead to silly outcomes that don’t seem to affect the game at all. Other times, they’re essential moves if you want to progress in the game, even if you hate yourself for doing so.
Let’s take one major plot reveal as an example. Without spoiling what it is, there are likely three different ways you can discover it: Blind luck, an incredibly thorough examination of your surroundings in a limited amount of time, or by making one of the toughest decisions you could ever make as a playable character. Is that all vague enough for you? I hope so. Because when you discover “That Thing” that helps all the other pieces of the story start to slot into place (while spawning a lot more questions in the process), I hope you’ll appreciate the numerous ways you could have reached that point … and I hope you chose better than I did.
Some frustrating bugs do exist in this very lean-and-mean indie game. Visual goofs like characters clipping through each other and their environment are on the low-impact side of things (and are often kind of funny, darkly so at times), while misclicks due to pixel-sized interactive points or incomplete/interrupted actions thanks to the order of operations can be loop-killers. These frustrations ease with time and experience playing Twelve Minutes, but a wasted run is a real hair-puller when you’re trying to balance multiple variables while grasping in the dark as for what works, what doesn’t, and what’s a meaningless manuever. You can also perform the exact same order of things multiple times in a row and get a different outcome, depending on the exact moment you click or the precise positioning of an NPC. Sure, it’s frustrating, but the fascinating nature of Twelve Minutes‘ layered story more than makes up for it.
I had a chance to play exactly one loop’s worth of the game back during Tribeca Games, so I had a bit of cheat intel coming into my full playthrough. It helped. A little. Ultimately it didn’t matter much. Five hours into the game, I’m just as fascinated and frustrated as ever, but not much closer to actually “solving” the mystery and “finishing” the narrative. What I’ve seen so far makes me want to keep playing to find out, even if my blood pressure skyrockets in the process and my soul gets a little more scar tissue each time I watch “The Thing” happen. Luckily, gamers around the world will be able to check out Twelve Minutes for themselves starting tomorrow, so I can luxuriate in the shared frustrations and (hopefully) fascination that the game has to offer. It’s an experience that’s absolutely worth your time, attention, and hard-earned dollars.
KEEP READING: Exclusive Video: Go Behind the Scenes of ‘Twelve Minutes’ With Actors James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe