An interactive thriller about a man trapped in a time loop. Featuring James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe.
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Reviewed on: PC (Ryzen 5 2600, RTX 2070 Super, 32GB DDR4)
Also available for: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Cast: James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, William Dafoe
Developer: Luis Antonio
Writers: Luis Antonio, Steven Lerner
Character Art: Mashru Mishu, Alexei Murzak, Matthew Kean
Environment Art: James Stout, Pablo Forsolloza, Carlos Vilela, Samuel Kambey, Nejamin Duk, Jonathan Nascone
A husband arrives home to his small apartment; his wife awaits him inside with news and a surprise. Look in the fridge; she’s baked two deserts and awaiting hidden in the top of a drawer in the bedroom, a present for the man that could change their lives. Candlelight dinner follows with a slow dance, something the married couple haven’t done in some time. A knock on the door interrupts their special evening, bringing a police officer into their house. He claims the wife murdered her father eight years ago, and she’s hiding his expensive watch. The husband struggles and attempts to fight off the rough policeman, which ends with him getting the life choked out of him in the middle of the kitchen—but the man awakens, standing in the kitchen again, just minutes before this whole event began.
Twelve Minutes takes the Groundhog Day time loop and wraps it up inside a crime thriller and an interactive point-and-click game. Controlling the husband, you’re stuck inside a loop that doesn’t allow you to leave the apartment or to surpass twelve minutes either. Death brings you back to the start of the evening, as does waiting for the twelve minutes to tick past.
At the heart of Twelve Minutes is a complicated puzzle game that doesn’t hold your hand. From the moment you enter the apartment until you roll credits, the player is given zero hints about what to do next or how to escape the loop. At one stage, so lost, I considered if there was no end and if that was the game’s meta-narrative. I can, however, confirm, there is an end credits sequence.
The bone you’re thrown in the opening minutes and your first loop is the same question you’ll be asking over your playthrough for the next 6-10 hours. “Where is this watch? And why is your wife hiding it from you?”
Asking the wife head-on about the watch or the death of her father doesn’t end well. But through trial and error, new information is revealed, and slowly you can open new conversation choices and moments. For the most part, you’re free to reach the solutions or try out things as you see fit. This includes stabbing your wife and leaving her dead body on the floor for the policeman to find or flushing the watch down the toilet once you find its location, just to hear the husband let out a burst of slightly psychotic laughter.
Twelve Minutes is not a game for anyone with a lack of patience. Trying out different conversation choices only for them to fail will see you have to replay the opening minutes of the game over and over again. It can get very tedious at times, especially when attempting to test particular character conditions that require you to do many things quickly in the first minute you enter the apartment. One time I accidentally left the front door open, which put the police officer off, so I didn’t get the initial response from him I was anticipating—everything you do and say matters when playing Twelve Minutes.
The game does reward you for reaching certain vital conditions. For example, once you’ve learned the watch’s location, you can ask the wife about it head-on. You never get a checkpoint as you’re playing the same twelve minutes over and over, but you unlock some shortcuts. Each of these I unlocked filled me with enough feeling of overcoming a challenge that I was ready to push forward, even if I had previously begun to become frustrated. I do wish there had been a small hint system implement, however, as I can see the obtuse nature of some puzzles pushing players away.