Twelve Minutes, the interactive thriller about a man stuck in a time loop, is filled with classic point-and-click adventure gameplay, a twisting narrative, and performances that permeate the airwaves.
Twelve Minutes Review | Tiny Dots on an Endless Timeline
These areas blend to make an experience that left me with way more questions than answers. Twelve Minutes starts off with a simple concept, relive the same events repeatedly trying to manipulate both the objects and people around you.
The game consists of only three characters, yourself, your wife, and the cop who is coming to arrest your wife for the murder of her father eight years ago. The only thing that changes each loop is what you choose to do. Maybe you try to attack the cop when he enters, or perhaps you hide and hope for the best.
Over the years, we’ve been conditioned to understand time loops and how to start changing them. Your first few times around the clock will be a frantic dash to try and find everything you can interact with, and often it breaks immersion. I saw on many occasions trying to rush through the motions with the impending doom of the clock was not the way the game intends you to play.
You’re meant to exist in this space; take your time and learn the characters’ intricacies and complexities. It’s weird to think about moving slowly in a race against the clock, but it’s the moments you find along the way that make Twelve Minutes something special.
This is furthered by exceptional performances from Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy, and of course, Willem Dafoe. The voicework and delivery of every line hits, helping ground an otherwise mystical situation in reality.
Daisy Ridley and James McAvoy have great chemistry together. Both bounce off of each other with witty comments and loving moments. It’s no surprise these two bring top-notch acting to the world of Twelve Minutes.
Willem Dafoe’s take on the cop is mysterious, dark, and even sometimes filled with warmth. It’s hard to get into without delving into specifics and spoilers, but the performances across the board are worth the price of admission alone.
You’re not always going to be the hero in each situation, failure is going to happen, and in some cases, failure is the key to learning more information or seeing a pivotal scene in the game.
Not every puzzle in the game works; sometimes, I felt that I was making connections and pulling on threads the game wasn’t ready for me to deal with. I often felt the game was trying to play catch up with me. It’s frustrating when a character doesn’t have a dialogue choice simply because I haven’t clicked on an item the right way, but this goes back to my initial point.
Take it slow, play by the rules of the game, you’ll have a better experience for it. I also had a number of times in my playthrough where the main character would have a revelation he’s already had, despite keeping the knowledge from previous loops. It felt strange to be having some of the same dialogue over and over like he was experiencing this moment for the first time again.
The same goes for other characters, I would tell them something, and then if I clicked a different dialogue choice in the same conversation, the game would have the same revelation, only slightly different.
Some of the animations of the characters can be janky as they collide with each other in the space. Navigating small rooms with a lot of interactions will do that, it doesn’t break the game or make it unplayable, but it is certainly noticeable.
Despite all of this, though, the main narrative hooked itself in me and didn’t let up. Even days after finishing the game, I’m still thinking about the journey all of these characters have gone on, and the experience that Creator Luis Antonio crafted. Again, we won’t talk spoilers here, but there are so many layers to the story, and each twist and turn will leave you wondering more.
There are so many small moments to see in the game. Some push the plot forward, others exist only to show new sides of characters, but all of them feel meaningful. In a game with three characters told across three different rooms of a small apartment, the best adjective that comes to mind is intimate. The pitter-patter of the upstairs neighbor's footsteps, the loud garbled sound of someone's television. It paints a larger story in a small setting.
Of course, intimacy can be dark, dangerous and reveal sides of people you would only see when their guard is down. Twelve Minutes shows all of these. Even couples in love fight and say things they might not mean in the heat of the moment, it isn’t always pretty, but that’s what makes it real.
In fact, the game has you making a few questionable choices that left me uncomfortable. I said I wouldn’t get into spoilers, but I do want to talk about one part in particular, if you don’t want to know more just skip over the next paragraph.
I’m going to put a content warning upfront for this paragraph that this section is about drug use. At a certain point in the game in order to progress, you must slip your wife sleeping pills, unbeknownst to her. She goes to sleep and allows you to progress a certain plot thread you need to look into while she’s asleep. I feel it’s important to note this because some people might be uncomfortable with having to do this, as was I. It’s not a choice you get to make, but rather one that is required.
Twelve Minutes’ soundtrack is used sparingly and underscores crucial moments, whether it tugs on your heartstrings during an efficacious scene or is used to ignite fear in the player.
The soundtrack isn’t simply background noise but understands the need to kick in at the right time. It exercises restraint so that it doesn’t lose its power under the right circumstances. Persuasive sweeping piano chords during scenes sent shivers down my spine and uplifted the entire scene around it. It’s something I wish more soundtracks would focus on, in this case, the less is more approach was the right call.
When Twelve Minutes is firing on all cylinders it will pull you along with its dark and twisted story. The performances from the cast are memorable, varied, and hold weight. It’s an easy recommendation for fans of strong narrative, point-and-click adventure games, or people who just love indies.
Twelve minutes is available on PC and Xbox One, and Series X|S.
Review copy provided by the publisher
- Excellent voice performances from Ridley, McAvoy, and Dafoe
- A gripping narrative
- Interesting mechanics surrounding the time loop
- Some obtuse puzzles
- Characters reacting to the same revelation they already had in the same conversation
- Some janky character animations