Twelve Minutes – Game Review


Twelve Minutes

(Available for Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S and PC)
(PC version used for review)

Twelve Minutes is a point and click narrative game developed by Annapurna as an Xbox console exclusive with a day 1 release on Xbox Game Pass for subscribers. The game uses the narrative device of a time loop. You play as an unnamed husband (played by James McAvoy) coming home to have dinner with his wife (played by Daisey Ridley) who has a big announcement. The evening is interrupted however by a Cop (played by Willem Dafoe) breaking in and arresting the wife for the murder of her father, and demanding the location of a pocket watch. The husband is killed before the location of the pocket watch is learned. The game then rewinds to the beginning, and the husband finds himself at the start of the evening and must repeat the same 12 minutes over and over again to find a solution. This is done by using the items, the environment and the other characters routines to learn more and attempt to end the time loops. Think of it as a less conventional puzzle game with a ticking clock.

Pros

  • The look of the game: I actually really like the top-down perspective of the game as it gives the effect of feeling like a doll house that you are controlling. The art style also compliments this well. The graphics are not brilliant, especially in how texture and facial features are handled (as is seen in many of the few close up perspectives we see), but the developers make up for that by keeping the perspective further away to not draw attention to it. The design of the rooms is also great, providing a feeling that they are being lived in, like the place has genuinely been inhabited by a couple for years with things like washing everywhere and a faulty light switch which is a subtle but effective design choice to give a sense of realism to the characters’ lives.
  • Point and click controls: I would really recommend playing the game with a mouse rather than a controller. This game was really built with a mouse in mind like most point and click games and is also much faster in performing actions this way, which is what you need given that there are several time sensitive events happening in each loop and missing these can completely ruin what you wanted to do in a run.
  • Performances: The actors all give really good performances. Willem Dafoe is very recognisable but still convincingly moves into his character well. James McAvoy and Daisey Ridley also give excellent performances especially considering they do good American accents that make them sound unrecognisable. All 3 actors also must deliver performances that progress through the various stages of character development, and go backwards and forwards between them which is not as easy as you would think. They do a good job drawing you into the story as well, which if these performances were not as good, I think I would have given up playing.

Mixed

  • Story: A game like this has to really rely on its story. The story has excellent set up and intrigue as you uncover new elements with each loop, and it really had me invested to begin with. However, it slowly started to lose me the more it went on. The more you play, the less intrigue there is as you solve most of the mysteries around 2 hours in, and then are just looking for a solution to end the loops and that is when it really feels like it is dragging. There was one point I thought I got the true ending, only to be thrown back to the beginning again much to my frustration. The final twist at the end is also really bad, so much so that it is getting its own section.

Cons

  • The game is a bit too cryptic, and a guide is really required to get the true ending: I stand by the latter part of that one. I have no idea how you would figure that out unless someone told you. The game really gives minimal clues on what you are supposed to do and is really frustrating for it since unlike other puzzle-focused games, you do not have all the time in the world to figure it out. I was trying my best, but I will freely admit after so many failed loops and absolute confusion, I caved and looked up a guide. When I did this there was a ton of moments where I said out loud; “How was I supposed to figure out that?”. I know puzzle games are challenging but they normally give you clues and time to figure it out, but there was a lot of times in this game where neither happens and you will stumble upon the answer by chance. I know the developers are trying something a bit different and that is commendable, but I do not think it works well in execution. If the story has ‘gripped’ you, take my advice do not beat yourself up, get a guide. I happen to know a few other reviewers were also struggling for the same reason and were communicating amongst themselves to solve it, so do not feel bad if you are struggling.
  • It is really boring doing the same thing over and over again after a while: I know this is the core premise of the game but considering each loop is a maximum of 12 minutes, it can get real old real fast, especially with not too many options to skip to certain points. The game is thankfully not long, and you can beat the game in about 4 hours (which can be cut down if you use a guide), and the 100% completion time which requires getting the achievement for seeing all the multiple endings (which I did not do as one ending was enough for me), has an average of 7 hours according to How Long To Beat.com. The charm wears thin after a while, especially if you screw something up in a loop such as I did, which meant that to get the information, I had to repeat the same actions about 3 times. As a result, I actually grew more and more frustrated with it as I was playing it.
  • The final plot twist: This was the absolute lowest moment of the game for me. I looked up a guide out of frustration and managed to get the true ending (there are about 5 endings in total, I only saw the others on YouTube and could not be bothered playing any more to get a trophy). As a result, I lost a lot of good will I had for the story. I will not give away the twist, but it is the classic “well you did not see it coming so therefore it is good”-twist, which I despise because I keep saying a twist still has to have some basis in the plot and tie back to elements we saw. This has to have one of the most insane out-there-twists that completely invalidates the story that came before it, and it really annoyed me. If you somehow make it to the true ending and get this twist, look up Overly Sarcastic Productions Trope Talk on plot twists; they do an excellent job explaining what makes twists good or bad and while they do not talk about the twist of Twelve Minutes, I reckon you could relate it back to this twist as to why it is really bad.

Overall thoughts

Twelve Minutes is an ambitious project with some cool ideas, but the execution does not really work. The puzzles are little too cryptic and will have even the most dedicated puzzle gamers reaching for a guide out of frustration and believe me the time sensitive nature of the game will have you frustrated. By the third hour mark I was so bored of the game, and repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again that I did give up and get a guide because I really wanted to see the ending. The story has good intrigue but it loses its lustre later down the line and the ending is terrible. It is not the worst thing ever, but it is not too good either

Score: 5.9/10

It might be cheaper than most games, but I would say that if the trailer made you curious, then sign up to Xbox Game Pass (if you have not already), and check it out that way because you can play something better afterwards. I would also recommend having a YouTube guide on standby while you do, and listen carefully to what they say you are not getting to the true ending without it.

Calvin
Nerd Consultant

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