Twelve Minutes is a fresh take on the age-old point and click mystery genre of games. What works and what doesn’t, let’s find out in this Twelve Minutes Review.
Twelve Minutes Overview
Twelve Minutes is a point and click adventure game developed by Luis Antonio and published by Annapurna Interactive. Annapurna Interactive is the video game division of Annapurna Pictures, a lauded film production company, and has released games such as What Remains of Edith Finch and Outer Wilds in the past.
I first learned about the game at the Tribeca Games Spotlight, where Twelve Minutes was one of nine games featured in a stacked lineup. It was one of two games that stole the show for most people during its showcase due to its fantastic cast and interesting premise, the other being Kena: Bridge of Spirits. Twelve Minutes features a voice cast of Hollywood luminaries James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe.
Twelve Minutes Review- The Plot
Twelve Minutes is the type of game that relies heavily on its plot and characters to draw attention to itself. Its success and failure depend on the strength of its story and how it uses its characters to their maximum potential. One would think that for a game such as Twelve Minutes, where graphics and gameplay aren’t the biggest selling points, the developers would instead pay close attention to the things that do matter.
Alas, that wasn’t the case. What pains me in writing this Twelve Minutes Review is that the developers wasted an obvious potential for some incomprehensible reason. More could have been done with the interesting concept of time loops and the Groundhog Day scenario. More could have been asked of the impressive voice cast, all of whom, except for Willem Dafoe, sound like they had an easy paycheque and went home before five the same day.
The game is based around the title, Twelve Minutes of a man’s life and how quickly it can go from great to awful. The story revolves around the man and his wife and a cop who wants to frame her for a murder. However, through the game’s events, we realise that the story is much more complicated than we originally believed it to be. It is now up to the protagonist and his unique time-bending powers to solve this mystery and break out of the loop.
It starts rather well, and the developers do an excellent job of creating an atmosphere full of tension and surrealism. The contrast of the wife’s matter of fact reactions to the husband’s panicked demeanour works very well because he is the one stuck in a time loop and not her. There are some scenes that moved me. Some of the mysteries are fun to uncover, and some twists work well. All of them, really, except one. The last one.
Twelve Minutes ends in a manner that can only be described as “Shyamalan-esque”. Not the good kind of Shyamalan either. So no Sixth Sense here, only The Village and The Last Airbender. Twelve Minutes essentially shoots itself in the foot in a turn of events so monumentally stupid that they have to be part of a WWE storyline. The second that the final twist happens, one loses almost any interest in the game that was once there.
The game has multiple endings, of course, but all of them, except one, make the game start from the time loop again. The one ending that feels definitive is the worst one, pulling a magic trick out of nowhere to put an end to this nonsense. Out of all of them, I only enjoyed one of them, and that was the one that felt the least like an ending.
Twelve Minutes Review- The Characters
There are three characters in the entirety of Twelve Minutes. Well, three and a half, if you count the voice on the phone. The selling point of Twelve Minutes was the casting of these massive Hollywood superstars that are all genuinely good actors. James McAvoy had a great turn in Split and X-Men, Daisy Ridley is solid in Star Wars, and whatever Willem Dafoe touches turns to gold.
What happens here is that these actors give fine performances in their roles, but all of it could have been done by unknown voice actors, and we wouldn’t have known a difference. James McAvoy and Daisy Ridley failed to put enough personality behind their characters, while Willem Dafoe was just fine as the cop. And it’s not just the cast either.
Their characters in Twelve Minutes are also monumentally stupid and made me feel like throwing my controller a few times. People don’t normally react as they do in this game, making for an experience that is hard to get invested into. If this review were spoiler-free, I’d give you more examples, but consider a doctor that failed to do his job of saving a life only because it would make his daughter sad. That’s the level of writing we are talking about here.
Twelve Minutes Review- The Gameplay
There isn’t much of that here. It is a point and click adventure that runs for exactly 10 minutes at a time, where you can use your past actions to influence your current and future ones. So far, so good. There are some ingenious solutions to some riddles that were a joy to discover, and some mystery elements were made better by some gameplay choices.
There are also many secrets you can unlock by playing a certain way, and once you get a hint of what to do, you can get quite far into the game without breaking a sweat and having a lot of fun. It is enjoyable to discover some endings ( The day starts again, of course) and figure out if you can even achieve some of them. Then the trouble begins.
The way the game is set out, you can only restart the loop by getting hit or walking out the door. All well and good, unless a story even starts. Then you have to wait until the entire dialogue is finished before you get punched to death and start again. May the developers have mercy on your soul if you are going through a rather long achievement and mess up somewhere. You will have to repeat the same steps, listen to the same dialogues, and get the same result every time.
This kind of thing makes one not want to play the game anymore, even if they haven’t achieved the ending. I was getting so tired of getting punched and dying over and over again without being able to do anything about it that I had to take a break. Of course, I could be suffering from dumb journalist syndrome, but it wasn’t exactly an easy puzzle. If the game expects you to replay a level multiple times to solve it, why couldn’t it have made the level more interesting?
This is all about the things you can actually do in the game, and the game misses tens of opportunities where you could do something, but you can’t. The game expects you to do only a handful of things within that loop and doesn’t once think to allow you to think of something out of the box. For a game that loops a lot, Twelve Minutes is very linear in its gameplay.
Twelve Minutes Review- Art and Music
One word is enough to summarise my thoughts on these categories- Simple. The art style is nothing special, and we see the characters almost exclusively from a top-down perspective, which works at the start but gets repetitive after a while. The character animations are worse than Sims 4, and the movement feels clunky alongside some of the controls. I dig the aesthetic still.
The sound design is the thing that impresses me the most about this game, and the way it was able to set up its atmosphere while only showing one room in front of our eyes is extremely impressive. I could tell you how the outside of the apartment probably looked like, and I haven’t seen it once. That’s how descriptive the sound design was. The game could have used some more actual tracks, but what was there worked well enough.
Twelve Minutes Review- Verdict
Twelve Minutes worked well for the first hour, was tolerable for another two hours, then completely went off the rails for the rest of its runtime. It was a game that showed a lot of potential but wasn’t executed to the fullest, The awful plot twist didn’t help, and Twelve Minutes turned out to be a decidedly average experience.