Time-travel plots are difficult and while the premise of being stuck in a time loop is nothing new, it still is something that can get reinvented over and over again. Still, while it has a lot of possibilities, this premise also has the risk of not becoming an exact masterpiece but instead having the player experience the same thing over and over again… duh? Regardless, today, we’re talking about Twelve Minutes, a game whose alpha I played quite a long time ago, I think, and that I highly anticipated last year. In Twelve Minutes, you and your wife just want to spend a nice evening together but you’re then interrupted by a “cop” barging through the door, restraining you both, and killing you soon after that. Luckily, the game doesn’t there, though, as the titular “Twelve Minutes” describe the duration of the time loop that you’re in. After twelve in-game minutes, you’re reset to the point where you enter the apartment, giving you another chance to change your fate and potentially save yourself or your wife. And well, there is no escape apart from solving this mystery!
Developer: Luis Antonio Publisher: Annapurna Interactive Genre: Indie, Point & Click, Adventure, Time Travel, Mystery, Puzzle Release Date: August 19th, 2021 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC (Win), PS4, XB1, Switch, PS5, XBS X/S Copy was played through GamePass.
The game is played using a mouse and a mouse only By right-clicking, you can pause it, while the left mouse button prompts the protagonist to move around, interact with objects or pick up things. By moving up to the top section of the screen, you can inspect your inventory, combine items or drag and drop items to other objects. The gameplay resembles that of point-n-click adventures, in a way, which is a lovely touch, especially as limiting it to practically two buttons makes it somewhat accessible as well. Now, throughout your loops, you’ll fail but Luis Antonio, the game’s sole developer, probably wants you to figure out new things as you explore possibilities. The lack of clues, however, is one of many flaws. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself confused by this obtuse game. There are specific cues that people mention that function as “clues”. You can miss these easily, though, when you’re focused on other things. At times, I just wished there was a clue button – and by that, I don’t mean the “tab out, google, get spoiled” option. It’s frustrating, to say the least, because you’re just not given much to work with.
But once you figure it out, you’ll just have to do this and that and watch it pan out, right? Well, if you forget something, it’s back to square one. If you end up doing something wrong, it’s back to square one. In theory, it’s really easy, right? But no, it’s just incredibly frustrating because the “getting the clues” component of the “time-loop” formula is tied to lots and lots of trial and error. Every loop there is little that changes and I can’t help but get bored and frustrated when I have to do the same again and again, just to see how different options turn out. I found this execution of a time-loop plot incredibly frustrating and infuriating. Outer Wilds lets you explore a lot of different planets with lots of locations. Hence, you always have something else to do that makes the time loops different. Tacoma lets you fast-forward, skip or go back to certain parts to find the right moments or to understand what just happened. Both of these games are amazing and do the whole “mystery-solving” better than Twelve Minutes. Luis Antonio, the sole developer of this game, should have maybe gotten a bit inspired by this. He could have potentially given you the option to make save states and basically jump back and forth, giving you extra tools to make these loops different. Exploring more endings and opportunities should give you a sense of freedom and not make you feel annoyed that you’re curious. Curiosity should be rewarded and not punished, at least in my opinion.
At last, the game’s topics and requirements for you to proceed with the plot are incredibly tasteless. Twelve Minutes apparently includes “violence, gore, blood, [and] sexual themes”, according to the developer on the game’s Steam page. I don’t know why it doesn’t mention that you have to drug your wife you proceed with the game. Domestic violence is necessary for you to get on with it, and THAT is just tasteless and fucked up. I doubt it’s necessary but apparently, nobody could’ve thought of anything better for this game. Similarly, the game falls apart once the “plot twist” happens because you can’t have nice things. You can’t just have the happy ending that kinda made sense. No, instead, you’re presented with this sort of pseudo-philosophical ending that felt more like a joke. I was hoping to reach the “it was all a dream” screen but it never came. What a disappointment. I mean, yes, the story branches out into different endings but the “plot twist” makes no sense at all and feels unbelievable and stupid. At the same time, the game just drags on and on and at a certain point, you kind of have the option to get one of several endings. Most of them allow you to explore the other endings afterwards… One of them, however, resets your complete progress, making backtracking quite a lot of fun… not.
I’ve enjoyed the game initially but the trial and error formula made it incredibly frustrating and the story just wasn’t good. The top-down perspective caused some animations and models to look incredibly janky. The music isn’t worth mentioning. The writing just sucked. Willem Dafoe couldn’t save the game, even though his voice acting roles here were stellar. Even as the game drags on, I find it overpriced and badly executed. I couldn’t recommend this game even if I was paid to do so. You can check out Twelve Minutes on Steam and even on the GamePass right now but you won’t miss out if you don’t.