“It is only by forgetting that we ever really drop the thread of time and approach the experience of living in the present moment” – these are the words that were constantly revolving around my head as I reached the conclusion of this time-looping point-and-click adventure. Even after spending almost 10 hours in a small apartment, Twelve Minutes has so much left to offer in terms of secrets that I am tempted to jump back and do it all over again.
Twelve Minutes drops you into the seemingly mundane life of the protagonist, who returns to his small apartment to be greeted by a loving wife who has prepared a special dessert for the evening. A few minutes later, a cop barges through the door and poses an immediate threat to the family with his dominating presence, and immediately handcuffs the couple. Soon, the time-loop resets, and it’s up to you to uncover the myriad of secrets buried deep within this story and eventually break the time loop.
"Even after spending almost 10 hours in a small apartment, Twelve Minutes has so much left to offer in terms of secrets that I am tempted to jump back and do it all over again."
The story itself is great, brilliantly juxtaposing a time-loop with a grounded plot revolving around love and family without overpowering one other. It’s always a treat to uncover a new secret that could potentially change the narrative and relationships of the people involved, which is a great motivator to keep going when all hope seems lost. The writing is equally great, which is magnificently brought to life by the star-studded cast of James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe. There are a number of emotionally evocative moments hidden beneath this time-looping story, and the cast does a great job at doing justice to it at a consistent pace. That being said, there are a few dialogue options that are quite rigid, and lead to premature resets of the time-loop in some of the most unlikely situations which can be immersion-breaking at times.
An interesting point about Twelve Minutes‘ story is that it is told in a non-linear fashion, as some secrets that advance the plot further can be found out of order which remains quite interesting until the very end. There’s also a pinch of this non-linearity found in the way players manage to unearth these clues, which remains a treat in a similar vein. That being said, it can also be a double-edged sword at times considering the game doesn’t provide a lot of hints as to what needs to be done in order to get further in the plot. There was more than one instance during the later hours where I found myself completely clueless because I left out a seemingly insignificant detail during the earlier parts which of course, held huge ramifications for the future.
"It’s always a treat to uncover a new secret that could potentially change the narrative and relationships of the people involved, which is a great motivator to keep going when all hope seems lost."
Twelve Minutes‘ gameplay is standard point-and-click adventure stuff, and players must interact with the surrounding environments and combine items to uncover new and interesting scenarios that further advance the plot. Much like the story, the puzzles themselves are pretty grounded in their scope. Point-and-click adventures have a reputation for including nonsensical puzzles at times, but Twelve Minutes does a great job sidestepping many of these tropes with smart design. This is further accentuated by the fact that Twelve Minutes relies a lot on its environment for creating obstacles and opportunities, and players are encouraged to manipulate the knowledge of these environments to shift the flow of proceedings during a time-loop, which feels eerily similar to something like Hitman.
The environment itself is a pretty small space, being an apartment boasting just a drawing-room, a bathroom, and a bedroom. It’s really surprising to witness the amount of detail and possibilities present within this space, and all of this is achieved without the game world itself feeling too cramped. The time players spend within these four walls is also a significant element, which clocks in at well, 12 minutes. Furthermore, players can advance the time accordingly as they learn more about the narrative – which further decreases the time sink required to see a single run to completion. This creates a pretty addictive gameplay loop of just one more run, which is absolutely vital to the pacing since not every run will bear fruit.
"This creates a pretty addictive gameplay loop of just one more run, which is absolutely vital to the pacing since not every run will bear fruit."
Progression in Twelve Minutes comes in a number of subtle ways, such as dialogue options evolve to reflect your current knowledge of the time-loop and associated characters. This alleviates a lot of concerns that crop up with replaying the same scenario over and over again but does give rise to another problem that could prove to be detrimental for some. As players progress through the narrative, a few scenarios holding crucial information get locked out. If you miss any related details and hints, you might be left perplexed after a while since you wouldn’t obviously have all the pieces to solve this recurring puzzle. A ship-log system like Mobius Digital’s Outer Wilds could have done wonders here, displaying all the relevant information in a single place that could’ve helped you plan your next move.
Twelve Minutes looks quite gorgeous, featuring a clean art style with great use of lighting and reflection through the small environment. The textures and environment also look equally detailed, and animations are equally competent for most actions. The sound design is also great, albeit a bit understated to reflect the actions within the game. It starts out slow and somber, which is a great fit for a evening and slowly and steadily rises in intensity as players progress through the time loop.
"Twelve Minutes can be a pretty lengthy game if players want to hunt down achievements and other related secrets."
Twelve Minutes isn’t a very long game. As mentioned before, it took me just under 10 hours to complete the story and roll the credits. However, that’s not the end since there are a number of secrets – both major and minor that are still left to be uncovered. There are many possibilities of achieving a goal, and as you explore the intricacies of this small world you will find out much more efficient ways of performing the same feat in subsequent runs. As highlighted by the developers, Twelve Minutes can be a pretty lengthy ordeal if players want to hunt down all achievements and hidden scenarios and secrets. Fans looking to do so might be looking at anywhere up to 20 hours of content, which is pretty astonishing once you consider that the game takes place in such a small world.
Twelve Minutes is a thrill ride through and through, constantly presenting players with new and interesting revelations in the time looping narrative that never fails to keep one guessing. It veers away from stereotypical point-and-click adventure tropes, and challenges players to bend its densely-detailed environments to achieve their goals. It’s not a perfect game by any stretch, but gets so much right that players even vaguely interested in the premise should definitely give this game a go.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Great environmental puzzles; good performance; engaging storyline.
Occasionally inconsistent dialogue choices.