Twelve Minutes Review
As I sit down to write this review, it’s cold and miserable outside. It’s weather that my grandad would call “perfect for a murder”–and in the case of Twelve Minutes, where the game takes place on a cold and stormy night, that feels appropriate.
The concept of Twelve Minutes is equal parts intriguing and unsettling. The atmosphere for the entire game is set within the first few moments when the character you control must ignore the feeling of impending dread, as you casually stroll across the carpet from The Shining to get to your apartment door. Upon entering your apartment, you’re greeted enthusiastically by your wife. She says there is a special surprise lined up for you tonight, before long an aggressive knock comes from your front door. Before anyone can respond, a policeman starts shouting for you to open the door.
When the door opens, things move fast. Your quiet night in with your wife turns into a horror movie. Before you can find out what the police officer wants, both of you are tied up and thrown on the floor. And no matter what you do next, the result is always the same. The police officer kills you, and just like that, you’re back at your apartment door with your wife greeting you once more, telling you she has a surprise. This means you have ten minutes to try and figure out what is happening, stop it from happening and break out of this loop, before time runs out and you’re standing at the door once more.
It’s almost like a sense of deja vu. You’ll enter a room and get this overwhelming feeling that this exact thing has happened before. For most of us, this feeling is mostly inconsequential. But for your character in Twelve Minutes, it is instead the absolute, agonising truth–that you have lived this moment before countless times.
Essentially, Twelve Minutes is a classic point-and-click game with a time loop thrown in. Knowing you only have ten minutes to figure everything out creates a level of tension that ratchets up until the game is over. You can pick items up, combine them with other objects in your inventory, and use them to unlock conversations and unravel the mystery. Progressing through Twelve Minutes is about leveraging this information to move forward in subsequent loops.
You play the entire game with a top-down view of the world and characters, never getting to see their faces. While this prevents you from drawing conclusions about the characters based on their appearances, it also means that their emotions are expressed through their voices only. A poor voice acting cast could have caused the game to fall flat, but thanks to the impressive cast which is made up of Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe and James McAvoy, it doesn’t.
But the real magic of Twelve Minutes isn’t in the story or even the concept; it’s in the characters’ very human and relatable reactions to the situations they unwittingly find themselves in. I found myself laughing more than once because a spat would break out between my character and their wife. The cause may be trivial, but it’s a fight that I’ve had with my own partner before, pretty much word for word. And as you play through loop after loop, your character’s despair, anxiety, and anguish at being stuck start to mirror your own in a way that feels like you are both genuinely trapped in this together.
While Twelve Minutes is a single-player game, it quickly became a team effort as my partner gradually got drawn in. This feels like the best way to experience the game. Having someone else to bounce ideas and theories off of created such an engaging and interactive experience and when the story concluded, it had both my partner and me proclaiming that we were right about the game’s ending.
Twelve Minutes was one of the most interactive and enjoyable games I’ve played in a long while. Even though playing through the same loop again, and again, and again won’t be for everyone, I found the process of changing up my actions each time and moving forward, little by little, to be oddly satisfying, and the sense of accomplishment whenever I made a considerable leap forward was unmatched.
Like an adult Cluedo, where you need to figure out the who, what, where and why of a murder mystery, Twelve Minutes is a must-play. It’s honestly one of the most engaging games I’ve played all year.