We need more games like Twelve Minutes – My Review

The 12 Minutes title screen

I was immediately hooked when I first saw Twelve Minutes during the Microsoft E3 Press Event a few years ago. I love the concept of time loops in any sort of media and this premise caught my eye. There was a mystery and I was really curious how it would pan out. With the game finally out, I immediately jumped and wanted to solve the puzzle. Although it doesn’t necessarily hit every mark, this is still the kind of game most people should at least try.

The husband standing alone in the main room, taken from the game 12 Minutes

Time and Time again

Twelve Minutes is essentially a point-and-click adventure game that takes place entirely in a small apartment. You play as the unnamed husband who arrives home from work. Your wife is at home and has made dessert to celebrate some good news she wants to share. The good news doesn’t last that long as after about five minutes someone claiming they are a cop arrives at your door wanting to arrest your wife, demanding something from her, and eventually incapacitating you. You wake up and start the loop again, in the hopes of figuring out what’s going on and how to close it.

Outside of explaining your movement, how you interact with items, and how to use/combine items, the game leaves the rest up to you. You have some leeway in how you spend your available time. If you stand around and do nothing, the cop still arrives at your door and you’ll get incapacitated and must start again. Obviously, you don’t want that to happen. So, it’s in your best interests to figure out what’s going on and learn as much as you can before they arrive.

While it doesn’t necessarily feel like you have to play the game a certain way when you start, you begin to learn that there is a preferred path you should take. The game wants you to discover things a certain way and any sort of deviation can cause some things to happen when they probably shouldn’t.

The husband and wife in the bedroom, taken from the game 12 Minutes

Being picky, extremely picky

I like trial-and-error and Twelve Minutes is very much that. Yes, the apartment is small but it has secrets to uncover and things you must do to progress the story and to reach a conclusion. Unfortunately, as you get later into the game, you really do have to do things in a particular order and within a very specific time frame.

There are a few key moments that have to play out in a specific way to progress the story correctly. If you do them in reverse order, skip a step, or do that action in a certain part of the apartment you can completely ruin your run and have to start again.

Similar to that, there are also moments that you think will play out a certain way but don’t. Some people will go into a loop and think they can do something and still expect the same result because it happened before. That’s not always the case. Just because a character entered a room for one reason doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll go into the same room another time and do the same thing.

The wife sitting on the couch, reading a book. Taken from the game 12 Minutes

When people talk over each other

Dialogue is huge in this game. Doing certain things will open new conversations, which also allow for the story to progress. The dialogue dictates progression, so you can’t just do the same thing multiple times in the hopes that something different unlocks. At the same time, there are a few problems with the dialogue that can cause some friction to the story.

This happened to me at a key point in the game. In one loop, my character remarked about something that gave away a major plot point that I probably wasn’t ready to know about. In another situation, the dialogue seemed to break because characters were talking over each other about two different topics. There was one instance when the wife is discussing something all while the cop has already entered the apartment and begun saying his lines.

The audio quips and the constant try-and-try-again nature of the game will probably turn off some people. Yes, there is a lot to discover, but I can also understand getting frustrated in having to time certain actions to move the plot. It doesn’t help when you’re certain you can do something to advance the story but it doesn’t.

The cop detaining the wife, taken from the game 12 Minutes

Solid start, weak finish

The plot for Twelve Minutes certainly starts strong. The mystery behind the cop’s sudden appearance, his demands, and the back story that leads him to your apartment definitely grab your attention. However, as the story unfolds and the twist happens, it doesn’t pack the ‘shock’ the developers were intending. I think because I had that minor ‘throw away dialogue’ happen when it did, the impact was lost on me.

I also think the game probably could have started a bit differently. I think for the first loop, the game should have taken control away from us. Let us see one run as intended. Then when the husband ‘wakes’ for the first time, we start again and the player is given control to solve the mystery.

More of these kinds of games, please!

Although I seem critical in this post, I was still very engaged with Twelve Minutes. The game isn’t that long, getting to my first conclusion after about five hours, then spending another hour trying to get other ones. At the same time, I know that some will not enjoy this. There will be those who will start playing, get bored by the presentation and repetition, and simply not care to see how this all wraps up.

The husband and wife lying on the floor after being tied up by the cop, taken from the game 12 Minutes

Hopefully, Twelve Minutes encourages other developers to come up with similar-style adventure games. They don’t necessarily have to incorporate a time loop, but the idea of a branching story that can go so many directions allows for creativity and gives the player more reason to go back and try different things. I’m happy this game exists and I hope we get more.