A point and click adventure well worth your time.
We’ve all been there, repeatedly reliving that scenario in our minds wondering what we could have done differently in that moment so that things turned out better. In essence, Twelve Minutes is one of those situations playing out in front of your eyes.
Twelve Minutes, from the mind of Luis Antonio and published by Annapurna Interactive, is a point and click puzzle/mystery/adventure set within a ten-minute time-loop (the other two minutes do materialise, don’t worry!). It sees you take on the role of a husband returning home from work, entering his flat and being greeted by your wife excited to share some news over your favourite dessert. Five minutes later a ‘policeman’ knocks on the door, making huge accusations and turning this into an incredibly dangerous situation that the player must navigate repeatedly to try and solve.
Each loop begins as the husband enters the apartment, whether that be for the first time or after an unsuccessful run ended either because the ten minutes have run out or the husband has suffered some form of physical harm.
A loop’s purpose is to allow exploration of the characters, environment, and items available enabling the player to make use of the puzzle pieces at their disposal and progress the story. Little nuggets of information are fed to you so subtly that it takes a while (sometimes multiple loops) to realise its relevance and where this could have been incredibly frustrating, experiencing that light-bulb moment was a large part of Twelve Minutes’ charm. Events that appear trivial, such as the wife telling you there are no glasses to drink from, a malfunctioning light switch that needs repaired, or a random picture on the fridge can end up having huge significance with the information discovered during each loop being retained and unlocking new dialogue options as the mystery unfolds.
There were a couple of points in the story where I was simply sitting scratching my head; I had all the information but simply didn’t know what to do with it as I repeated loop after loop making no progress. How I eventually managed to progress was simply by letting things happen: beginning the loop and doing nothing. The story continued around me and gave me the pointers required to start the next loop.
Speaking of loops, there are twelve that you must ‘solve’ to end the overall time-loop and roll credits. The story has multiple endings and the post-game provides an endearing and ingenious way of exploring these.
“Luis Antonio has done an incredible job of bringing what turns out to be a dark story to life in a truly unique and memorable way.”
The apartment setting is very basic consisting of a living/dining room, a small bedroom, a cupboard and a bathroom and is presented in a continuous top-down view. There are very few characters, yet the story feels incredibly dense. This is largely due to the stellar cast of voice actors at play here – James McAvoy (the husband), Daisy Ridley (the wife) and Willem Defoe (the cop). Oddly, none of the characters have names, but are simply referred to as their roles, initially feeling rather strange but making perfect sense as the story unfolded.
The subtle touches in the game were some of the parts that I appreciated most. There are paintings on the walls where the scenes would develop as the story unravelled; an inconspicuous flower in the bedroom that would sprout buds and eventually bloom as some of the nicer loops played out. The light moments however are far outnumbered, with the story being darker and more twisted than I had ever imagined.
You would be excused for thinking this was a one-to-two-hour game and if any longer given its simplistic style and presentation and repetitive nature it would become boring – this simply is not the case. To completion, I played for just under 7 hours and it didn’t feel like it had been anywhere near that long.
Being a classic style point and click game and playing this on a console (Xbox Series X) using a controller, there were some frustrations as it is definitely suited to a mouse and keyboard setup, yet I never found the lack of these distracting. The controller was mapped adequately and the controls themselves were simple once you adapted to them.
As a game that pays homage to many of those classic point and click adventures, there is something incredibly fresh and current about Twelve Minutes. Luis Antonio has done an incredible job of bringing what turns out to be a dark story to life in a truly unique and memorable way. Although there are some slight frustrations, you feel utterly engrossed from the moment that second hand hits one right up until the pocket watch stops ticking.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X, available now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Xbox Game Pass and Steam.