After years of anticipation and a marked increase in budget and scope, Twelve Minutes is finally out for the Xbox One, Series X|S and PC. However, is this trip into the time slip worth the hype and talent, or are you trapped in a Groundhog Day-style nightmare begging for a better day? Let’s find out.
Beginning with the premise, in Twelve Minutes you play as a man trapped in a time loop. However, this is not your ordinary, mundane time loop. Rather, our protagonist’s time loop is a very specific set of events, from meeting his wife at home for dinner to learning about a big announcement to having his perfect night interrupted by a corrupt cop. However, instead of dying there and then, he finds himself back, retaining the memories of what came before, and it comes to him to stop the loop and find a way out of his conundrum. Along the way, some interesting twists and turns will unravel, and trust me, there are more than you may think.
The storytelling of the game is excellent. From the slow sense of building dread at the start of Twelve Minutes to the various unveils, the story across the board is excellent. This is furthered by a trio of truly splendid performances. James McAvoy delivers in the lead role, getting down to the nitty-gritty of his character with a frankly impeccable American accent. Willem Dafoe shines as the cop, bringing his signature hard edge, while also drawing upon his more humane performances, delivering a truly special performance that straddles the line between sympathetic figure and antagonistic monster.
However, it is Daisy Ridley who shines the most in Twelve Minutes, as the lead character’s wife. Her American accent, barring 1 or 2 lines (mind you, the game probably has thousands recorded) is absolutely perfect and completely unrecognizeable from Ridley’s posh English one. The character herself has many intricacies and layers, and Ridley does an incredibly effective job in each one. It remains to be seen where Daisy’s career will go moving forward, but with this performance, she has proven herself to be the Mark Hamill of this recent trilogy in another key way: she is an absolute revolution as a VA. Is it too early to wish for her to lend her voice to Perfect Dark’s spunky heroine Joanna Dark?
Moving on to the gameplay, 12 Minutes is not the roguelike you may expect. Rather, this is a point-and-click adventure game that unravels more clues and details as you play through various cycles. The gameplay itself is simple, but decently effective albeit not as gracefully ported to console as other peers such as Telltale’s offerings and the recent Leisure Suit Larry games. The lack of being able to lock on to an item or move your character independently of the point and click controls is a bit of an adjustment after the QOL improvements in recent adventure titles. However, it gets the job done decently well.
The puzzles themselves are incredibly fun to solve and work through. There are a ton of options at the player’s disposal, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I only scratched the surface at some of the stuff you can do. With the exception of one final puzzle which I admittedly needed some help with, everything in the game is logical and fair, and with enough problem solving and deduction should be easy to complete. This is not one of those games where you have to order a hamburger, take a pickle off it, feed a pickle to a dog, recover the Declaration of Independence under the dog, take the Declaration of Independence into space, show it to an alien, get it translated into Martian, and then return to Earth to recite the Martian words backwards to open a door to find the tv remote. It is more, were this situation in the game, the game where you would have you look for the remote in your pants pockets in the hamper. Okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but the point still stands. The puzzles in this are logical and challenging, but fun and rewarding. None of the “guide dangs it” moments that are more common in these types of games are in this one.
The only drawback to these puzzles is that the “punishment” for getting something wrong can be rather high. Every failed loop leads to another one in turn, which, barring skipping over moments or fast-forwarding repeated dialogue, can take a good while to get back to where you were. Couple this with the fact that you may make a different mistake trying to recreate the conditions, and it can lead to some lost time that feels a bit like padding. Twelve Hours itself took me around six hours to complete, and I suspect with less repetition, it would have been closer to five.
To briefly touch on the presentation, the audio design is really strong, creating an ambient and immersive environment. Similarly, the graphics, while a tad minimalist, are good, and are made even better by some fantastic motion capture. There are also some in-game paintings that are absolutely worth a look.
Finally, just to give a bit of a content warning, Twelve Minutes can be quite dark and realistic at points, and that may be a bit much for some players. The portrayal of police brutality is rather harrowing. Also, a way to end the loop (which I must note is optional, you can just leave the room) is a way commonly seen in time loop fiction (most notably Groundhog Day): taking your life. However, the portrayal of this is incredibly dark and realistic, so it might be best to avoid it. Finally, without delving into spoilers, there are some incredibly adult themes in the game, so it’s important to know this going in.
Ultimately, I had a good time with Twelve Minutes. It’s a game that is able to usher forth a great narrative experience and a refreshing change of pace. It’s one to give a whirl through Game Pass as while it won’t be for everyone, it will connect with a lot of people. I’m glad to see Annapurna Interactive continue to champion games like this as it keeps the market, the ecosystem and now through Game Pass the subscription service, a heck of a lot more refreshing and interesting.
Take in Twelve Minutes of terror on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One