[REVIEW] Twelve Minutes – Tick tock, motherf#cker!

Gamers really seem to get a kick out of repeating themselves. Take the Soulsborne genre for example. You try and you try, just to end up starting over time after time. Me personally, I can’t seem to survive in one of those for over… let’s say… twelve minutes. If you’re also notoriously sucky at trial and error gameplay and can’t seem to last in ’em as well, Twelve Minutes might be more up your alley. It might not be as diverse as an open-world action-adventure, but it sure knows how to make you repeat yourself. Twelve minutes at a time, at most.

Frankly, Twelve Minutes isn’t nearly as elaborate as a typical action-adventure game. It doesn’t have a metric fuckton of enemies and there’s no impossible deadly maze or anything. It doesn’t even have a horrible boss fight. Nope. The only enemy you have is time. Oh, and a dirty cop that seems to be dead set on arresting your wife. The thing with this premise is that time resets after her arrest and you’re thrown back to the moment you set foot in your apartment. Over and over again.

The task at hand is therefore obvious. You need to break the cycle and everything needed to achieve that is right there in your apartment. That’s right. The entire game takes place in the three rooms that make up your living space. With every passing time loop, clues need to be acquired to figure out what’s going on. Who’s the cop? Why is he accusing your wife of a heinous crime? But most of all, why does time keep resetting?

These pieces of evidence are acquired by simply clicking on them, which categorizes Twelve Minutes as a fairly typical point-and-click game. You interact with certain items and a new conversation topic might pop up. Then again, they might also spark the wrong kinds of conversation starters and lead you astray. No worries though, you’ll find out soon enough if your actions have terrible consequences. It’ll take twelve minutes at most.

It is exactly this trial and error point-and-click mechanic that serves as both the strong suit and the achilles heel simultaniously. It is very easy to make the irreversible wrong decision, wich will inevitably lead to a loop reset. Getting stuck and not figuring out what to do is the worst thing that can happen, since you only have a couple of minutes to get it right. But trust me, you’ll eventually get the hang of it, even if that means that you have to think outside the box occasionally. But the most important thing is listening. Really. Listening is paramount. Most of the clues are hidden in the dialogues, be it far-fetched sometimes.

Luckily, Twelve Minutes boasts a pretty high-profile voice cast. With James McAvoy as the protagonist, Daisy Ridley as his wife and the ever-recognizable Willem Dafoe as the handsy cop, dialogue is seldom tedious. Then again, the writing of Luís António also makes it relatively enjoyable to go through the constantly repeating scene. It is only when you choose the obvious wrong dialogue options that the smooth conversation turns out wonky, breaking the immersion.

Unfortunately, a few bugs and glitches can also ruin the moment from time to time. Clipping issues start to occur when you’re getting the gist of what you need to do to avoid the cop’s wrath, making NPC’s stand in the way while you’re rushing to get things done before time runs out. On console, the cursor can also work in your disadvantage in multiple ways. But in my case, the worst glitch manifested intself in a hard crash near the end, making it impossible to even start the game at all without deleting and re-installing it.

Usually, I’d call it quits if such a thing would occur. Nothing aggravates me more than a game failing on me, especially when a nail-biting plot unravels itself. But instead of heading to Youtube to watch the last bit there, I actually took the time to get the game working again. Why? Because the story is pretty damn exciting, that’s why. Even though I still have the feeling that I’m not fully understanding it, it had me reeled in from start to finish. And let’s be honest, if it weren’t for that bombshell of a finale, Twelve Minutes would probably leave you with a sense of disappointment.

In the end, Twelve Minutes is a textbook example of a developer that chose substance over style. Watching a top-down Sims-like point-and-click game for six hours straight is not going to win anybody over, unless you have an ace in the hole. And that ace is definitely there, presented in the form of a gripping plot and a great voice cast. It does take a lot of tenacity to see Twelve Minutes through to the end though. Unless you’re Nostradamus and you’re able to figure everything out instantaniously. But if you’re not though, Twelve Minutes will have you puzzling your way to salvation for a couple of hours, be it a fifth of an hour at a time.

A timeless 'whodunnit' point-and-click gem
The Hits
Writer Luís António really knows how to present a nail-biting time loop story
The again, the superb voice cast keeps the story compelling
The game will have you searching frantically for solutions and answers
The Misses
Sometimes, a solution might seem far-fetched
Dialogue can get weird when you choose the obvious wrong topic
Occasional bug or glitch might (slightly) ruin the experience somewhat