|Platforms||Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S (reviewed), PC|
|Release Date||August 19, 2021|
You come home to your wife at the end of the day. She’s happy to see you, and she’s even gone out of her way to make dessert this evening. But you already know the reason behind this special occasion. And you already know that in just a few minutes, your pleasant evening is about to be interrupted by a cop barging into your apartment and claiming that your wife murdered her father. You know all this because you’re trapped in a time loop, and all of this has happened already.
This is the premise for the game Twelve Minutes, a new psychological thriller boasting movie star talent for its voice acting. The game caught my attention the moment it was first revealed two years ago due to its foreboding atmosphere and unconventional top-down camera perspective. But now that it is finally here, does it live up to its potential? The answer, as it turns out, is as complicated as its narrative.
This is perhaps the most difficult Content Guide I’ve had to write because going into any significant detail about much of the game’s objectionable content would reveal MASSIVE spoilers. As such, I’ll have to be vague. The game contains murder and death by stabbing, gunshot, and strangling, and you can commit murder in some of these manners. You can also commit torture. Blood appears during violent moments, splattered against walls or even pooling on the floor. The game references marital infidelity and other instances of sexual immorality as well. All these things are treated in a suitably grave manner, as the game maintains a weighty tone from start to finish.
You will hear some harsh language, including multiple uses of f**k and taking the Lord’s name in vain.
Oh, and this should go without saying, but sticking a knife into electrical wires will lead to predictable results.
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
In terms of gameplay, Twelve Minutes shares most of its DNA with the point-and-click adventure genre. Almost the entire game takes place within the confines of a tiny one-bedroom apartment, and everything is controlled by the cursor; you click to move around the apartment, grab items to place into your inventory, and can then use those items with other objects in the room or combine certain items together. This decidedly old-school approach to game design feels clunky at times, namely in having to click around your environment for even basic movement rather than using a thumbstick or WASD keys. After a while, however, I adjusted to the control scheme, and it ceased to be an impediment to the experience.
What truly sets the game apart, however, is its time limit. You’re stuck in a time loop, and after ten minutes the evening will reset to when you entered the apartment. You have to use these ten minutes to gather whatever information you can about the situation, and then use that information during the next loop to glean more. I can’t give any concrete examples because doing so would give away the core of the experience, as Twelve Minutes is essentially a kind of logic puzzle, but suffice it to say that you should be looking for information both from objects found in the environment and through conversations held with NPCs. I must praise the developers for their attention to detail, as taking certain actions will lead to different responses from NPCs depending on whether or not they can see you do them, or whether you’ve already broached specific topics of conversation during that loop. It’s not quite perfect—at one point, my wife sat unperturbed on the couch reading her book while I stood right next to her holding a knife in front of my own gut—but the vast majority of actions and reactions made perfect sense given the circumstances.
The story keeps you on your toes throughout the experience, and some shocking twists toward the end had me reeling. The voice actors all turn in excellent performances, which contributes greatly to the overall enjoyment of such a story-heavy game. My biggest issue is how difficult it is to find the game’s “true” ending, so to speak. Upon reaching one ending, I could immediately tell that I was missing something, but the game hid the clues to its final ending quite well…perhaps a bit too well. I actually threw in the towel and looked up a guide for that part, and upon reading it I knew I likely would never have figured out the solution on my own. Yet for all that obfuscation, once I actually reached the real ending, I didn’t feel like I understood the game’s mind-bending narrative much better than I had before.
Altogether, then, Twelve Minutes leaves me both impressed and slightly unsatisfied. The bulk of the story is captivating, the dark mystery is fun to unravel, and I’m delighted to see a modern game take advantage of classic (and currently underutilized) gameplay designs. But the conclusion is difficult to reach and sadly doesn’t provide sufficient payoff. Even so, I enjoyed this unique, ambitious title, and I recommend others give it a shot as well. The journey is well worth the brief runtime regardless of how one lands on the ending, and those with Xbox Game Pass can grab it as part of their subscription.
The Bottom Line
Twelve Minutes delivers a captivating experience with excellent voice acting and shocking twists.