Played on Xbox One via Xbox Game Pass
Reliving the same day over and over is something that can be tedious, but what if it was shortened to only reliving the last Twelve Minutes? That’s the base concept of Luis Antonio’s newest puzzle thriller game published by Annapurna Interactive on Steam, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. Not only are we stuck in this time loop, but it is the worst twelve minutes of our protagonist’s life and the only way to bring it to an end is to finish the puzzle that puts the truth together.
After coming home from work, Man, played by James McAvoy, is surprised to a nice evening with Wife, played by Daisy Ridley. What is meant to be the perfect night with the perfect surprise following a perfect date over desert is interrupted by killer Cop, played by Willem Dafoe. With the outcome of the Cop’s visit leading to your wife’s death in most cases, the night becomes a sour one. Luckily, Man finds that when he tries to leave the apartment, gets beat up or killed by the Cop, or a full twelve minutes passes by, the evening restarts to when he walked in the door. How will he stop the evening from leading to his wife’s death? How will he get out of this time loop? And what does he need to do in order to escape this nightmare without his life changing dramatically?
While I would think the mechanics of this game are more suited for the use of a mouse on a PC, you are given a dot that you can move around on the screen. Interacting with objects or simply clicking on the floor will move your character around the apartment. The place isn’t big at least, so even with the controller, it isn’t much of an issue to use this interaction system.
The entirety of the game takes place in this apartment and you have to learn details of what is going on in order to figure out the truth behind the Cop’s reasoning for the attack and some things you never knew about your Wife’s past. Some of the clues are subtle while others are learned by taking necessary steps, but you won’t be able to finish this game without going through a bunch of time loop cycles.
During each cycle, you should be trying to learn something new about the overall story. If you complete a full cycle and don’t learn anything new, then that would be considered a failed cycle. If you reach the end of a cycle and you can take a moment before the next one starts, try to plan out what you need to know or at least try to figure out some questions you want answers to.
As you make progress in knowing more of the truth, more options will come up in the various dialogue screens when talking to Wife and Cop. The same goes for some useful items, like the phone. The more you figure out, the more options you have for the next cycle. The more options you have, the closer you are to solving the time loop.
While I had some initial concerns with real actors taking on the position of voice actors, given that the talent doesn’t always transfer for whatever reason, I was pleased that all of the voice work was very well done and added so much emphasis to the game. There is music in the game, but it is very subtle and made to just sit in the background which is nice as the story and puzzle-solving was the focus of this game.
Giving players a direct top-down view was definitely the best choice for this game type as it lets us look around the whole apartment without anything blocking our view. The walls are event tilted slightly so you can see what is on the walls as well. It was a well-chosen point-of-view. The graphical quality was pretty standard in this game, but it was all it needed to provide the experience this game has.
Unfortunately, just as every puzzle game out there, I don’t see a reason to play through the game again once you have solved it. There are a couple of different endings, from what I can tell, but you don’t need to restart the game to find them. Once you reach the point where you can get the different endings, you can loop the moment of the choice being made.
For instance, I got the “Alone” ending and after walking back into the apartment, which was now empty, you can still get the redacted key item and set yourself back to the moment of making the choice that led to the “Alone” ending. By simply not choosing that again, I ended up back in the apartment with Wife at the start of the night just like any other cycle before.
My only complaint was the dot control style when it comes to playing with a controller. That gameplay mechanic is perfect for PC players, but on a controller, it should have featured a more fluid gameplay control system. They even could have set a button on the controller to turn the dot on and off so that it can still be used for interactions that require it.
Twelve Minutes was literally the puzzle game I have been waiting for! As a big fan of puzzle games, I am always looking for a new puzzle game to really get me frustrated and strive hard to solve it. This game provided a challenging puzzle experience and took me just over five hours to beat while doing nothing but solving the puzzle one piece of information at a time. I hope that more games like this are made with this type of puzzle setup that will continue to challenge fans of hard puzzle-solving experiences.
An enthusiast for all things Horror and often finding myself playing Indie games over AAA. I enjoy writing for games in both the journalist and creative capacity. If I’m not writing or gaming, you can find me at a theme park or convention.
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