After the release of P.T. the gaming world saw an abundance of games using the idea of looping segments. Twelve Minutes takes the idea of looping segments and pushes it to the edge. Groundhog Day meets your favorite domestic thriller in this piece developed by Luís António and published by Annapurna Interactive. Told through the voice talents of Hollywood favorites like Willem Dafoe (Boondock Saints, Spider-Man), James McAvoy (Split, X-Men Origins), and Daisey Ridley (Star Wars), is Twelve Minutes worth the time? Find out in my Twelve Minutes review!
Story – Twelve Minutes Gets Lost in the Loops
Twelve Minutes is told through looping segments of… well… 12 minutes (for the most part). It opens with a man (James McAvoy) returning home from work to find a romantic surprise from his wife (Daisy Ridley). As the couple settles in to enjoy their evening, an intruder (Willem Dafoe) breaks into their apartment and kills you both. It is then that the unnamed main character finds himself walking into his apartment again as if the past 12 minutes never happened. Each loop brings them closer and closer to the disturbing truth that will change everything.
At the start, Twelve Minutes has a really strong, intriguing narrative. Seeing that narrative develop over each loop is an interesting way to experience the story, but it soon becomes clear that the developer may have lost their way. To keep this review spoiler-free, I won’t go into the details of the various endings in my Twelve Minutes review, but this game takes a bizarre, disturbing turn that left a bad taste in my mouth. This is something you may want to check trigger warnings for before playing.
It’s clear that clarity is something the writing is severely lacking. Twelve Minutes wants to make these massive leaps, hoping that the audience will keep up with the story, but the writing doesn’t leave the proper bread crumbs. Endings that encourage conversation and research are fine, but it’s never good when research is necessary to understand what is unfolding.
Gameplay – Ohhh, That’s What You’re Supposed To Do?
Twelve Minutes has a pretty standard point-and-click set-up. In order to move, you click wherever you want the character to move; you click and drag items to pick them up or to interact. It doesn’t do anything new or exciting, but the mechanics work well. The only other gameplay mechanic comes through choosing dialogue choices.
That being said, the looping puzzles could be way more intuitive. At one point in my playthrough, I was doing the right things, I was just doing them out of order. The loops don’t feel short when you’re playing them over and over again trying to figure out what to do differently. The puzzles started to lose that sense of victory and turned more towards a feeling of relief that I wouldn’t have to repeat again. And one of those super tough puzzles is right at the beginning, so it really threw me out of the narrative.
When it comes to gameplay, the repetition kills it in the end. While you don’t have to repeat the same things in every loop, the player does have to sit through big pieces of repetitive dialogue in a limited amount of time. Eventually, it starts to feel more like checking off a to-do list versus solving a potential murder.
Graphics and Audio – Interesting Perspective
Graphically, Twelve Minutes on the Xbox Series X and S consoles aren’t super stunning. They aren’t bad, but everything looks pretty straightforward. However, the perspective is where this looping game really shines. Everything is shown from a top-down perspective, giving you a voyeuristic, God-like feeling as they watch the domestic tragedy play out. In a way, it feels very claustrophobic, which is a nice way of creating tension visually.
In the same vein as the graphics, audio-wise, Twelve Minutes is pretty straightforward. Aside from the voice acting, there are the normal apartment sounds and brief moments of music. It will come as no surprise that Willem Dafoe gave a great performance, but McAvoy and Ridley were okay. Knowing how talented they are, I was hoping for much more from their performances; especially after we have seen so many talented actors hop into the gaming scene. It doesn’t help that voice lines constantly run on top of each other or the player will hear the same exact voice lines over and over again.
In a confusing move, Dafoe actually voices two different characters that look a lot alike and sound exactly the same. It’s disorientating, and, after some research, it is a deliberate choice. However, coming back to clarity, this isn’t touched on in the narrative or explained in anyway. But, overall, it feels like the voice talent was wasted in the long run on a repetitive script. And more music would have definitely added to the drama and tension in Twelve Minutes.
It was really difficult to write a Twelve Minutes Xbox Series X review. Parts of it are done really well with an interesting edge. But the elements that fail, do so epically. The further you progress, the more boring it becomes. Sometimes you’re forced to sit through the same five minutes of dialogue to change one small thing or to hear one piece of information. The pacing would have really benefitted from a skip feature or some sort of fast forward, especially for those playing it in one sitting.
There are seven different endings for Twelve Minutes and none of them seem like they’re worth the effort. They create that “A-ha!” moment that the plot needs; Even worse, the worst ending (in my opinion) is the official ending of the game. A more thoughtful ending would have done wonders for the bothersome looping.
Overall, Twelve Minutes is an average experience elevated by some interesting concepts.
- Interesting concept and mechanics
- Cool top-down perspective
- Willem Dafoe and James McAvoy
- Weak (and shocking) ending
- Slow pacing and repetitive toward the end
- Puzzles aren't always intuitive