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Twelve Minutes game review: Stuck in a time loop

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Robby Bisschop

by Robby Bisschop


Robby lives and breathes videogames. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically… Read more






  • Twelve Minutes is a point-and-click adventure where you are stuck in a time loop (unless you find a way to get out of it)

  • It has a star cast, including James McAvoy, Willem Dafoe, and Daisy Ridley

  • You’ll uncover more pieces of the narrative puzzle in every cycle, but be careful at the storyline



Twelve Minutes is a point-and-click thriller in which you end up in a time loop, over and over again, until you figure out the full extent of the story and what it is that you’ll have to do to break out of the cycle.


Ever since seeing the trailer back in 2019, the project has intrigued me, both in concept as well as graphical style, as the top-down camera is immediately noticeable and not something you see that often in games with a narrative focus.


Much like with a movie trailer, it crossed a thin line of already spoiling too much, and I’d like to avoid doing the same here, so consider this a warning if you want to go in fresh: while I’ll keep it light on spoilers, it’s best to skip past the story section.


The story



Every good story starts with a murder


You play as an unnamed husband, voiced by James McAvoy, who comes home from a day at the office and seems to spend what looks like a normal, quiet night with his wife. There is some small talk, a nice dessert and if you play your cards right, some romantic dancing.


But suddenly a cop knocks on the door. Whether or not you choose to let him in, he’ll eventually get in and will start yelling about a murder, supposedly committed by your wife, and a lost pocket watch that seems to be worth a lot of money.


You can try to resist, but no matter your attempts, he’ll knock you unconscious or even strangle you, which triggers a time loop and starts the last ten to twelve minutes over again. It’s up to you to find out more about the murder, the history behind the pocket watch, and what it will take to break out of the loop.



That did not go as planned… please don’t break the loop now


Each run will inevitably end in failure, but if you play your cards right, you’ll get access to new information which will hopefully result in more success in your next attempt.


I’m not getting too deep into spoiler territory here, but let’s just say that you won’t see some of the twists coming, mostly because they aren’t afraid to raise some topics that most people could find unsettling.


Star-filled cast


If you have a story-heavy game with voice acting, it certainly helps sell the game if you can flaunt a cast full of celebrities. And that’s exactly what Twelve minutes does with its main three characters.



Daisy Ridley – James McAvoy – Willem Dafoe


Daisy Ridley, perhaps best known for her recent role as Rey in the new Star Wars trilogy, plays your wife, who’s suspected of killing her own father, though her motives are unknown at first.


James McAvoy is an actor I’ve first been impressed with when he took on the role of young Charles Xavier in the X-Men reboot. He plays the husband and will be the only character you control throughout the game.


Willem Dafoe, known for his gravelly voice and recognizable face, plays the cop and another role, but even telling you about that would ruin the final plot twist of the game somewhat.


The gameplay


Now, surprisingly I had no idea about the type of gameplay to expect prior to starting my first run. I had seen a few trailers during online events and they certainly caught my interest on concept and story alone, but I hadn’t the foggiest clue on what I would actually have to do in the game.


I expected narrative choices, similar to the ones you’d make in a Telltale game, and these are present here as well. But the main gameplay mechanic is point-and-click puzzle-solving like you might recall from classic adventure games.



A mind-bending conundrum…


You pick up items to add them to your inventory, combine them with each other or with interactable objects in the environment and see what happens.


Fumbling around


While use [ITEM] on [OBJECT] isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it fits the narrative focus of the game well enough and the way you have to use them in real-time adds certain anxiety to it all that makes you feel more involved. You won’t just have to think about “what” to use, you’ll also have to consider the “when”.


It’s just a shame that how this is implemented feels a bit messy. Clicking on an item will use it on yourself so you have to be careful and keep the action button pressed while dragging it to someone or something else. It feels a bit awkward and you’re bound to slip up once or twice.



The top-down camera feels extremely fresh though as if you’re looking into a toy house after removing the roof. It also gives a clear birds-eye view of the surroundings and “most” of the important objects to interact with, but more on that later.


Out of order


Having seen the trailer, I went into the game with prior information, specifically that the cop will try and kill me when he comes in. So on my very first run, before I had even entered a time loop, I tried to stab him with the kitchen knife. It ended with me getting knocked out and starting the first loop.


The issue is, that Twelve Minutes treated this as if it was the second or third time I had run through the actions, as it seemingly expected me to be more passive in the first go-through. It’s very offputting and breaks you right out of the immersion when things feel off, and it wasn’t the only time when I encountered this issue.


While the game wants you to experiment, it also follows a rather linear evolution of how you can progress through the story. If you do something to break the sequence it’s expecting you to follow, Twelve Minutes will throw confusing lines or interactions at you that feel out of place for the current run.


Other issues



“There is no Spoon”


Important to note is that some progress only happens in your own mind, for you as the player. Learning the location of an important item that is hidden “in the vent below the medicine cabinet” is vital to progressing the game.


I struggled with this part of the game, because the other two vents are visible when walking around, yet this one is hidden unless you inspect the cabinet and even then is largely outside of your visible reach.


Just look at the screenshot above and see how both the prompt to interact, as well as the spoon I’m using to open the vent, are partly hidden by the bottom of the screen.


Sadly this isn’t the only technical issue I’ve encountered, as there was also a moment where the cop got stuck, walking in place and my character was unable to move because of it. I had to quit the game just to escape from the soft lock.


Luckily this only happened once, but the character animations often clipped through objects and each other in a weird-looking way, and their robotic movement to predetermined “trigger” locations also broke my immersion too often.



If only there was some way to turn back time?


🏆 A Small aside on Achievements: The game fittingly has 12 achievements, but if you hope to get them, you’ll best follow a guide. You need to do specific actions at specific times. I personally didn’t like the list one bit and don’t really feel motivated to get the missing 10 by following an online step-by-step walkthrough.


Final thoughts on Twelve Minutes




Pros

Time loops remain a brilliant concept for videogames

The top-down perspective feels fresh for the genre

Useful fast forward option respects the player’s time



Cons

Often hard to tell what is expected of you next

Some annoying bugs and sequence errors

Repeating the same actions over and over again get boring



Final Score: 3.5/5


Twelve Minutes is a bold game that isn’t afraid to venture into heavy topics. Its central time loop system reveals new information with every new run as long as you succeed in figuring out what the game expects you to do next. The point-and-click gameplay feels finicky at times and there are some sequence breaking errors, but if you can look past those issues, it offers a fresh narrative with a star-filled cast. Certainly worth a playthrough, especially on Xbox Game Pass.


Twelve Minutes costs $24.99 and is available on Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. I played it with a controller on Xbox Series X but I have no doubt that the classic adventure gameplay lends itself better to being controlled with a mouse.


*Disclaimer: Reviewed on Xbox Series X via Xbox Game Pass.




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