Developer: Luis Antonio
Release Date: August 19, 2021
Rarely has my interest in a game been such a roller coaster ride. I heard about Twelve Minutes shortly before its release last August when it was announced that it was going to be a Day One release on XBox Game Pass. Seeing as I tend to prefer to not spend a lot on games that lack inherent replay value, I figured that would be a perfect way to play it. I downloaded the game as soon as it was available, even though I knew I wouldn’t have time to really dive in for a few days. In that short window of time, I managed to spoil myself on the ending.
I won’t do the same to you here – mostly because it’s been a damn year, and although I can remember that I did, once upon a time, know the big twist of the game, I have long since forgotten what it was. I do know that it turned me off from wanting to play through the game. When I started making my list of available project games, I decided to add this one in as I knew I had been interested in it once upon a time. But I wasn’t really excited about it again until I was reminded by The Forgotten City just how good time loop games can be.
As it turns out, the only thing I missed out on by putting off playing Twelve Minutes was a whole lot of frustration. For me, it was like someone took all the worst parts of time loop games and point & click adventures and hired a few big named actors to do the voice-overs and decided that was good enough.
The entire game is from a top down perspective, which I hated almost instantly. Then, as soon as you walk into the door to your apartment, the timer starts. Typical adventure game logic of just trying everything can easily ruin loop after loop. Repeated conversations are not skippable (although there seemed to be a little bit of “fast forwarding” that worked sporadically), and in certain circumstances conversations that you pursued in one loop are completely unavailable in the next one, which then requires you to either ignore that conversational path, or jump directly to a nuclear option, which seemed to make it impossible to get any further information.
But even putting aside the problems with gameplay (and I felt like there were a lot of problems with the gameplay), I think the thing that bothered me the most is that this video game is the polar opposite of a power fantasy. Too often, it just feels like there is nothing at all you can do to avoid your demise, and I think that’s possibly a direct result of being on a tight timer. For some players, this might be an enjoyable tension, but the entire time I was playing, I just wanted to have a goddamn minute to think.
While I didn’t find anything about the game to be scary, watching the seconds directly before the time loop was – for me – pretty damn disturbing. Knowing that continuing on meant watching a scene (or one just like it) potentially dozens more times before I figured out the precise order of events and performed them to perfection just killed the tiny spark of interest I had in the game.
For me, Twelve Minutes was a miss in just about every possible way, and as a result, I can’t seem to find anything at all nice to say about my hour long experience. I don’t feel like I made enough meaningful progress to even guess if there’s a compelling story underneath the mess of mechanics. If you really want to know how it all plays out, I would recommend finding a true ending Let’s Play, especially if you’re at all sensitive to scenes of violence when the victim is powerless.
SteamDB estimates that Twelve Minutes has sold between 115,600 and 317,800 copies on Steam. Most players would recommend it, but more than 25% felt, like me, that it was a frustrating experience, either due to game play reasons, or for its twist ending. It is ranked 4065 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.