Everyone’s first “loop” in twelve minutes will be similar: you get home to your small apartment and your wife has prepared a surprise dessert for you (I’m not quite sure what happened to the main meal, I guess he eats at work?), along with some news. As you both enjoy this excitement, a cop knocks on the door and a series of events ensue, resulting in you getting knocked out.
You then start again having just entered your flat. This is a time loop game. Your goal isn’t quite clear, but you know you have to get out of your current situation, solving the mystery of the situation you are in, one loop at a time. Twelve Minutes takes place entirely in the apartment, so there’s only a limited amount of things to interact with. This helps narrow down what you can interact with, so for the most part there’s always something to try.
One problem with the mechanics is that it’s not just about what you know, it’s about what the main character (unnamed, played by James McAvoy) knows, in order for him to try and convince his Wife (also unnamed, played by Daisy Ridley) or the Cop (played by Willem Dafoe). At various points in the game, you as a player know what’s happening, but you need to figure out what to do so that the correct dialogue options will appear.
Some of working this out I do enjoy, and learning how each loop works and how to interact with everyone is really nice. The point and click side of things is quite well done, and apart from a couple of moments, I never felt completely lost in terms of not having any ideas to try out. What is very frustrating, however, is the dialogue options with the Wife. So many ideas will pop into your head on what you and the wife could attempt, but because there are a very limited options of dialogue choices, so most of your ideas you won’t be able to try out. It feels like you’re working out what the game wants you to do. It’s very different to The Outer Wilds (another time loop game) where if you have an idea, you can try it out. It means that in The Outer Wilds, it feels like you’re finding out how the world of the game works, while in Twelve Minutes, you’re figuring out what the code wants you to do. It’s not very immersive.
Twelve Minutes has a top-down perspective, but the aesthetics are quite nice. What is disappointing is that the animation is very wonky, right from the very first interaction (you and the wife interacting), it comes across very unnatural. It’s not helped with how a lot of the time, when you choose to talk to each other, your character will walk right to them in order to do so. It’s a strange complaint because I wouldn’t care about this in an older Point & Click game, but the style of Twelve Minutes, plus it happening in one apartment, just comes across as unrealistic. It’s a bit of an uncanny valley – because it has a realistic style, these flaws are much harder to dismiss.
Mild Spoilers about the beginning of the game from this point
Now, I love a good time loop story, and two parts in particular I love a lot: one is the characters slowly figuring it out, the other is the “fun” part where they realise they can do whatever to relax a bit before carrying on. Sadly, this game doesn’t really do well at either of those. After the first “reset”, I talked to my wife and immediately I was able to go into a rant about how the day keeps repeating. It’s like the main character already knew what the main concept of the game was. There’s no thinking it was possibly a daydream, just straight “this is a time loop!” before he had even seen anything repeat. The Wife didn’t even have a chance to say her opening lines at this point.
For having fun, there are a few things you can do, but they mainly involve just being cruel to your wife, so it isn’t very satisfying. The main thing left is the mystery of the game. Lots of people hate finding out about some stuff relating to this, so I will issue a spoiler warning for this as well. I will not be giving any details, purely my opinion on the quality of the story
Warning Story Structure Spoilers from this point
So, as you unravel the mystery I really enjoyed figuring it all out. It got to a point where I was satisfied with how the game seemed to be turning out, but I was wrong and there was more. This is the point where the game just seems to be shocking for the point of being shocking, introducing a scenario which makes no sense whatsoever, it really, really sours the game when the simpler explanation would have been great. You can find out more and explore different endings, but the more you find out, it just seems to introduce worse tropes. Of course, with the multiple possible endings there’s also an element of “interpret it in your own way”, but when what you have to work with is so bad, there’s no motivation to do so.
I love time loop games, and point and click adventures, but unfortunately this is missing the vital elements of both.