It’s been a very long time since I’ve played a point and click adventure game, and that experience isn’t something you can capture with most games nowadays. The intricate puzzles, interesting dialogue, and overall intrigue of the format made them a staple for many early game libraries. Twelve Minutes is a game that seeks to return to that format with a twist, having the player memorize and repeat actions in a set of time loops that happen in 12 minute intervals. As a concept, or as a game to watch, this is a very technically impressive game. As an interactive experience, it really requires being part of the target demographic to enjoy it fully.
Twelve Minutes is more of an “interactive experience” than a game. It’s not a long title, and it certainly isn’t graphically impressive in any regard. The game is a top down point and click adventure that has you playing as an unnamed protagonist attempting to escape a time loop after getting back from work. While this is light enough on its own, the game gets darker as the plot opens up. In order to progress the plot, you’re going to repeat the day a lot. I personally ended up repeating it well over a few dozen times, and that was with following the subtle hints the game drops in the dialogue after repeating a lot. The loop follows the exact same format every time, and there are mechanics to speed up time in order to get to major tipping points in the plot. The issue is, the major points usually require a series of events to coincide properly in order to execute in the way that you need them to, but there’s no way to save a certain set of actions and immediately skip into the event on the next day. This leads to a monotonous series of pointing and clicking that at times can be worse than even older titles that afforded you the luxury of saving. If you mess up even one part of the sequence, you need to repeat the entire thing from step one. There’s barely a fast forward in dialogue, and you’re stuck listening to the exact same music and dialogue over and over until you finally figure out what needs to be done.
Normally, I enjoy puzzle games and the challenge they present the player. There’s a set of tools and a proper way of executing a series of events to reach an outcome, usually it’s a one and done. In Twelve Minutes, this process becomes grating after dozens of repeated attempts. Hearing the exact same humming and doorbell, same dialogue and same everything for as long as you’re playing it wears on you. The performances are great, I can’t deny the voice cast their chops. The first time you approach the more tense parts of the game, it feels genuinely stressful and drives you to learn more about the plot. The issue is, the smallest things can cause a hitch in the road that requires a loop reset, and then it’s back to square one. As a device to make the player feel like they’re actually looping the day, I can’t deny it works very well. But after so many consecutive loops, I ended up feeling like the protagonist; annoyed and confused. Understanding the sequence I wanted to pull off and having to do it dozens of times was just annoying, and at times only lead to the smallest bits of changed dialogue on the path to the ending. It genuinely didn’t feel worth the payoff once things started to click together.
While I can’t deny Twelve Minutes to be a visionary experience and overall a well done puzzle game, the format can be grating to those that don’t like going through an incredible repetitive process. There’s not much I’m able to say about the game without spoiling integral parts of the plot, but generally the psychological aspect comes in two fronts: the looping and the uncovering of the story. As the plot thickens, so does the investment; but the road there is pretty arduous for little payoff. Psychological thrillers and think pieces are an interesting direction for games to go, but I feel like this game could’ve been handled a bit better.
Score: 6 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC