You only have 12 minutes to unravel a mystery.
Twelve Minutes is a game that breaks away from the traditional experience of modern games. It relies on the precepts of past adventures, but without the verbs that indicate the player’s possible actions, leaving us almost free enough to do whatever we want on screen.
First presented in 2015, it was only in 2019 that we had a practically complete version of it. The game seems to have changed almost nothing from that version. Even the hideous faces of the characters (when viewed through the peephole of the door or the elevator’s reflection early on) remain the same, but now supported by the voices of Daisy Ridley , James McAvoy and Willem Dafoe in the lead roles.
With a proposal already seen in films like Spell of Time , Death Gives You Congratulations, On the Limit of Tomorrow , among others, Twelve Minutes presents a character caught in the same events of a day that seemed normal until then. The crucial difference here is that this loop takes place exactly 12 minutes apart.
In this short time, the character arrives home and is welcomed by his wife, who has a surprise for him. They eat dessert, talk and get emotional. Then a policeman arrives, surrenders them, accuses his wife of murder, and eventually the husband dies.
The triggers for the loop to happen are: time (the 12 minutes are over, the game starts again), trying to flee the apartment or losing consciousness (by death or knockout). Within these limits, the player must do everything to gather information and unravel this mystery that involves his wife and the mysterious man.
be careful with the details
With just a few hours of game play, it’s already possible to see how Twelve Minutes will deliver its mysteries to the player, always on the dropper, with new information being inserted into the context due to, for example, the song that plays on the radio at a given time. Sometimes repeating certain actions can trigger new moments in the plot, helping to unravel this complicated puzzle.
The title gives the player freedom to do whatever they want, from the beginning of the adventure. Even the initial loop is not always the same, depending on what the player does in the early stages of the game.
There is no tutorial to guide you through the opening lines of the story. It’s even possible to spoil all of your wife’s surprise with a simple wrong speech (and it happened to me). But that doesn’t mean you did something wrong, quite the opposite. The concept of “wrong” should not be applied to any action in the game. Everything you do can be reaped in the future as a reward.
Comfortable little footpath
All game action takes place inside the couple’s apartment. A simple and cozy place, with the living room sharing space with the kitchen, a closet near the entrance, a simple bathroom and a bedroom.
The small environment does not allow for great inventions, however, freedom and creativity must go together in the game. Commands tend to be intuitive and work from their menu at the top of the screen. You want a mug, take it. Do you need water? Put it in the sink. Do you want to drink that water? Put the mug on top of you.
Some puzzle resolutions are born out of the sheer despair of not knowing what to do from that point forward in history. At the same time, immersing yourself in roleplay, pretending to be there looking for answers and not just thinking like a player can help you too. Take on the role of the main character and experience that drama as if it were your own. The conclusion of the main mysteries of the story needs that extra dose of engagement.
The not-so-perfect part of all this is that some of the repeated dialogue that happens in the story could lead to heavier, hurried, or intense voice tones. Depending on the chosen dialogue, it is as if the husband’s spirits regressed to the starting point of the discussion, taking a little immersion out of the moment.
Still, Twelve Minutes is a very different game that deserves your attention. It’s hard to know if there are alternate endings — I made one that looked like the real ending, but could I be wrong perhaps? — players will find out as they live their 12 minutes, one at a time, as if they were the last ones in their lives. And they kind of can be.