We all love a good indie game, but some projects are so ambitious they end up looking like a triple-A or a movie, even. That's the case of 12 Minutes, a point-and-click game by developer Luis Antonio. We tried it, completed it (twice), and here's our brief review of it!
Is This a Game or a Hollywood Movie?
12 Minutes follows a premise that could very well be the plot of a (mostly) single-location thriller movie. When the game's author cites Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Fincher as their muses, there's nothing else to add—he even included some Easter eggs, like The Shining's iconic carpet pattern.
12 Minutes may be a point-and-click mystery game, but we're guessing that's just because Luis Antonio is a game developer and not a film director. We've covered several interactive movies before, but 12 Minutes is different: it doesn't rely on live-action sequences. Still, the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival picked it as one of the 8 titles inaugurating their brand new Tribeca Games branch, and its 3 main characters are voiced by Hollywood A-listers: James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and four-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe.
A Murder Mystery
The game follows the story of a man who comes back home after work. At first, everything seems normal; your wife greets you with a playful hug and kiss, and she even prepared your favorite dessert to celebrate something special. You can pick and interact with several items around the house, but there's something you can't avoid: 12 minutes after getting home, a man knocks on the door saying he's with the police. Once your wife opens the door, this unknown man accuses her of having killed her own father and stealing a valuable pocket watch. You can't even process what's going on, but as soon as you try to leave the house or the mysterious man kills you, you go back in time to the very moment you stepped into the house.
What to do after your first loop is up to you. Will you hide and call 911? Will you try to attack the man? Maybe lock the door and hope for the best? It's hard to believe your wife is a murderer, and you have no reason to doubt her, but what if you were to find this pocket watch hiding in your home? Time loops are the least of your problems now, and going back in time could be the only way to really find out what's it all about.
Too Repetitive For Its Own Good
12 Minutes is a rather short game, so it will take around 90 minutes to get to your first ending—if you know how to solve puzzles, that is. Unfortunately, its biggest selling point is also its biggest flaw, as repetitiveness is not fun when you're clueless and forced to go through the same dialogues and actions over and over again. Given the nature of this narrative-driven thriller, you are bound to "make mistakes" just to discover new elements and trigger new dialogue options, and not everyone will be happy about it.
McAvoy, Ridley, and Dafoe are brilliant actors, but this is a video game, not a movie. Not only do several lines sound awkward or out of place depending on the player's actions (not the actors' fault, they just recorded them), but there's no way you feel comfortable about hearing someone repeat the same dialogue over and over and over again. Sure, that's immersive in its own way, but still not fun.
12 Minute's main issue is—in our humble opinion, at least—that the premise was so good that we felt very disappointed with the endings. That's all we're going to say to avoid spoiling it, but that should be enough to warn you.
Even if it wasn't a satisfactory experience, we understand the author's intentions and totally respect them. If you love thriller movies and point-and-click games, 12 Minutes is a must in your library! Just... lower your expectations a little, or the resolution will let you down.
BTW, it's part of Xbox Game Pass, so if you're a subscriber, it's definitely worth a try.