12 Minute Review: Watching the same show over and over again
RRP $ 24.99
“Experimental and unique, 12 Minutes does away with some classic gaming standards in favor of a stylized, cinematic approach.”
Excellent speech output
Exciting, mysterious story
Sufficiently difficult puzzles
Just get stuck
Top-down perspective is a pain
12 minutes are a rarity in gaming. It’s not like a lot of other things out there, with its unique take on the now ever popular time warp cliché and an all-star cast of voice actors. While there isn’t a single cutscene, 12 Minutes is actually one of the most cinematic games I’ve played in a while. It’s overly stylized and practically written like a movie. Luis Antonio, the creator of 12 Minutes, shapes the game like a director does his debut film.
While 12 Minutes looks like a movie, it’s not – and it’s its characteristics as a game that let it down in the end. That’s not to say it’s a bad experience. It’s experimental and quickly draws you into its mystery. I was overjoyed to hear the performances of James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley and Willem Dafoe (especially Willem Dafoe) but because of the 12 Minutes core loop mechanics they stopped being a source of immersion and became an irritation. To be clear, 12 Minutes doesn’t do everything a video game should have perfectly. However, it is a departure from the norm, and while it fails in some cases, it excels in others.
A night in the cinema
12 minutes is not difficult at first. You are a man, a nameless fool who seems to lead an enchanted life. You have a woman who loves you and she surprises you with the news that she is pregnant. However, an officer shows up, puts both of you handcuffs and kills you. Then you’ll be back in your apartment minutes before the cop shows up. The object of the game, apparently, is to escape this loop.
But the 12 Minutes style is not like most games. It’s a point-and-click game with an almost exclusively top-down camera angle. It’s the first time the style of the game collides with its function. The top-down perspective is harrowing and makes the feeling of being trapped in a time warp even more limiting. Your apartment isn’t that big, but if you look at it from an eagle’s eye you can see how small it is, which creates a feeling of claustrophobia.
And while this is an impressive use of a top-down perspective, it makes the game a little more difficult in practice. There are times when you are looking for something without knowing that it is hidden under another object or that you have to look at another object to see something else. This is the case with one of the key items in 12 Minutes, a central piece of jewelry that can change the course of the game. I found it out of luck, but anyone else can look for it much longer.
Since the game will repeat itself if you miss your window or take wrong action, you will have to restart.
That doesn’t sound bad, but keep in mind that for the whole 12 minutes it took me about five and a half hours to hit. That counts the few times I got stuck looking for the next clue in the puzzle. The downside is that if you get stuck, you don’t have to search in just one area. It is a point in time that you must reach. Since the game will repeat itself if you miss a window or take the wrong action, it’s time to restart. Fortunately, getting back to the beginning of the loop is as easy as leaving the apartment.
Again from above
The hard part comes after when you have to listen to the same voices over and over to get to the right moment on the loop. The first time I was impressed by the way McAvoy and Ridley played against each other as a married couple – half of whom were in a seemingly impossible situation. Dafoe is the star here, however, showing off the wide range he’s developed in films over his decades. His gruff, angry character becomes vulnerable and then paternal with ease, showing off one of the best voice overs I’ve heard in games.
Dafoe is the star here, however, showing off the wide range he’s developed in films over his decades.
But at some point I stopped caring about those carefully written, exquisitely played lines. When I got stuck, all I could think of was getting where I needed to be to solve the puzzle. Fortunately, you can skip the dialogue at 12 minutes, but even getting to where I needed to be just took too long. It went so far that I checked my cell phone while clicking the mouse and waited for everyone to finish.
That doesn’t even affect the repetitive actions players sometimes have to go through. If you get stuck or if you are trying to find out if you have missed something, you will have to perform the same actions over and over again. Pick up the same items, combine them again and place them in the right places. After doing it for the third time, it becomes clear why someone can easily lose their marbles in a time warp. You keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different. I think a certain antagonist once had a word about doing just that.
By the time I finished at 12 minutes, I felt bittersweet. The story of the game was not wrapped in a bow; it made me wonder more. I didn’t know if my choice eliminated the main conflict of the story, a twist that really left me gasping for breath. The story of 12 Minutes, neatly presented, is a gripping work. But with the whole game, with all of its contradicting parts, I felt like I’d rather read 12 minutes than play it through again.
12 Minutes is definitely an extremely cinematic title. It’s inherently slow, and that will eventually wear down players. There were nights when I had to turn the game off because I faced another run through the loop after not finding anything. However, the first time you walk through some of the game’s unique permutations, you will be mesmerized. Its story is compelling and makes you question everything, but it takes a pain to move it forward.
The story of 12 Minutes, neatly presented, is a gripping work.
12 minutes is something unique and experimental, and as with any experiment, there will be some hiccups. As it turned out, the main flaw of this game was that it inherently drains its players of time. But between those moments it tells a brilliant story where you can return to each chapter and choose to rewrite it. 12 minutes is certainly not for everyone, but if you are looking for a change the game is highly recommended.
Is there a better alternative?
If you’re looking for some point-and-click and cinema, The Walking Dead by Telltale is unparalleled.
How long it will take?
My run through 12 minutes took me about five and a half hours, but it could easily take more than seven if you’re trying to get every success in the game.
Should you buy it?
Yes. 12 Minutes is a game unlike many others out there, and while it may not always respect your time, you’ll at least be kept entertained by excellence from recognizable actors.