Twelve Minutes review

By Heidi Nicholas,
In Twelve Minutes — which launches into Xbox Game Pass later this week — you’re just getting settled for a night in with your wife when Willem Dafoe barges in, accuses your partner of murder, then beats you to death. Or chokes you. Or shoots you. The point is, you’re stuck in a time loop with only minutes to spare as you desperately look for a way out — and one of the first things that struck me about Twelve Minutes was how intuitive it felt. It knew exactly what you were going to try first and was already two steps ahead of you. You soon discover that simple measures won’t work; a locked door won’t protect you and there’s only so long you can hide. The loop may only last twelve minutes, but the mystery will have you puzzling over it for much longer.


Everything in Twelve Minutes feels important to progression, so we've gone as light on story details as possible. That having been said, let's dive in! The deadline of the detective’s arrival at the end of each loop is a brilliant way to step up the urgency. Being stuck in a time loop could make it seem as though you technically have all the time in the world, but when you know the detective is on the way, when you hear the lift ding and know he’s coming towards the door, things start to feel very hectic. Twelve Minutes’ minimalist look also plays into the urgency of this narrative. The sparsity of the apartment’s furniture and few rooms, together with the small number of characters, somehow ramps up the pressure even more — especially when you can hear footsteps outside the door and know your time is nearly up even though you still don’t have any idea what to do. On the plus side, this means that every discovery feels like a real breakthrough, and one you can’t wait to test on the next loop. At the start of the game, it’s also pleasantly surprising how each of these loops feels distinct, whether it’s a new dialogue option or a new fact you’ve found out. On the other hand, it can be frustrating to live through the same loop again and again when you’re stuck and have no way of getting a hint. Likewise, near the end of the game, it can feel repetitive — waiting through the entirety of the same loop multiple times just to try out one small change each time can begin to feel a little stale.

12 minutes release date xbox game pass

With three such big names in Twelve Minutes — Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy, and Willem Dafoe — we have to spend some time talking about dialogue. Twelve Minutes’ dialogue is wonderfully handled to reflect any discoveries from each previous loop. I thought I might encounter a few odd moments with outdated dialogue which didn’t reflect some big development, but for the most part, the game was right there with you. It responds to your actions — for instance, when I accidentally began eating a meal before my partner, she reacted by becoming irritated and offended. If I set the table for her, she noticed and commented. It works for the sillier moments, too, like when I panicked and barricaded my character in the closet, leading to my puzzled partner standing outside, asking what I was doing in a slightly concerned voice. The skills of Twelve Minutes’ cast aren’t really pushed until later in the game, but the pacing is excellent, with the music and story gradually building into a crescendo.

There’s no way of escaping the pressure in Twelve Minutes. You can’t leave the apartment, so it’s just those few rooms, your wife, and the upcoming arrival of the detective who’ll kill you. There’s no HUD cluttering the screen, and you can only interact with things by selecting them or dragging them to combine with other objects — for instance, filling a cup with water by dragging it to the sink. This all strips away any unnecessary elements to leave you focused on that core mystery. Having a smaller number of characters also works in the game’s favour here by adding to the drama. It almost starts to feel as though you’re in some sort of escape room, with the knowledge that all the answers lie hidden somewhere close by, if you can only find them. The achievements, meanwhile, became available just this week, and although it’s a pretty vague list, it looks as though you’ll need to explore and interact with everything you can to complete it — I got one for just watering the plant, while others unlocked as I finished up with the story.

12 Minutes


Summary

Although the main mechanic of the gameplay loop can become a little frustrating and repetitive nearer the end of the game, and the story can begin to feel a little muddled, Twelve Minutes unravels its mysteries so well as to leave you pondering long after you finish the game — I’m still trying to wrap my head around the ending, and I know I’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come.
8 / 10
Twelve Minutes
Ethics
Heidi spent just over eight hours trapped in a time loop in Twelve Minutes, earning four achievements as she went.
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Heidi graduated with an MA in English Literature, and now enjoys writing news, reviews, and features across TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. When she’s not writing, Heidi is usually either looking for her next RPG, or trying to convince the rest of the team to hear about yet another delightfully wholesome game she has found.