In Twelve Minutes, you play a man who comes home to his wife in their tiny apartment for a romantic evening, only for a guy claiming to be a cop to show up accusing her of a crime and then murdering you. And you wake up 12 minutes earlier. You're in a Groundhog Day-style time loop where you have to relive the next 12 minutes again and again until you figure out how to end the loop.
Twelve Minutes is essential a point-and-click adventure game. What makes it unique is it's played in a top-down view, "You", the nameless man, are voiced by James McAvoy, your wife is voiced by Daisy Ridley in her most sustained role since the Star Wars movies, and the cop is voiced by Willem Dafoe. You have to figure out what to ask, what items to find, to talk Willem Dafoe out of murdering you. It's supposed to be a game of empathy, to find out someone's past and motivations, to understand them and hopefully, they might understand you. Since you're looking down at the characters without seeing their faces, any emotional impact comes from the voice performances of the actors. McAvoy conveys the confusion, guilt, and horror of a man caught in a seemingly endless loop of death. Ridley has a somewhat thankless role of playing The Wife who goes from joy to apprehension to horror. The real stand-out is Dafoe, who manages to convey the unhinged intensity of a man who's going to turn murderous at the drop of a hat. It says everything that his voice alone can fill you with dread each time he knocks on the door.
However, after more than a dozen loops, you find yourself thinking, "The hell with empathy! How do I kill this F****er?" Because Willem Dafoe is like the Terminator. He's the monster that's going to get you. You can't talk to him, he won't listen. You can't fight him head-on. He'll murder you and your wife no matter what. It becomes a game where you start trying to figure out how to murder Willem Dafoe. Suddenly the game becomes a "Willem Dafoe Murder Simulator". And even that doesn't end the loop.
Twelve Minutes can be rather obtuse in letting you figure how you can progress beyond reliving the same loop over and over again. As a point-and-click game, playing on a console with a controller can get awkward when you're trying to find the right pixel to click. Oh, there is a way to murder Willem Dafoe, but it's only one way, and it's optional, as opposed to the at least six ways to kill Sean Bean in Hitman 2. Figuring out how to move beyond that to solve the puzzles can become tedious when you get stuck, and it's no longer about empathy but trying to find the right pixel to click on. The answers lead to a twist that feels unearned and melodramatic and might feel like less than the sum of its parts. It aims for pathos and tragedy but ends up hoary. You may or may not have given up before then out of frustration and boredom.
Twelve Minutes is now on PC and Xbox.
How can Twelve Minutes push a reviewer from trying to solve a mystery to just wanting to kill Willem Dafoe's character?
August 19, 2021
Xbox Game Pass
Also Available On
PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
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