12 Minutes (2021)
The less said about this game, the better, but since I did in fact roll credits on it, I might as well review it so others don’t make the same mistake.
12 Minutes is a small indie game that is about a husband and wife and their home gets invaded by a cop who accuses the wife for murder. The main gimmick for the game is that it’s a Time Loop game, so you repeat the same 12 minute section of walking in the door and talking to your wife and having a cop break into your house and tie you and your wife up. And if that sounds a bit intense, it kinda is. Oh it’s nothing horrible really, but it is a bit uncomfortable watching the cop handcuff you and your wife and throw them on the ground and get tortured and hear the wife scream and plead for your life.
The game takes place in your apartment, which is fairly tiny, and the game itself is a top down point and click adventure style game. You can click on objects and interact with them or add them to the inventory. A few items can be combined, or some objects can be used on parts of the environment. But the real gameplay element is dialog choices and navigating the dialog correctly to unlock the next set of options available to you in the next loop.
Here is how the game is broken down. “Husband”... Yes, that’s your character's name, comes home and “Wife”... yup, no real names are used for the characters, has prepared a special dessert and has a surprise waiting for you. While you two get ready to sit down and have a nice desert and talk about the surprise, a cop busts in and ties both of you up, all the while accusing Wife of the murder of her father. At this point several things can happen which all reset the Time Loop, and reset you back to where you walk into the door of the apartment.
From here it’s up to you to put together items and figure out some puzzles of how to progress the story. And this is the frustrating part of the game. There is no real part where the game saves your progress of events that happen, so every loop requires you to redo everything again. It actively discourages you to try new things, because if for some reason you try to wander off the beaten path and try a different option to see if the result gets you further, you can just restart the time loop and then have to do all the same things over again, taking the full amount of time. It’s just really exhausting at points. Which brings the length of the game from a couple hours to a 5 or 6 hour game.
All of that is fine and good, the gameplay itself is a nice departure and uses classic adventure style point and click to make the game feel old and new at the same time. It’s a very basic control scheme and can be used with a single mouse button. But now comes the bad part, which is the story itself. It’s… well, let me just recap the game for you….
So be wary, because at this point I’m going to spoil the entire game.
So once you learn that you are stuck in a Time Loop, you have to convince your wife that you are stuck in the time loop, after several loops of being tied up, you can hide in the closet as soon as you get home, not letting your wife know you are home. The cop breaks in and ties your wife up, and since they both think they are alone, he beats her up, and she confesses that she murder her father and fled to a new city. You confront her and find out she is hiding a pocket watch that is extremely valuable. After a couple more loops, you can drug your wife to pass out on the bed with sleeping pills hidden in a mug of water. You can tamper with a busted light switch that will electrocute the next person who touches it. Once she passes out, you hide in the closet and wait for the cop. The cop busts in and finds the wife passed out in the bedroom and as he turns on the light in the bedroom, he gets electrocuted and passes out. You search his body and find a gun, handcuffs and a phone. You handcuff the cop, and question him, he won’t talk to you until you shoot him in the leg. Once you do that, as he bleeds out, you two talk about how she was set up and in a different city when the father actually died (Apparently he recovered from the wife’s gunshot wound and then got gunned down a week later). So now that your wife’s name is technically clear, time resets and it’s off to do the whole thing again a couple times, each time getting a bit more info.
The cop has a daughter that you call from his phone and she has cancer, so the cop is looking for this pocket watch that the wife has, so he can sell it to pay for the daughter’s cancer treatment. After a couple more loops, you call the cop’s daughter from your wife’s cell phone and convince the cop to not burst in the door, but listen to you before he accuses anyone of murder and hurts you. So the cop shows up and the three of you talk everything out. The wife gives the cop the watch to pay for the daughter’s treatment and you discuss the possibility of the real murderer. After a few more time loops, you discover that the Father had an affair with the nanny and she had a baby boy. So now your wife finds out that she has a brother from a love affair her father had with the nanny that broke up the family. That brother is the one who killed her father, and is the real murderer…..
All of that sounds a bit far fetched, but plausible and nothing really out of the ordinary for a game or even a story about murder. But, there is a bit of a twist, and this is where it gets stupid, gross and non-sensical.
The desert and surprise that is teased at the beginning of the game is that your wife is pregnant. The present is actually a baby onesie with the name Daliah on it. Which is the name of your mother. It also happens to be the name of the nanny who had an affair with the father… So, you are the brother. Your wife is the sister. So you married your sister and now got her pregnant.
Let that sink in for a moment, this whole story and game revolves around incest, and I hate it. It’s gross and disgusting and I want to know who said this was a good story to tell.
Once you (Brother Husband) find out that SisterWife is pregnant the time loop resets and you can’t believe what's happening. As time repeats several more times, you try to deal with the new information and not freak out. At this point you finally get a bit of a change of scenery, but this is where the timeline of what's happening gets out of sync and you don’t know when anything takes place. You are sitting in a new room with FatherCop and he is basically telling you that you can’t be in love with your sister… You make a choice to either continue to love her, or let her go and FatherCop is about to shoot you and you shoot him instead, killing him. Then you end up in the same apartment but this time it is completely empty. Now you can look at the pocketwatch and it sends you back to the room with FatherCop and he gives you a choice again and you choose another option and the game ends.
So basically, here is a game about impregnating your sister, where the cop that sets this whole thing in motion is your dad, but he is dead, and none of you recognize each other. It doesn’t make any sense, and even if it did, it’s a gross and disgusting story that should have never been told. You can think about this game like Requiem for a Dream; while Requiem at least is artistic and really helps convince you that drugs are horrible, you never want to watch it again once you’ve seen it. 12 Minutes is a lot like that movie, but I don’t need a movie to tell me incest is wrong and I also wouldn’t have played it if I knew that was the twist either. It’s a really bad game from not only a story aspect, but also a technical one as well.
For a game that was teased and shown off in 2015, it’s in an abysmal state. It’s an indie game that takes a couple hours to complete. It has basically a single location that is two and a half screens and most of the game is dialog. So it’s baffling that it feels like the game was put out in what feels like an early access state after this many years. There are three voice actors for the game.
BrotherHusband: James McAvoy
SisterWife: Daisy Ridley
FatherCop: Willem Defoe
A fairly big Hollywood A list cast… for a small indie game. The acting is decent, but a lot of the line reads are all over the place. It’s like no one stitched the lines together to see how they flowed and there is a massive amount of weird line reads that give off different inflections that don’t flow with the way the dialog is moving.
On top of the wonky dialogue reads, the characters have really weird ways of moving, and the animations are stiff and not like how people move around or walk. I got plenty of characters clipping through things, animations being stopped and starting causing me to miss critical moments, and a stuck cop that got stuck walking in place while SisterWife and BrotherHusband were already tied up on the ground, causing me to quit as nothing could happen.
It’s just an all around bad game that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. While Time Loop games are starting to become a bit of a trope and cliche, I do think when done right, they can be really fun. And the Point and Click Adventure game style is cool too… but the gimmicks applied to this game on top of a really grotesque twist, is just a shame.