Twelve Minutes is designed as an adventure game with a twist. This psychological visual novel, with its complicated mystery, Groundhog Day-like time-loop and top-shelf voice talent—featuring actors James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley and William Defoe—initially feels like something special and fun. With a bit of gameplay, though, you find it has some major problems.
The setup is simple. Your character returns home to a small mid-city apartment to meet a wife who’s eager to share some wonderful news. The two of you are going to have a baby.
But there’s not much time to celebrate, because an angry cop will soon be banging on your door to accuse your young wife of murder. And if you open the door, he’ll bind you both and likely kill you. If you don’t open the door, he’ll kick it down … and kill you. Talk about double jeopardy!
But there’s one other thing: For some mysterious reason you’re now caught in a Twilight Zone-like time loop. And each time the expected series of events rushes to its conclusion, the clock resets and you must begin the previous 10 minutes again.
If you try to grab your wife and run away: Start over. Kill the raging cop: Start over. You must use the items in your apartment, along with many loops of repeated time, to piece together the clues to this mystery—and hopefully find a way out of the terror you’ve been thrust into.
The basic idea behind the game and its story—all seen from a camera placed directly overhead in a bird’s-eye view—is interesting. And it gives you the immediate impression of being part of an artsy mystery film.
On top of that, each clock rewind can give you new information to work with. And you come to realize there are quite a number of story elements to reveal, areas to hide away in, and items to pick up and use as you attempt to save your wife and yourself. And, obviously, the desire to save your spouse is a positive thing.
Without giving too much away plot-wise, I can still say that this game is rife with foul content. Through the course of the repeated time loops a young pregnant woman is bound, beaten, kicked and shot in the head (to bleed out in a large pool of her own blood) multiple times. And as a plot-critical action, you must secretly drug her yourself several times.
Your character is also motivated to commit various acts of disturbing bloody torture on someone. Suicide can take place in at least one of the time loops. And characters in the story are shot, stabbed and strangled.
Ultimately, 12 Minutes reveals that there’s something of a psychosexual fantasy at play in this mystery. And we hear a story packed with amnesia, theft, deception, murder, infidelity, cancer, an extramarital affair, an out-of-wedlock birth and incest.
On top of all that content, the dialogue is often riddled with f- and s-words as well as misuses of both God’s and Jesus’ names.
The bottom line here is that there’s more than a twisted mystery at play in this exceedingly twisted M-rated game. This is a nasty story that sometimes feels purposely misogynistic, one that’s fraught with unsettling, wince-worthy choices and actions.
Twelve Minutes will certainly grab attention with its promise of star power and creativity. But gamers who venture here will likely make note of its disturbing ugliness … and it won’t take 12 minutes.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.