Twelve Minutes (Review)

Yes, I said “narrative” because that’s the focus of this game.  If anything, it’s more of an interactive narrative experience than anything else.  You need to know this going into the game because if you’ve never played interactive narrative games before, Twelve Minutes might feel shockingly difficult to get through.


GAMEPLAY

You’ll use your brain more than anything else…

I did jump ahead a bit in that intro: this game is an interactive narrative.  And in that is an immediate problem: it’s 2021 and point-and-click methods are so very archaic as most people will likely be playing this on a controller.  Let’s get this statement out of the way immediately: moving a cursor around the screen with a controller is terribly unintuitive.  Add to that the fact that movement is also tied to moving the cursor around, and you’re in for a very clumsy experience.  The bulk of the game is problem-solving, though, so I can’t pretend that the clumsy experience takes away from the core gameplay element: being a detective.  You’ll use your brain more than anything else, and in that realm the game offers up a very satisfying loop.  It’s almost a narrative roguelike where your knowledge is the permanent upgrade.  You’ll create scenarios through your actions that help you learn about what’s going on, and in that sense, there is a genuinely haunting thrill.  Yes, some of it requires some manipulation of characters in ways that may not seem favorable, but you can’t get the information any other way.  Through sheer use of mental problem solving, the narrative puzzle slowly unravels, and the fruits of your mental labor are the highlight of the gameplay.  In fact, sometimes you might just get ahead and outsmart the game’s design.  For a game that is in and of itself a single scenario occurring in a very small apartment, there is a surprising amount of dynamics to controlling the outcomes of just three characters.


CONTENT

…you might want to wait for a sale…

Remember how I said you should prepare to do this in one sitting?  It doesn’t take long to get to the ending: maybe 4-6 hours depending on your methodology.  At $25, this comes in a bit steep since the only thing left after you beat it is achievements.  For the vast majority of people, this is a single playthrough with nothing left except those achievements.  Thus, even for completionists, there isn’t much else to look forward to.  If you don’t have Game Pass, then it’s safe to say you might want to wait for a sale if you’re looking to spend your money wisely.


PRESENTATION

Both James McAvoy and Daisy Ridley are throwaways.

Let’s start with the important part: they hired professional silver-screen actors to voice the characters.  This was a waste: only Willem Dafoe performs his part well.  Both James McAvoy and Daisy Ridley are throwaways.  Why they had Daisy and James use their fake American accent costs in the level of emotion and performance: neither is convincing any more than B-grade videogame voice actors.  They only needed Willem Dafoe who was clearly emotionally in it as a standout performance.  In addition, it seems some recording samples were taken separately from others, as large audio quality changes in voice snippets can be heard. Moving into the graphical presentation is what one might call serviceable.  With what other indie devs have been able to pull off, I would happily say money could have been saved by not hiring Daisy or James and put a little more into the graphical department.  Or more specifically, the animation.  The animations get really clunky and strange, so don’t be surprised if you suddenly chuckle or things feel a bit cheapened by how animations play out in your off-the-cuff test scenarios.  Fortunately, the story itself is a bit of a redeemer.  I basically can’t say anything without spoiling it but know that it’s one of those twisted stories that, while it has some holes, makes you cover your mouth when you realize what’s actually happening, here.


CONCLUSION

…this game sticks with you until you finish it…

This is a rough one because I review games as a whole and don’t just pick and choose what I want to run with as a final summation.  On the one hand, this game sticks with you until you finish it: the way I had to manipulate the game world and its characters is absolutely haunting, and Willem Dafoe is a standout performance in a story that is meant to have shock value and make you question decisions.  On the other hand is everything else: a clumsy point-and-click UI, poor value despite its lower cost, a waste of budget on two out of the three voice actors, and abysmal animation work.  Summation, you ask?  On the one hand it tickled my brain’s naughty bits and I applaud that, but on the other hand, everything else was mediocre.

I give Twelve Minutes

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