TA Playlist Wrap-Up: Twelve Minutes

The TA Playlist Team - February 8th 2022

As the first month of the new year, January is named for Janus, the Roman god of doorways, time, and beginnings and endings. How appropriate that January's TA Playlist game features a man stuck in a time loop that begins with him arriving through his apartment door and multiple possible endings based on your actions. Janus would be pleased with this tribute, but how did the TA community feel about it? Let's dig into some stats and feedback from this month's TA Playlist feature – Twelve Minutes.

Like all the games featured in January's TA Playlist Publisher Spotlight poll, Twelve Minutes was published by Annapurna Interactive. Since its founding in 2016 as an offshoot of movie/television producer Annapurna Pictures, Annapurna Interactive has focused on publishing games from Indie developers that are "personal, emotional, and original." That's certainly true of the four games nominated for this month's Playlist — The Artful Escape, Last Stop, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Twelve Minutes — but it was the latter game that won the poll with 35.36% of the total votes cast.

Twelve Minutes is a point-and-click adventure game from Indie developer Luis Antonio, a veteran of studios such as Rockstar Games and Ubisoft. Billed as "An interactive thriller about a man stuck in a time loop," the game is designed from a top-down perspective, and takes place almost entirely inside the apartment of the unnamed main character and his wife.

Upon arriving home one evening, the player character, referred to only as "the Husband," is greeted by his wife with a special dessert and some exciting news – the wife just found out that she's pregnant. Before the couple can fully digest the news, or their dessert, there's a knock at the door from a man who claims to be a police detective. The Intruder barges in and soon has both the Husband and the wife handcuffed on the floor, accusing the wife of murdering her father and asking where she's hidden his pocket watch. She denies all knowledge, and soon things take a violent turn – the Intruder chokes out the Husband, who suddenly finds himself staggering back in at the front door to start the evening again.

The Husband retains all the knowledge he gained from previous loops, but everything and everyone else has been completely reset, so how do you proceed? Do you try to explain to your wife what's going on? Convince her to leave? Or ignore her and search the apartment for clues about the murder or the mysterious pocket watch? The choices are yours, and it's a good bet that you'll try all of those options and many more before arriving at one of the game's endings.

Cylon 118 said:

I really like puzzle games and this one did not disappoint. I had a great time just doing it myself the first time around taking many hours looping over and over again, gaining bits and pieces of information and marvelling at how so few objects in such a tiny space can be used in so many ways to produce so many different outcomes.
Given the limited setting – just one apartment, with a main room, bedroom, bathroom, and a small closet – there really are a surprising number of interactable points, and different ways you can go about using the items in the apartment to change the outcome of events.

RadAdam said:

I definitely stumbled into a few things by accident. I feel bad about some of my more malevolent ideas... until they worked. I get a little frustrated when things don't work at all, given how much freedom is offered otherwise. It makes me wonder if I'm not clicking or dragging fast enough, or if I really can't just use X on Y. There are a limited number of items and interactive things, that I would think any combination should produce some result. Usually, a bad one, as I've found out, haha.
Dresden N7 said:
My favorite memory of the experience was doing something experimental to see how the game would react and then seeing that the programmers actually predicted my behavior and had programmed a response. Amazing when devs do that.
All those possibilities combined with a fairly short window of opportunity in each loop did lead to frustration for some of our commenters, however.

Iceman2pnt0 said:

I found the gradual unfolding of the story pretty well done, but I'm far enough along now to where doing the same thing over and over with only slight variation, hoping to get a new outcome, is getting old and a bit frustrating. Sometimes a new dialog option will open up a whole new set of possibilities, and sometimes it will be a complete dead end.

SilentJay76 said:
I really didn't enjoy this game at all, to the point where I gave up after a handful of loops. The controls are annoying (probably better on PC) and the repetition is mind-numbing, made even worse by the trial-and-error gameplay, made even worse by incredibly tight timing to "complete" a loop successfully even if you know what you need to do. I reached for a walkthrough pretty quickly and still struggled to grind on. It's just no fun at all.
As we've seen before in the Playlist forums, though, "no fun" is a matter of opinion, and many people really enjoyed the game even despite getting lost now and then.

CIP15 said:

I Started without a guide and really enjoyed the game but eventually got stuck and had to look for a guide to finish the story. Overall a good story and easy gameplay. One of my favorites of 2021
Cakau said:
Had lots of fun with this one, trying to discover everything by myself, but eventually had to look at a guide to get the full 1000G. Really enjoyable experience!
It seemed that most players had to resort to a guide at one point to get to the 100%, thanks to a few fairly obtuse achievement descriptions and some very specific choices needed to see all the endings. But as long-time Playlister Allgorhythm pointed out, following a guide from the start can detract from the overall experience.

Allgorhythm said:

I liked the game. My feeling is the game is more enjoyable if you go in blind. You pay more attention to the story than if you know exactly what to click on and what dialog options to choose because you are following a guide.
There were segments I had to replay quite a few times because I was not fast enough or did not follow the optimal sequence. This is part of the fun factor of the game--figuring out how to optimize the time-motion aspects of the 12-minute game loop.
The plot revelations have impact. You start the game thinking it's a murder mystery. When your wife is arrested, you think you have to prove her innocence. Later, you find out there are complexities within complexities. Players who go in blind are going to have unique experiences. My first playthrough was very different from the one I had to do because I failed to return to reality. When you know the story and your objectives, you are going to take a far different path than when you are feeling things out & exploring your different choices. In short, this is a game of discovery. Its appeal is to let the game come to you.
Allgorhythm's philosophy seems to be right in line with what the developer intended. In an interview with Gamereactor, Antonio had this message for players: "You know, it's a slow-burning experience. Don't try to get everything and win anything, and just take it all in slowly. And if you're stuck, it's healthy to be stuck and frustrated and lost, it's part of the experience, so don't go quickly to the internet to find out how to move forward, because it's going to spoil, and the game is all about the knowledge gap."

Of course that approach isn't for everyone, especially here at TA, so no doubt there were plenty of players who went right in with a guide at the ready. The TA Twelve Minutes Walkthrough, written by DynamicWolfNLD helped a lot of people get the completion and still managed to avoid spoilers as much as possible.

RiBoP said:

I did play it with a guide because of some limited time due to GTASC although the WT owner did manage to write the guide without giving away much of the story, so well done there! I do think the game is more fun in trying to unravel the plot like some others mentioned. However, I would never have gotten all achievements without the guide I think [wink]
Osmo76 said:
While I completely agree, often "these types" of games require you do an extra playthrough if you are not following a guide. That's why I resort to a walkthrough most of the time. No chapter select and missable collectibles/conversations are a killer.
Piemanns Bakery said:
Whew yeah, this game certainly had some unexpected twists in storyline... I would agree with a lot of what others have said, certainly wasn't sitting there overly impressed with the voice acting and without being told who they were, wouldn't have had a clue beyond Dafoe. And super thanks to the walkthrough author (as well as all walkthrough authors) cause definitely no 100% without!
Speaking of the voice acting, if you've heard nothing else at all about Twelve Minutes, you'll likely have heard about the three Hollywood-caliber actors who make up the main cast. Piemanns Bakery already mentioned Willem Dafoe, who portrays the Intruder, and was probably the most recognizable actor in the game. The Husband was voiced by James McAvoy, while Daisy Ridley played the wife, but since both actors masked their natural accents to portray an American couple, they were harder to distinguish. Or, as one commenter put it, showing some UK pride:

Rinckenstock said:

Decent game but a waste of British talent, why get a Scotsman and an Englishwoman to star in your game at whatever rate that cost, then have both of them affect an American accent? Just get some hack dogshit American in the first place and save yourself a few quid if that's what you're going for. Or actually have them sound English and Scottish, preferably. Other than that, quite good.
The big-name actors were a big part of the publicity around the game's release, including this "Making Of" video with interviews from all three: However, many commenters in our forums were somewhat critical of their performances:

wildwest08 said:

The voice acting was not great, I concur with the forum that the people felt very cardboard cutout reading their lines. Dafoe was the best, but still the emotion was not there and you needed it with this game. They were all boring and monotone.
RiBoP said:
Interesting game with an absolutely impressive cast! However, I don't really feel that the big AAA actors add much value to the game, Dafoe has a very recognizable and likable voice obviously but the other two voices were not really that impressive, like some others said here also.

R1KM4N said:
I really enjoyed it. Decided to use the walkthrough for my playthrough, I think I would have struggled without. I really liked the gameplay and some of the puzzles, I just wish the game was a little longer. Willem Dafoe was brilliant in it, and although I saw both James McAvoy and Daisy Ridley in the credits, neither especially stood out compared to Dafoe.
This commenter put it most succinctly:
Catching ZZZs said:
Professor X and Rey had no chemistry. Green Goblin was good, as always. [smile]
Although this comment (one of Trombonafide's several excellent posts this month) provided a bit more substantive analysis:

Trombonafide said:

I think the issues with the voice acting most likely stem from the director or whomever not recognizing that acting and voice acting are two very different things, and not adjusting the direction or writing to fit that. It requires much more nuance to display emotions when you don't have your physical presence to emphasize or compliment these factors. Daisy Ridley and James McAvoy are perfectly capable actors, but this project didn't give them the right medium to flex those talents. Willem Dafoe is always going to be a standout just because his voice is so unique, but I feel even he was underutilized here.
Playlist Trivia: Twelve Minutes leaned heavily on its voice actors, but many games have well-known Hollywood celebrities in their casts. Just in the last few months, we've seen the likes of Jack Black, Tim Curry, John Cleese, Ben Kingsley and many others. But who was the first big-name actor to be featured in a TA Playlist game?
Another somewhat divisive aspect of the game was the story itself. In interviews and developer blogs, Luis Antonio said that he drew inspiration for this game from masters of the psychological horror film genre such as Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Fincher, in crafting the plot. That's evident in the multi-layered story, with plot twists that repeatedly turn the narrative on its head. We'll avoid any explicit spoilers here, but this particularly cheeky comment gives a bit of a clue:

CasualExile said:

There's a lot I could say about this game, but all I need to tell you is that it's the best family game you'll ever play.
Once again, that aspect of the game worked well for some commenters but not for everyone.

Dresden N7 said:

This game is alright. I know the critical reception to this game was pretty rough, but I liked how dark the story got and the terrible things you had to do to beat the story. The only thing I dislike is the last 20 minutes or so where the narrative completely falls apart.
unequalized joe said:
Did anyone else feel the game didn't warrant the twist? It was a perfectly fine mystery, but it felt like the (spoiler) angle was shoe-horned in for shock value rather than for thematic elements. There are some great psychological thriller films that can pull off such a twist — I won't spoil any of those — but this felt like an awkward curveball.
ColdCutter said:
Na I enjoyed the twist at the end there. It was a pretty good game, it didn't overstay its welcome felt original but maybe was a little boring at times if you couldn't figure out what to do next.
ElusiveEagle said:
I didn't know quite what to expect, but I enjoyed it. I wouldn't say it was an A+ game, but it had a cool concept and executed on it well.
AcaelusT said:
I played this game based on all the reviews and originality of the idea.... But I can't say I loved it. Started well but some of the endings just made no sense.... It totally lost me halfway, lost interest.
maxbybakablack said:
I played this on day one on Game Pass, and it was one of the most disappointing game I've ever played. Worst story ever, with a rigid gameplay and technical insufficiency. That was a hype-game, but the disaster behind all this hype was huge =/
SicklyPlague said:
The story was interesting, and the twist really caught me off guard. I have no idea if the watch was just supposed to be the physical representation of time, or if there was some other meaning in the story. If I was not so focused on moving the game forward I may have had time to notice. The topic of mindfulness made more of the story make sense, but did not answer all of my questions.
FrogDog001 said:
The game was certainly...interesting? I wouldn't say I hate the ending, but it definitely falls under a trope not many like. Plus the truth was something I was able to piece together before the actual reveal based on context clues from previous loops, which was nice, but I still don't favour the truth. It's something I wanted to be wrong about.
So we definitely had a good mix of reactions in the forums. And that's okay… the purpose of TA Playlist isn't to find a game that everyone loves, but to experience the game together and discuss the pros and cons. It can also be a good forum for discussing similar games that users might also enjoy. The time-loop mechanics of Twelve Minutes brought out a couple of suggestions:

Steffs said:

If you enjoy a time loop, Outer Wilds is not only the superior time loop game, but an all-time greatest game ever contender. That's a story that will stay with you!
Dresden N7 said:
The superior time loop title on Game Pass is The Forgotten City, hands down. [...] It's a well-crafted Groundhog Day-style game with lots of ancient Roman history and a narrative that surprisingly holds up through to the end.
Both Outer Wilds and The Forgotten City are excellent suggestions, and both are currently available on Game Pass, so if you liked the time loop mechanic of Twelve Minutes but were less impressed with the other aspects, these might be some other good options!

This was another strong month for TA Playlist stats. Not as strong as December, of course, with pretty much everyone with an Xbox playing Forza Horizon 5, but still, quite a few people joined us for this short point-and-click thriller.

The TA community unlocked 15,460 achievements in Twelve Minutes during January, equivalent to more than 1,288 full playthroughs of the game. Those achievements were worth a grand total of 1,287,620 Gamerscore and 2,129,486 TrueAchievment Score. The most frequently unlocked achievement was Fluidity, with 1,987 unlocks during the month, while Gardener saw the least unlocks, at 1,033. So while most everyone watered the flowers at least once, only about half saw all three blooms.

In total, 2,658 gamers unlocked at least one achievement in January, with 2,221 starting it for the very first time and 976 getting the full completion. That leads to quite a large shout-out list this month – 695 of you intrepid gamers managed to go from start to finish during January, many within a single day. Unfortunately, the shout-out list is so long that we can't include it in the article, but we do have you all down in a Google doc!

Playlist Trivia Answer:

What was the first TA Playlist game to feature a big-name actor in its voice cast? Well, "big-name" is a bit subjective — there were a couple of actors in Alan Wake who had minor roles in film and TV – but most would agree that the appearance of Mark Hamill in the role of The Watcher from Darksiders would be the first major Hollywood actor to make an appearance in May 2017, the second month of the Playlist.

Thanks to all the folks who chimed in with their thoughts on Twelve Minutes. We expect the forum chatter surrounding the February game to be a bit more positive overall, as this month's choice, BioShock Remastered, is widely regarded as one of the best atmospheric FPS games of all time. You can participate by earning an achievement in any version of the game (360, Remastered, or any Regional variants), and don't forget to join us in the Spoiler-Free and Spoiler Discussion Threads to give us your thoughts. We'll see you there!

Track My Progress in Twelve Minutes