Luís António — Twelve Minutes (2021)

During the week I played through Twelve Minutes, a video game from Luís António & Annapurna Interactive, and I need to vent a little! I’ve been looking forward to this title for a while, a) because I like games that centre story; b) because I take Annapurna’s imprimatur as indicative of a level of quality; and c) because its time-loop mechanic sounded unique.

I’m more or less fighting the urge to write something longer here, because generally I don’t like to write negative pieces – if I don’t enjoy something I tend to just not write about it, and move on. Twelve Minutes, however, proved to be such a disappointment on several different levels that I have to at least say something brief.

In short, this is a game with six single-screen environments1, approximately two-dozen objects with which one can interact2, and four characters, only two of whom are anything more than a plot device.

The headline actors are wasted on a script that is cumbersome and poorly thought out. The storytelling, which requires a certain density because it needs to develop in twelve minute increments, is doled out in a heavy-handed manner that elicited from me an eye-roll or groan with most of its beats. The less said about the final twist, upon which the entire thing depends, the better. Suffice to say that it makes so little sense as to undermine any affection for the characters that the player may have developed despite the rest of the game’s glaring flaws. I found myself, hours after finishing the game, shaking my head at how poorly conceived the whole thing is, and how badly it’s executed.

Worst of all, the act of playing Twelve Minutes quickly becomes repetitive and unenjoyable. Even if the player is able to parse the game’s often non-sensical logic so as to understand what they need to do next, they are required to play out the rote preceding steps for a sixth time to reach an inflection point. This includes the game compelling the player to repeatedly drug their pregnant wife into a state of unconsciousness – just one of several instances of abhorrent violence upon a pregnant woman, about which the game does nothing to warn the player.

OK, I’m going to stop myself there. Twelve Minutes was first previewed in 2015, and I found it difficult to believe that the finished product some six years later was so slight, and so thoroughly disappointing in terms of both storytelling and game mechanics. At the time of writing, the game is available on Game Pass3; however, even if you’re a subscriber to that service, I can only recommend that you play it if you wish to be perplexed, disappointed, and then infuriated.

  1. And, if we’re being honest, it’s really just three small rooms and a cupboard.   ↩︎

  2. Again, fewer than ten of them are either of any importance to the game’s plot or required for the furtherance of its action. ↩︎

  3. And, honestly, thank goodness for that! If I had paid £20.99 for it I would be livid.   ↩︎

Adam Wood @adam