In this modern age of sprawling open-world, third-person action-oriented, narrative-driven AAA fodder, surprises can be rare. We often have to look to smaller studios to mix things up and this month is no exception. Well, actually it could well be exceptional.
Twelve Minutes is, in my opinion one such title, and I couldn’t be more excited.
So, on the day of release I’d like to take a breather from my current 60 plus hour epic to talk you through why I believe this game is cut from a different cloth. So without further ado, here are three reasons why I think you should be excited about this special title.
For those who haven’t heard of Twelve Minutes, the first thing to strike you is the concept. It’s about as original as they come.
Twelve Minutes is set in a single, modest apartment inhabited by a man, his wife, and their unborn child. Shot entirely from above, the player-controlled husband is able to move freely about the space. He can and does interact with all and sundry in classic point-and-click style.
But only for exactly 12 minutes. And here is where the magic lies.
After this brief period of matrimonial mediocrity, there arrives a knock at the door. Enter the game’s third character, a detective who barges into your abode and changes things irrevocably. Accusing your beloved of murdering her late father, in attempting to execute the arrest, knocks out the beguiled husband and kills her in cold blood, along with your unborn child.
Game over, or is it?
Things don’t end well after the initial attempt. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And again. And again.
Taking a note out of the rogue-like genre, the game then resets exactly twelve minutes into the past, but with one catch; You, the husband, remember all of the events of the prior loop. It is somewhat akin to Mobius Digital’s Outer Wilds…only with far fewer black holes and space mysteries.
It is your job to use this information to shape the subsequent twelve minutes, searching for a resolution to end the nightmare. But how you use this information is entirely within your gift. Reveal something of what you know to your wife and, understandably, she may need some convincing. Say nothing and you’re fated to eternally repeat history.
This is nothing if not an intriguing concept, and a far cry from the cookie-cutter format so many games repeat today. The mind behind this departure from gaming’s status quo is Luis Antonio, a former employee of both Rockstar and Ubisoft acclaim. A singular tour de force, Antonio is candid about his cultural influences in creating Twelve Minutes.
For me, the two that resonate the loudest are Hitchcock’s seminal Rear Window, and Groundhog Day. Both exceptional films in their own rights.
The first sees a man confined to his bed who follows the exploits of his neighbours, slowly piecing together his own narrative and ultimately solving a murder. It is considered to be Hitchcock’s finest, drawing four academy award nominations, and was even added into United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
The second is a film so good as to have been adopted into modern diction, defined as, “a situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way”.
Whether these ideas mush together to transcend their respective influences remains to be seen. But you have to admit; for a game, it’s nothing if not original.
Don’t Take My Word for it
Moving beyond the premise, the second reason is that you don’t need to take my word for it.
The quality of the narrative has been, in my opinion, rubber-stamped as “top banana” already. The reason is that the calibre of the voice actors bringing Antonio’s vision to life is about as good as it gets. The director has drawn from the finest Hollywood has to offer; icons of the Silver screen and goliaths of the industry. James McAvoy voices the husband and Willem Defoe the detective.
Oh, and there’s Daisy Ridley, too.
Okay, okay, I jest. Of course, all three of these actors are AAA-listers known and loved by countless millions for performances across innumerable films and franchises.
But lets be absolutely clear. This is not normal for any game, let alone an Indie development. Studios with the deepest pockets rarely snag such clear talent. Even rarer do those performances do anything but present the opportunity to put a familiar face on the cover; their performances often seemingly phoned in.
Anyone remember Kevin Spacey’s performance in COD: Advanced Warfare? No? Me neither.
Check out James McAvoy speaking about his role in upcoming title Twelve Minutes
It seems Twelve Minutes wants to buck that trend. One of the first insights we had into the development of the game opens to McAvoy’s familiar features. He then proceeds to tell audiences, in no uncertain terms, how excited he was to help bring the game to life. In his words,
“It was a joy to participate in this project and lend my voice to the main character. And I hope you have as much fun playing it as I did making it”.James McAvoy
This is high praise indeed.
Consider too, that the game is shot entirely from above. At no point do you see the characters faces, there is no “mo-cap” to speak of. This is a game that will absolutely live and die on the narrative and its portrayal. Remember, too, that these actors are undoubtedly accustomed to million-dollar paydays, too. McAvoy reportedly made over $2.75m last year alone; we doubt the total budget for Twelve Minutes comes close to this amount.
So, if money isn’t the defining factor here, it is then that it is simply unimaginable for any one of these exceptional actors turning up for a half-baked script. Make no mistake, each read the full story before committing to the part; they have reputations to maintain after all. In the absence of a AAA studio budget, and in the context of the cliché that acting in games still no doubt carries in tinsel town, the quality of the writing would need to be stratospheric to have snagged such talent.
This all bodes extremely well for Luis Antonio’s inaugural game.
A Creator’s Paradise
The final reason that I’m excited is a little more personal. First and foremost, I’m looking forward to playing Twelve Minutes. But as a fairly laissez-faire content creator, I’m in equal parts looking forward to recording Twelve Minutes for my return to Any Button Gaming’s Let’s Play series.
Whether this is by design, or simply a happy consequence of Antonio’s vision, Twelve Minutes is the perfect game to Let’s Play.
Just think about it for a moment. With average YouTube viewing times of just a few minutes, short-form media is clearly on the rise. Committing to an hour-long video trudging through yet another Soulsborne simulator is simply beyond most people’s attention threshold.
But a game that literally resets every twelve minutes provides the perfect dip-in, dip out opportunity for viewers.
Equally, as a part-time creator with a full-time job, it’s perfect for me too. Grabbing an hour or two in the middle of a working day is no easy feat. Whilst lockdown has provided a little more flexibility on that score, taking 20 minutes out is a much more welcome proposition. Got time for a quick coffee break? Thats today’s episode recorded. 30 minute respite between meetings? That’s tomorrow’s episode in the bag. Job done.
Twelve Minutes centres on your less than extravagant apartment, where scenes go from intimate, to intimidating in, well, twelve minutes
The format too lends itself to repeat viewing. The idea that the story unfolds, little by little with each loop, lends itself to classic chapter-esque storytelling. The viewer is left ravenous for the next tidbit of detail that will, undoubtedly, be revealed in the next episode.
It invites cliff-hangers at the end of every reset, each attempt unfolding much more like a chapter in a book than a level in a game, per se. By all accounts, this could be gaming’s interpretation of a page-turner, the player and creator each hungry for the next scintillating twist in the tale.
And, of course, there will be twists.
Right now, all we know of are the events of the first 12 minutes. The first loop. But, beyond that, Antonio has been careful not to give anything away.
Twelve Minutes has reportedly up to eight hours of playtime, which, by my fag-packet maths, makes exactly 40 twelve minute episodes. Will the couple remain in the apartment for the full 480 minutes? Are there any as yet unrevealed characters to complete the dysfunctional dynamic? It’s anyone’s guess. But keeping players and audiences engaged over that length of time, in such confined quarters, we expect more than a few surprises along the road.
Either way, expect to see a lot of content coming to a platform near you this Thursday.
Bonus Reasons to Get Excited
Twelve Minutes releases on Microsoft Windows, Xbox One and Xbox series X/S this Thursday, 19th of August. But the best part of all, is it will be free to play on Xbox Games Pass on Cloud, console, and Windows PC. With Games Pass once again knocking it out of the park, what’s not to love?
But if all of this hasn’t wetted your whistle, perhaps this will get you over the line. Aside from formal approval from Professor X, The Green Goblin, and Ray, Twelve Minutes has had the nod from true gaming royalty. The one and only Hideo Kojima has officially joined the expectant fan base awaiting the debut game from Antonio.
So there you have it, a whole bunch of reasons to get excited about what could well be a contender for this year’s Game of the Year. But who knows? Whilst I could be well off the mark, it just seems there’s too much behind this game for it to fail. But whether it soars high or tanks harder than Square Enix’s foray into the Marvel Universe, all will be revealed soon. Join me and ABG as we Let’s Play through the full story, with the first episode airing on launch day, Thursday 19th of August.
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