“Autumn; The weather is nasty as always. While you are being sent to the real bus, the rain continues to stubbornly wet you. Thunder and lightning strikes as if to make sure nothing pleasant will happen for the rest of the day. When you arrive at the apartment, all the gloom dissipates, and you relax with the confidence of approaching your home and the joy of seeing your spouse. The neighbors are quiet, everything is diametrically opposed to the outside image – in a good way. You forgot the key, but your wife hid it in the flower pot by the door, you enter the house slowly. He’s in the bathroom, but it doesn’t take long for him to come up to you and give you a kiss. “I gave you a surprise,” he says. You sit at the table together. He turns off the lights, turns on the radio. As sweet music fills the room, she takes a slice of your favorite cake and puts it in front of you. “I’m pregnant, we’re going to have a child,” she says. You seem to be dizzy with satisfaction. When you wake up, you realize that you are slowly dancing in your partner’s arms. Everything is like a dream, the taste of cake, the newest member of your little family, and the loveliness of dance… But what is that? Pattadanak knocks on the door. Before you know what’s going on, a man who says he’s a policeman comes in harshly, handcuffs you both, and lays you on the ground. While you are trying to ask what happened, the man comes to you and everything goes dark. So that’s it… Then, hop, you go back to the beginning again, the first moment you entered the door. ”
The first trailer of 12 Minutes that I watched was more or less this kind of thing. Afterwards, we also tried to explain the events to our wife, but let me not prolong it. In any case, it was an impressive mise-en-scène and the concept of the game and the way it did it seemed quite extraordinary. This being the case, this little game turned out to be one of the productions that I was most curious about this year. Well was it worth the wait? I have to give a very clichéd and political answer to this question: both yes and no. Yes, because I found a game with really out of line gameplay, gripping in a different form, giving way to a million foxes before I saw the Credits screen, and stitched in many ways. No, because while it could have been a classic, this is a game that turned straight with some design preferences and restrictions. And, presumably, just because of these constraints and preferences, a significant number of players will sneer at themselves, or even worse, give up on experiencing the game. Let’s dive into a little more detail on this twelve-minute brain-washing cycle sequence.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
“You’ve always tried. You’ve always been defeated. Let it be. Try again. Defeat again. Defeat even better.” This much-quoted aphorism of Samuel Beckett actually sums up the gameplay of 12 Minutes. While watching Boss Level again recently, this idea came to my mind: All games are stuck in a one-to-one time loop, in a way. For example, the Souls series. However, you will appreciate that it is a different packaging, a different excitement to feed this into a story. Especially in the first hours of the game, this packaging shines very brightly; Trying different things, doing them with the logic of click-and-go adventure games, combining different things in our inventory, I don’t know, is quite enjoyable and gives people the feeling of being stuck in that loop, up to a point. Since the place you live in is a sixty square meter flat, it doesn’t take that long to find different things to try, because the objects we can interact with are not that many in number. For example, what you want to do this time is a strategy that is likely to end the cycle in a bloody way, but it can give you valuable information about the story and you can use them in the next cycle. In this form, the story undresses itself, almost like a matryoshka doll, comparing one to other dolls as it unfolds. But here, after a while, some problems start to show, unfortunately.
The first is the problem of repeating dialogs in each loop. “Well, don’t we always live the same twelve minutes (actually ten minutes, anyway), why are you complaining?” I’m about to hear you say. Not exactly that. Think about it this way, just like when you live the twelve minutes to the twentieth, when your wife kisses you to the twenty-first, do you give the exact same reflection as the previous time? You know, do you make a one-to-one sentence with the same intonation, from the point to the comma? Unfortunately, you can say all the old dialogues, except for the newly added options to the loop, and you even have to say some of them over and over to progress in the game. Well, that totally undermines the realism of the loop (?!), the magic of the glowing packaging I just mentioned. You know, one of the things that the game marketed the most before it was released was the voiceover team, which was almost a stargate. Frankly, as much as I appreciate James McAvoy and Daisy Ridley as actors, the only person I think has really done an impressive job here is Willem Dafoe. Well, when the performances are meh, one cannot help but lament that instead of spending the money on this, they should have tried to make a dialogue system like in Hades. At that time, we could be faced with a truly legendary game.
Another problem is the necessity of doing some things in an obvious order, which I just talked about through the dialogue sequence. This situation manifests itself from neat to beautiful, especially at the end of the game. For example, we convinced our spouse that we are in the loop, but we cannot make a plan how we can neutralize the man with him. Because the story of the game, but in an obvious form, obliges the man to be neutralized and the lady not to be seen at the same time. And this, unfortunately, starts to become a detail that pushes people a bit, especially when trying to figure out what to do, and it blunts people’s curiosity and creativity in problem solving, unfortunately. I wish puzzles had challenged us instead, unfortunately the difficulty remained a bit artificial as it is. Lastly, there is a minor issue that I can complain about: Some objects are not very visible, and they bring to mind the old click-to-go adventures about pixel hunting (for example, the mobile phone is in the closet in the middle of the clothes, it may be difficult to see it, I got burned, don’t get burned). Or why do I have to open the cabinet door to interact with the polaroid photo on the cabinet, friend?
Opposite corner and closing in the tenth minute
Although it is based on a very original idea, as you can see, things are not perfect on the gameplay side. However, the game still plays itself in a form because the story is very interesting and as I just said, as you open it like a doll, something more comes out of it, and it manages to connect you to the game in a form. In addition to being interesting, it is obvious from every aspect that it was written with real passion with finely thought details. For example, you can find a reference even in a painting that is placed in that tiny space and looks very ordinary at first glance. Even in the tables in the apartment section, which we can consider as the practice part of the game, there are valuable details concerning the end of the game. On the other hand, having more than one ending to be seen is a good excuse to go back and dig up other details after seeing one end of the game. Although it varies from person to person, I think that an average of four to five hours of play time to see a single ending is not bad at all. Also, I’m a plot-twist guy, I come to all kinds of fishing rods, what should I do?
Naturally, unlike me, there are some who find the sharp bends of the story exaggerated. The problem of colors and tastes, it is impossible to say anything. However, Twelve Minutes has been a production that is the result of an admirable effort. I wish it didn’t have artificial difficulties, it would do more work in terms of the naturalness of the repetitive dialogues throughout the cycles, but I am sure that it will remain as a special production that we will talk about for a long time.