12 Minutes hands-on preview: Dying for answers

This time-looping adventure with its grisly premise and compelling narrative shows great promise, even in its earliest stages.

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Picture this: You're settling in for a romantic date night with your wife. She's teasing some sort of special occasion. You can tell because dessert's in the fridge, and she's gone to the trouble of putting together a candlelit dinner. Just as you settle in to see what she has to tell you, there's a knock on the door. It's a policeman. He bursts in and accuses your wife of murder, then handcuffs her. You interfere, and he throws you to the floor. Without a word, or any real cause, he starts beating you until you're unconscious.

And then, you wake up. No, you weren't dreaming, but all is suddenly as it was moments before...only you can remember everything that just happened. It turns out you're now stuck in a 12-minute loop, and you've got to race against the clock to figure out some sort of resolution...before it's too late.

Echoes of works like The Shining, Memento, and even Groundhog Day can be felt strongly within ceative director Luis Antonio's surreal 12 Minutes. The Annapurna Interactive-published point-and-click adventure is one of the more unique indie games on the ID@Xbox slate, and it's already showing heaps of promise. If you're into games with meaty puzzles, enigmatic storytelling, and in-your-face, uncomfortable situations, you'll find a lot to love in 12 Minutes. 

I went hands-on for a brief session with 12 Minutes during the Xbox Showcase as part of the pre-E3 2019 festivities, and came away impressed. While the brief half-hour look alongside Antonio himself was indicative of a very early build, it communicated everything it needed to, from tone to satisfying gameplay loop -- and more. It's clearly an ambitious project that's well-deserving of your time and attention. 

I played 12 Minutes in a group of three, and we played as a collective, helping to make decisions on how we'd proceed together. At first, we ran through the introductory segment of the game, which sets the stage for its labyrinthine "deja vu"-styled story. You, playing as the husband in the narrative, interact with your wife in a seemingly unlimited number of ways. As previously stated, she's got some news she wants to share with you, and a romantic dinner planned. You can click around the environment and interact with various items from a top-down perspective that takes place in your apartment dwelling. Your inventory is easily accessible from the top of the screen in a nod to old-school adventure games. From there, you can drag an item to another item to combine the two, or drag the item to an object in the environment to use it. It's an intuitive interface that's easy to pick up and play for gamers of any skill level. 

You can proceed through the story just about any way you'd like. Once you're well into your second loop, conversations will begin to change. You can try to tell your wife, for instance, about the cop you just saw breaking into your home and assaulting the two of you. Perhaps you want to tell her about how you know everything that's about to happen on your third loop. She might demand some sort of proof. That's when you rifle through the dresser drawer in your bedroom and present the unopened present to her in an attempt to show her your newfound "clairvoyance." In my demo, she demanded additional proof, which I didn't get the chance to provide. Seconds later, the "cop" was banging on the door again and the entire grisly ordeal began again.

In another loop, Luis himself pointed out a knife on the kitchen counter that we could potentially use to defend ourselves. While we grabbed it, too much time had elapsed in the loop for us to be able to stab the "policeman." Another playthrough found us simply ignoring the policeman at the door and instead waiting things out to see if the problem might just go away. Unfortunately, the cop simply busted through the door and the events played out in the same way. I racked my brain thinking of new ways to potentially stop the cop, but we didn't have the time to enact my plans as everyone needed a turn to check it out. Now that I'm sitting here writing this, however, I can't stop thinking about all the ways I could have gone about incapacitating the policeman or helping my wife get to safety. That tells me 12 Minutes has absolutely accomplished what it set out to do and more, even in its early stages.

The short half-hour demo was hardly enough to scratch the surface of what you could potentially do in other loops. Apparently with the same kitchen knife, you could even stab the wife at some point. There were even sleeping pills found in the medicine cabinet -- I wondered what I should do with them, and wished as soon as the PR representatives told me our time was over that I immediately had hours more to play about with the various ways the game could resolve itself. There will be multiple ways the game can end, I was told, though they may not all be "endings" in a way that makes sense to everyone, I was told. 

According to Luis, 12 Minutes is slated for a 2020 release. There's no concrete date just yet, but we can look forward to seeing it come to fruition soon enough. It will release on Xbox One and PC initially, with additional information coming closer to its release date -- we'll keep you posted on other potential platforms if they're a possibility.

I can say this with certainty, though: 12 Minutes is one of the most inventive point-and-click adventures I've seen in some time, and I'm dying to know more -- in many cases, apparently, quite literally. 

Senior Editor

Fueled by horror, rainbow-sugar-pixel-rushes, and video games, Brittany is a Senior Editor at Shacknews who thrives on surrealism and ultraviolence. Follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake and check out her portfolio for more. Like a fabulous shooter once said, get psyched!

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