12 Minutes is an upcoming game that demonstrates the video game industry’s readiness for experimental storytelling. Occasionally, a new sub-genre emerges, challenging the fundamental aspects of gameplay and narrative. Minimalist in its approach to unraveling a story, yet rich in depth, this game offers hours of replayability. The plot unfolds within an apartment where the characters have 12 minutes to solve a mystery before a time loop resets everything. The characters—a husband, wife, and cop—are entangled in a possible murder that occurred eight years prior. Players must gather clues, make decisions, and solve the mystery within a series of 12-minute windows before chaos ensues.
Luis Antonio developed the game, which will be published by Annapurna Interactive. It harkens back to the point-and-click adventure games popular in the ’90s. The top-down perspective immerses players in the lives of a couple who discover that the wife may be involved in a murder. Within each time sequence, players gather information and make decisions based on impending events. Nothing is scripted, and players must determine the best course of action. Will they flee before the police arrive, or will they hide in the apartment and wait? As time sequences progress, the complexity increases, and players must memorize upcoming events to reach the climax.
A Mystery Shrouded in Darkness
The intrigue lies in the player’s uncertainty about the ultimate goal or climax. They must determine why time is repeating itself, identify the murderer, and find a way to escape the situation alive. Luis Antonio has had an impressive career in the video game industry, working with top-tier developers such as Ubisoft and Rockstar. He left major AAA studios to focus on smaller, more independent projects. One of his first smaller IPs was The Witness in 2012. After completing that title, he sought to create something entirely original and emotionally impactful, exploring the theme of choices and their consequences. Today’s games have the tools to shape storytelling into a unique experience.
Initially, 12 Minutes was set in suburbia with a 24-hour time loop. However, Luis Antonio realized that crafting such a story was too advanced for a solo project. Instead, he confined the story to a single room with only a few characters. The game is a thriller in the traditional sense, inspired by the works of Kubrick, Hitchcock, Fincher, and Ramis. Film aficionados will recognize easter eggs scattered throughout the game, such as the iconic carpet pattern from The Shining in the apartment hallway. These nods to suspense thrillers reveal Luis Antonio’s appreciation for the genre.
Revisiting the Past
12 Minutes was initially slated for release in 2016, but Luis Antonio was dissatisfied with the final product. He later assembled a small team of five people to refine the game and make it more accessible to gamers worldwide. The gameplay revolves around the husband character, who remembers only the events that transpired previously. With each time loop, the player must quickly inform the wife of the bizarre situation. Although this is a point-and-click game, every object in the apartment can be interacted with. Players can combine objects and move them throughout the apartment, encouraging experimentation with the environment. The playthrough should last up to 8 hours, depending on how quickly players decipher the story.
As with other point-and-click games, a conversation feature is included. As the husband remembers more, the dialogue options expand, providing more warnings, hints, and subtle clues to share with the wife and advance the story. The titular 12 minutes occur in real-time, and each expositionary discovery intensifies the experience. At the beginning of every loop, the cop typically arrives within the first 3 minutes. The challenge lies in convincing the wife of the strange events without sounding insane. Whether the husband dies or the clock runs out determines when the loop restarts. The scenario can unfold in countless ways, requiring players to think quickly to uncover the truth.
Escaping the Loop
12 Minutes has completed development and will be released in a few weeks. Despite being an indie project, it boasts top Hollywood talent. Annapurna Interactive recognized the potential of this title and agreed to assist with publishing. The game is a refreshing addition to the lineup of upcoming releases and may set a new standard for point-and-click and indie games alike. 12 Minutes is scheduled for release on August 19th for Xbox and PC.