It's impossible to not at least be intrigued by Twelve Minutes. An interactive top-down thriller, launching into Xbox Game Pass on day one, and starring a Hollywood cast the likes of which games are almost never treated to, especially in the case of indie titles. The question is, can it live up to the hype? Fortunately, the answer is yes.
Let's start with the premise. In Twelve Minutes, you find yourself playing the role of a husband coming home on an ordinary evening, and when you get through the front door, a time-loop of up to twelve minutes begins. Initially, the scenario you'll encounter will see a private detective barge through the door and arrest your wife for her father's murder, after which he'll kill you and the time-loop will begin again. It's up to you to figure out how to break the loop.
The gameplay adopts a slightly unique spin on a traditional point-and-click title, so you'll be using the analog stick to point and 'click' where you want to go, select which objects you want to interact with and determine which dialog options you want to choose. There's little doubt the game was developed primarily for PC (the Xbox version even tells you to 'Press Any Key' on the menu screen), but the control system is perfectly fine on console too.
In terms of breaking the loop, the key to progressing the story is to utilise the environment, objects and new dialog options to uncover new discoveries. This is where Twelve Minutes really gets things right, as while you probably will get stuck now and again, it won't be for long. The game isn't crammed with nonsensical puzzles which require bizarre combinations of objects, for example, so the medium level of challenge remains pretty much consistent throughout.
Twelve Minutes does fall into some of those point-and-click tropes though, such as quite strictly forcing you to play by its rules. It can surprise you with how flexible it is in adapting to your creativity at times, but at other times you feel like you could solve the story instantly if you were just able to perform a certain action. That would break the fun of it, of course, but it does ruin the immersiveness a bit when you can't act on logical thinking as you would like to.
You'll have noted that we're barely touching upon the actual story in this review, and that's because anything we say after the initial few minutes is basically a spoiler. You can rest assured that the narrative remains largely engaging throughout, although it can get a little bit convoluted towards the end, especially when referring to characters who have never been seen or heard from. In terms of the length, it took us six hours to reach an ending, but that isn't the end of the game if you don't want it to be, depending on whether you want to explore other possibilities (you will!).
As for the Hollywood cast in James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley and Willem Dafoe, they all do a good job of playing their respective characters, and despite their recognisable voices, it never feels like they're just performing leisurely celebrity cameos for any old game. Did Twelve Minutes need them in order to craft an immersive story? Probably not, but there's no doubt they put in a committed performance to help elevate the experience.
As an FYI, it should be noted that Twelve Minutes is very much an adults-only game, and can deal with mature themes and brutal violence (which can be more extreme depending on how you play). There's no kind of in-game content warning about this, but it does have a PEGI rating of 18 in the UK, and an ESRB rating of M for Mature in North America.
All in all, Twelve Minutes is definitely worth a download with Xbox Game Pass if you're even the least bit interested in the premise, as both its story and gameplay combine to create a memorable thriller. There are a couple of downsides if you look for them, and the replayability factor will be pretty low after you've discovered everything, but we think you'll really enjoy your main playthrough regardless, even if you're not the biggest fan of point-and-click games.