We last previewed time-loop game 12 Minutes back in 2015 after I saw it at PAX East in Boston and chatted with Luis Antonio, who was singlehandedly making the game for a desired 2016 release. Here we are in 2019. 12 Minutes is still looking good, but it’s not done.
12 Minutes is now scheduled to be released in 2020, first on Xbox One and PC. Antonio told me at E3 in Los Angeles that he’s spent a good part of the last four years refining the design and building a team of five people to bring it up to release quality. When I covered it during the Obama administration, it looked a lot rougher.
They’ve polished it a lot.
The concept is the same. Players experience a 12-minute time loop, controlling a man whose wife is accused of murder. The game appears to take place entirely in or near the rooms of a small city apartment. It’s all viewed from overhead and played with point-and-click controls.
In the first run of the loop, options include things like clicking on the man’s wife to start dialogue, clicking on a couch to sit down, on a fridge to open it up, on the dessert inside to serve it, and so on. A storm rages outside. The couple discusses a gift. The wife says she’s pregnant. Soon, a man identifying himself as a police officer knocks on the door, gets himself inside, accuses the wife of murdering her father, and within moments our character is beaten up—or worse—and the loop starts over.
When the loop restarts, our character retains awareness of what happened, which can affect dialogue choices. You can see in the game’s trailer how that impacts things. The man is now telling his wife what’s going to happen, and she is understandably freaking out. Antonio estimates going through the full run of 12-minute loops may take players as many as nine hours as they learn and unlock new approaches as they keep playing.
The playable demo of 12 Minutes at E3 still has some rough edges. The faces aren’t quite right, the animation needs more finesse, and despite what you can hear in the trailer, there’s no voice acting in it yet.
At E3, I joked to Antonio that he thought he was close to releasing the game four years ago. He said he’s more confident this time that the release really is coming soon. As a fan of Majora’s Mask and someone excited to play more of Outer Wilds, I’m into time loop games and eager to go through this one.