Played from an unusual top-down view, 12 Minutes starts with your character arriving home at his cramped apartment. You find that you've forgotten your keys and the first puzzle is to figure out how to get in, as your wife isn't answering the door. The key is easy to find and this quickly familiarises you with the game's simple controls and inventory system.
Playing like a point & click adventure, you move the cursor and press 'A' to go to that spot, and can also press 'A' on an interactive object to use it or pick it up and put it in your inventory. Then you can access your inventory by moving the cursor to the top of the screen or by holding RB or LB. From here you can hold 'A' to drag and release an item to combine with other items or characters.
After being welcomed home you can explore your apartment, have a dessert and chat with your wife, and even have a romantic dance with her – even ending up in the bedroom if you play your cards right. But enough with the canoodling, the plot starts to get interesting when a cop knocks on the door and arrests your wife for the murder of her father! Turns out the cop was a close friend of the wife's dad and he's taking his murder personally. Things soon spiral into a violent and disturbing episode that always ends up with your or your wife's apparent death at the cop's hands.
But wait! It's not Game Over, at this point you immediately respawn at the point where you entered your apartment, but this time with the knowledge of what's about to occur. 12 Minutes is all about what to do with any newly gleaned information and how to stop the cop from killing you and arresting your wife. This feels like an original idea for a game but movie fans will have seen a similar plot in Groundhog Day, Boss Level, Edge of Tomorrow and Source Code to name but a few.
As you replay the loop you'll (hopefully) gather new information with which to further the plot, it's really that simple, and that complicated too. If you don't ask the right questions, say the right thing or follow the right conversation path you'll be right back where you started – that's the entire point of the game.
Without dropping any spoilerbombs there are a few glaring plot holes, like if the cop is so close to your father-in-law why don't you or your wife know him, and why does your dad sound exactly like the cop? Couldn't they afford another voice actor? Couldn't Willem Dafoe do two voices? We even had a glitch during these scenes in which the dad was bald and looked just like the cop! The characters often pass right through each other, which seems a bit sloppy.
I've also got to say I think they've been lazy and unimaginative with the allocation of the achievements, they give no real indication or encouragement with regards to progress and neither does the game itself. On our first 2 hour session we found out practically nothing, and the only positive results we had were finding a hiding place and disabling, restraining and even managing to kill the cop! Was any of this rewarded with an achievement? Nope, but watering a flower was!
I'll give credit to Annapurna Interactive for trying something a bit different, and broaching some controversial subjects too, but the actual execution, fit & finish of the game leaves a bit to be desired.