‘Twelve Minutes,’ a video game mystery in miniature that repeats until you find the solution

A vast sandbox game “Twelve Minutes” is not. But the mind-bending mystery packs a world of challenges within its confines.

The premise is scary, if simple: A husband and wife sit down at the dinner table. There’s a knock at the door. An intruder claiming to be a police officer interrupts the evening, puts the couple in handcuffs and claims the wife is guilty of murder.

The wife is taken away, while the husband wakes up in “Groundhog Day” fashion, with the events about to replay – but he remembers what happened. It’s the player’s job to figure out how to prevent his wife’s abduction and the attack that results in him being knocked out. 

“It’s an interactive thriller about a man trapped in a time loop,” said the game’s director Luis Antonio, who gave a preview to USA TODAY. “You have to use the knowledge of what is about to happen to change the outcome and break the loop. … As you play you decide how you are going to interact. Your character is going to learn with everything you do. Everything resets but his knowledge stays.”

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A screen shot from the video game 'Twelve Minutes,' described by director Luis Antonio as "an interactive thriller about a man trapped in a time loop." Characters are voiced by Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley and James McAvoy. (Photo: Annapurna Interactive)

The characters are voiced by well-known actors: the intruder is voiced by Willem Dafoe

(“Zack Snyder’s Justice League”), the wife by Daisy Ridley (“Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker”), and the husband by James McAvoy (X-Men: Dark Phoenix).

The idea for a time loop game came from Antonio’s desire to explore “the concept of accumulated knowledge,” said Antonio, who previously worked on PlayStation game “The Witness” and had created art for Rockstar Games before becoming an art director at Ubisoft.he said. “If you know what is going to happen, how can we use this as a mechanic for a video game?”

That required that the environment and time frame be limited, otherwise the repercussions of every action would be voluminous. All the action happens in the apartment; Antonio chose a top-down view to make the game more accessible.

“We’re going for something like a theater play,” he said. “You’re never going to see their faces so there is a big focus on voice acting and animation so that you believe these characters are alive.”

“Twelve Minutes,” to be published by Annapurna Interactive, is expected to be available on Xbox and Windows PCs later this year.

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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