James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley y Willem Dafoe, a cast typical of any great blockbuster or an independent film called to burst at European film festivals, and yet we are faced with a video game. With that in mind, if we add the seal of Annapurna Interactive and the name of Luis Antonio (in charge of the artistic section of The Witness), the stage is set for us to put on our pasta glasses and start our journey in the title with a glass of red on the desk. That fear, derived in part from the expectations generated after its original announcement, is immediately buried. Distrust vanishes before the correct measure of his first loop, masterfully aimed at all of us ending, more or less, doing the same despite its many possibilities. From there, the mystery will guide your steps until a resolution of those that will make you rack your brains whatever the ending that touches you for the first time, making 12 Minutes one of the most special video games of this course.
Pay attention, this will repeat itself
Luis Antonio He has already demonstrated his good work, when working on the low poly, on The Witnes, delivering an excellent visual section, a great Zen garden full of attractions that demand our attention for the present, demanding that we be able to see in what we observe, in order to solve the puzzle that is before us. That is, in essence, the foundation on which 12 Minutes is built, observation. So it is not uncommon that, when we start playing, we run into a graphical point and click adventure much more traditional than some of us expected. A work that takes up and reformulates the system justifying its use, without falling into the window of nostalgia, but without straying too far from gender identity.
That said, what the game asks us is an evening, somewhat traumatic, in which we will play a man who comes home and is about to talk with his wife. In a few minutes, everyday life goes to the fret and, after the ringing of the doorbell, a stranger makes an appearance, wife the couple and ends the life of the protagonist. Or so he thinks, since in reality, instead of traveling into the unknown, he returns safely to the entrance of his home. It’s about to twinning with Bill Murray on getting locked in a time loop. Now, what about our protagonist is something more cruel, because to the curse of the 12 minutes we must add a spiral of death and pain typical of the sickest mind.
Simple and elegant in aesthetics
But that is not the only cinematographic reference that we will find in the title of Annapurna, which welcomes us with a carpet that is powerfully reminiscent of the sight in the corridors of the Overlook hotel from The Shining, and Sprinkle everything with various filters that add from classic film grain to the blur of projectors of yesteryear. Something that looks great on you.
The cenital plane that governs the game, very much like Tarantino, is a most intelligent resource that is not limited only to an aesthetic exercise. Its functionality can be understood through the limitations of a low-budget development. The design of characters, whose faces are continuously hidden by the arrangement of the camera, or their animations, are totally benefited by this perspective. The same happens with the stage, which as it happened on the island designed by Jonathan Blow, does not require many polygons to stand out visually. The use of color, lighting and even the arrangement of the furniture go hand in hand and contribute to the tone and development of the game., being participants both in the setting and in the great puzzle that means 12 Minutes.
A puzzle that, despite having also reached consoles (serving as exclusive to the Xbox family and being present in Xbox Game Pass), it shows its origin in a clear way. The PC is your natural platform, presenting the mouse as the most optimal form of control, but without being tedious when it comes to being played with a controller, something that helps the limited world that presents us.
The small and complex world of an apartment
All the action takes place in the home of the protagonists, a micro-world designed with care and precision in which nothing has been arranged by chance. Most objects have their function when it comes to advancing the plot, forcing us in many cases to think of alternatives that we are not used to in the video game. Something that also happens with the patterns of behavior, the dialogues that we can maintain and even the moment and the state of mind in which we decide to address certain issues. All this will be reflected in the conversation options that will be opened to us in order to continue investigating a mystery Which I’m not going to tell you about, as it is a highly spoiler-sensitive plot.
That branch that it boasts 12 Minutes it is both a virtue and a defect. When everything rolls and, especially at the beginning, it is capable of generating a feeling of overwhelming naturalness, with spontaneous reactions that teach us to be attentive to details, knowing that the dumbest action can mark the future of the loop in which we find ourselves. Nevertheless, that effect fades after a few loops, revealing the creature’s skeleton. It is not a big problem, beyond the initial expectations, in a short time one assumes the mechanical part and it is easy to start enjoying it in a great way.
Every new loop hides a piece of the great puzzle before us. The good news is that, except rarely, we have several ways to move forward and different ways to get the information. Something that contrasts with how rigid the title is in some moments of the game. The structure of its development can be described as a funnel that redirects all possible ramifications towards a common situation that guides the player towards the different endings of the work. The more the fence is closed, the less flexible the game becomes, and that’s when moments of frustration can start to appear., which can lead us to wonder why such a character does not react to such action or how it is possible that a certain dialogue does not generate the effect we are looking for. As well as missing more ways to make time pass faster to avoid waiting, there are quite a few, but the existence of some more would have helped to oxygenate the most restrictive moments.
Luis Antonio’s graduation
These are details that fail to distort the final result. The structure, which in the first bars is malleable and incredibly natural, becomes completely systematic. The puzzle ends up ruling the game and, despite those small frictions that I am talking about, it is a pleasure to navigate the mental map, which one ends up generating, to find the key to the mystery that concerns us.
All this road is bathed in the sound of the Gardel’s tangos, and his own songs composed for the occasion, which affect the most gloomy side of the history that we are living, endowing the whole with a unique atmosphere capable of generating the greatest of tensions. From there it follows a discourse that tells us about the inevitable, about the destructive force of time and the human psyche as a place to investigate, in which to navigate through labyrinths capable of hiding even the most remarkable of memories. A path that is open to interpretation, fleeing from the over-explanation and leaving the door open to the theories of the players, something that I also celebrate.
12 Minutes it had the disadvantage of landing loaded with expectations, of being, perhaps, the most anticipated indie video game in recent years. An expectation that does not usually augur well (that did not accompany the other great independent game of the summer, Road 96), and that on many occasions it has generated invoices that the works have not been able to pay. Luckily, we can safely say that what is new about Luis Antonio, justifies all the echo that has been generated around him. It’s not a perfect game, and it can seem overly restrictive or whimsical in its final moments. But beyond the courage of his proposal, he manages to be efficient and coherent most of the time, dealing with ease with the difficult balance between challenge and reward that must occur in a graphic adventure of these characteristics. Something that, in my opinion, comes to tell us that, In addition to a character exercise and one of the video games with the most personality of this present 2021, it is a great graphic adventure, an eminently textual title that will delight lovers of the genre.