Three Minutes To Eight Review – Rinse and Repeat

You wake up in your apartment. The time is 7:33pm. You are delirious, and although your surroundings and identity feel familiar, you have a feeling that something is missing and there is a lot that you can’t remember. As you try to piece together who you are and the world around you, you die at exactly 7:57pm. You wake up again in your apartment. The time is 7:33pm.

The premise of Three Minutes To Eight certainly piqued my interest, having enjoyed other time loop stories such as Groundhog Day, Russian Doll, and Edge of Tomorrow. That being said, this concept has not worked so well in video games – a prime example of this being 12 Minutes. In my opinion, the biggest cause of this is the repetition caused by a lack of cinematic editing that we have in film and television to cut out the bits you’ve already seen. The moment I realised that, like 12 Minutes, Three Minutes To Eight was lacking an appropriate skip function, I knew my biggest problem with this game was going to be repetition. I was not wrong.

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Three Minutes To Eight is set in a futuristic city.

Set in a beautiful, futuristic city with stunning 3D pixel visuals and an ambient soundtrack reminiscent of Blade Runner. Three Minutes To Eight does not miss a mark on an audio and visual scale. The atmospheric sound effects used to bring the city to life work really well. I just wish we could see more of this world past the single street that Three Minutes To Eight takes place in.

It’s not just the lack of alternative locations that make the world of Three Minutes to Eight feel shallow. As a point-and-click puzzle game, I was surprised to find the only response to interacting with items around the street and apartment is whether they’re of use or not. There’s no background description, no exposition on the technology or purpose of the item – not even so much as a piece of media in our character’s apartment to show what interests they have. There’s even a notice pinned up in the apartment building hallway which we cannot read because it’s not of use. In fact, the consistent commentary of “I don’t need this right now” or “I have no need to move this” when you’re just trying to pick up some extra information grows annoying very quickly. Interacting with the environment is simply reduced to whether or not what you’re interacting with has a purpose or not.

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“…of electric sheep?”

Three Minutes To Eight works by simply clicking in which direction you want to go in. I’ve never been a fan of this type of movement in 2D side-scrollers, my main reason being that to move left and right, you need to be searching the screen for a free space to click on that’s not occupied by an interactable object rather than just using the arrow or WASD keys. It also means that the run function relies on you manically clicking in that direction, often stopping when you run out of screen to click on while the side scrolling camera catches up. It just doesn’t feel fluid.

The core mechanic of Three Minutes To Eight is that at 7:57pm you will die and the loop will reset. Time moves when you enter a new area, so you can save time by staying put and choosing when to enter or leave buildings or rooms wisely. Once you have died, you are given the option to pick one object to permanently carry with you across loops so that you don’t have to pick it up again. Upon starting a new loop, certain items may have changed location – for example your wallet and apartment keys will be in a different place in your apartment unless you choose to carry them across loops, potentially making you waste precious time looking for them.

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He knows too much.

Three Minutes To Eight revolves mainly around trial and error. There are ten endings in total to unlock and a lot of them depend on being in the right place at the right time or having certain items on you at certain moments. It’s purely a case of taking note of patterns and making sure you try every single scenario; what happens if you’re in the elevator when the explosion happens midway through the loop? Of course, this means repeating things over and over again and also endlessly wandering the same street, hoping at some point the game will throw you a bone. This also makes it REALLY difficult to pursue specific endings, because even if you found yourself with a lead on one, you may not know how you triggered it, so if you run out of time you’ll lose track of that ending until you can pick it up again.

An annoying thing that I found about puzzle solving in Three Minutes To Eight is that a lot of the solutions aren’t logical. You have to go and talk to every NPC once you’ve picked up new information because any one of them could just randomly have the information you need. The person waiting for their friend outside the club? They know how to build a time machine.

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Hmm, this is new…

I also found that the dialogue in Three Minutes to Eight wasn’t great. You will walk up to a random person on the street and tell them you’re experiencing Groundhog Day and they’ll probably tell you their life story. I also felt like the voice acting didn’t feel very natural. Dialogue in Three Minutes to Eight just isn’t convincing in making us believe that these characters aren’t reading off a script.

Of course, my biggest problem with Three Minutes to Eight is the repetition. You can skip dialogue lines but not the conversations entirely. And although you can carry items across from previous loops, you have to re-trigger the events needed for you to solve the problems they’re intended for. For example, if you’re building a time machine and have gathered all the required components, you still need to explain to the chicken stand owner that you’re stuck in a time loop, get the idea to build a time machine off him, and then go and ask the person standing outside the club if they know how to build a time machine. It’s really irritating.

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Three Minutes To Eight also includes a mechanic where it will work out your location and nearest server based on your Steam account, making a rough guess at the village, town or city you live in and naming the game’s city after it. At first, I was spooked to see my tiny town come up in the game, thinking it was merely a coincidence – I did not realize the game was using my actual location. This can be turned off, however there wasn’t a warning when I first loaded up the game and I think this could be a security risk for streamers if they’re caught off guard. Although it was a nice surprise, I do think the cons outweigh the immersion benefits of this mechanic.

Although I have seen a lot of people in the Steam community having fun with Three Minutes To Eight, trying to uncover the various endings, I simply cannot enjoy this scale of repetition. Despite being a beautifully designed game with an interesting premise and loop mechanic, Three Minutes To Eight can be a really frustrating experience.

Jess reviewed Three Minutes to Eight on PC with a review code.

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