Developer: Pendopo Creations
Release Date: April 10, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
The continuous saturation of ideas within the gaming sphere makes it increasingly difficult to come up with something original. Yet originality is not required to allow a game to shine in the limelight, as some ideas follow the mantra of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to a tee. Unfortunately, with Rendezvous, it goes into the extremities on the other side of the scale, as the experience is riddled with predictability and poorly-executed cliches. Though it gleams and radiates pixelated beauty and cultural influence, the gameplay mechanics and narrative of this cyberpunk dystopia fails to leave any notable impact whatsoever.
You begin Rendezvous with a cliched trope, as the first few minutes present a dream that foreshadows the fate of your main character, Setyo. As Setyo, you’re trying to find out the whereabouts of your sister. She’s been AWOL for some time, and you’re aiming to retrace her steps, finding clues along the way. Yet, the more information you come upon, the more you realize there’s something darker within the folds of this society and its history. So, with the help of a friend who works as an agent, you set out to find your missing sister.
As a plotline, this may not sound so off-putting–it’s pretty generic as cyberpunk dystopias go. The mystery narrative throws in additional cliches, such as a character who predictably turns on you or the government being involved in something shady. In addition, the dialogue and voice acting bring any movement to a screeching halt with its underwhelming performance. Some of the voices are from unseasoned voice actors. Despite how serious the narrative aims to be, the dialogue and voice acting are silly and comical, removing you from any atmospheric engagement. With a lack of strong delivery, these scenes of tension and drama fall flat in front of your very eyes.
However, your eyes become entranced with this dystopian society’s visuals and lighting. In Rendezvous, you explore this 2.5D pixelated backdrop of Bay City and Neo-Surabaya, based on the major city of Surabaya in Indonesia. As the year is 2064, the city is drenched in futuristic neon lighting, fitting for the cyberpunk aesthetic. The pixel art is done wonderfully, complementing the world with techniques such as volumetric fog and dynamic lighting. This level of detail in the presentation is eye-catching.
Outside of the technical aspects of the display, there are plenty of world-building elements to enhance the immersion. When exploring the city, you see plenty of cultural influences, from the wall posters to the faintly audible rallies and speeches in the background. The city folk struggle with adapting to the effects of the technological age, holding on to the past with their habits of life, such as an electronics vendor selling outdated antiques and devices. It’s a shame that the society’s narrative is significantly more compelling than Setyo’s story.
While on the hunt for your sister, your gameplay consists of exploration, puzzles, and combat. None of these elements excel particularly well, with the exception of some engaging brain teasers. For your exploration, you’re going back and forth between Bay City and Neo-Surabanya, interacting with the members of each city to progress forward. While the environmental details are pretty, you will see them repeatedly. Your exploration becomes limited as your objectives will have you constantly move between the same areas. Rendezvous’ runtime is already short, so this tedious aspect of gameplay becomes bothersome.
Most of the puzzles are to access locked doors in the various buildings you’re spying in. While most of them are extremely simple to figure out, some require a bit of thinking to move past. Unfortunately, there aren’t a huge variety of puzzles to solve, so they lose momentum quickly. In addition, some crucial moments in the narrative have you go through tedious and repetitive tasks, making you feel rather displeased with the experience.
In between the puzzles and exploration is stealth and combat. I was surprised to see an attempt with fighting mechanics, as this story could have done well without it. While I had hoped for enjoyable encounters, I was more frustrated and annoyed than anything else. The controls to move, dodge, and fight are extraordinarily unresponsive, making for a very awkward combat experience. You must wait for a second between actions to execute the desired choices. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck making the wrong movements. Truthfully, I wish these fights were done as a cutscene, as this had to be one of the worst battle sequences I’ve ever had to deal with.
Alongside the combat are the stealth portions, which were pretty underwhelming. You must sneak and maneuver your way through security bots and patrols as you aim to uncover more information. Just like the exploration, you’ll have plenty of back-and-forth between certain rooms as you try to progress forward. And just like the combat, the movements, such as dodge rolls, also feel clunky and awkward. If you can’t tell, repetition and irritation are common themes throughout the adventure.
It feels like many mechanics were added to spice up the gameplay, but they made it more lackluster. There are even dialogue sections where you must press a button to match the beats on-screen, but it felt unnatural. In addition, while pressing the button, you see the text in the dialogue boxes move at a snail’s pace, having you sit there slumped up in your chair as you heave a heavy sigh, wondering when the conversation will end.
Rendezvous is a very messy experience. I wondered when it would be over, a feeling one shouldn’t have while playing a game. It’s possible to become hypnotized by the dazzling display of futuristic cyberpunk Indonesia, but that facade doesn’t last long after the first hour. There’s clearly passion put into world-building, but beyond that sphere of craft, there’s no substance within the gameplay or narrative. As a result, Rendezvous is dry, and its flavor profile leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
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