April 27, 2023

Andreas Betsche

Rendezvous: A Refreshing Take on Cyberpunk Tropes with Indonesian Flair

April 27, 2023 | Andreas Betsche

It’s the year 2064, Bay City. Setyo works as a security guard for a robotics company when, after his shift, an old acquaintance tells him about his sister’s mysterious disappearance. Full of concern and thirst for action, Setyo sets off and returns to futuristic Neo-Surabaya in Indonesia to get to the bottom of the mystery…

It only takes this short introduction to understand that Rendezvous, the debut work by Pendopo Creations, extensively uses many cyberpunk tropes. Audio-visually, familiar electronic beats pound through our ears as we explore the game’s neon-lit streets.

There is a bit of tech critique and a bit of post-apocalypse; while it’s all nice to look at, it’s nothing we haven’t seen elsewhere.

Exploring Neo-Surabaya: A Cultural Mix of Cyberpunk and Indonesian Elements

If it weren’t for the small but subtle difference, it isn’t Japanese or Chinese companies that pulled the strings in the background, but rather Indonesian ones. Flavoring the all-too-familiar cyberpunk monotony with elements of Indonesian culture, art, and language proves to be a stroke of luck for the fledgling studio.

Rendezvous pulls you under its spell when we discover the street food carts (“kaki lima,” lit. five feet) so typical of Indonesia between the futuristic buildings, when the men get together for a prayer at the district mayor’s, or when the country’s culinary specialties are waiting promisingly around every corner to be eaten. The game shows a cultural mix we haven’t seen often in cyberpunk.

It all looks chic too! The 2.5D Style shines in bright colors and is wonderfully illuminated, skilfully concealing the relatively coarse pixel art, which, however, has a fantastic amount of detail to offer. Rendezvous is eye candy for fans of retro-futuristic pixel art!

A Classic Adventure with Competent Puzzles

Retro is the keyword for the gameplay, too. Rendezvous is a reasonably classic adventure, meaning we’ll spend most of our time conversing with the city’s many inhabitants and collecting needed items. It’s never challenging but motivating enough not to get boring. Add some more complex puzzles when hacking a computer or casting a key mold, and you’ll get a competent adventure game.

Clumsy Combat System Hinders Otherwise Exciting Story

But now we come to the biggest problem of the game: the combat system. Yes, you heard that right. In Rendezvous, you have to fight, and you can also die. In addition to a firearm, Setyo also has several melee weapons at his disposal. He can avoid danger with an evading roll. Even if the action fights create a certain amount of tension, they are too clumsy and often used unfairly (checkpoints!) to cause some frustration, especially in the endgame, where fighting becomes a tedious routine.

However, those who survive the half-baked battles can expect a not entirely surprising but exciting cyberpunk story about family, betrayal, and violence, which only seems rushed towards the end. Coupled with the refreshing scenario and the beautiful visuals, Rendezvous is a highly successful first work for a studio that consists of only two members (who also did a surprisingly good job setting the cutscene dialogues to music). We certainly wouldn’t say no to a date with a second part that might reconsider the combat system and continue the story!

Rendezvous is available for PC on Steam. This review is based on a free review copy.

Andreas Betsche

Andreas Betsche founded Virtual SEA in early 2016 after researching Cambodian mobile games for his Master’s thesis. He has a background in Southeast Asia studies and has worked and lived in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Since he has been actively playing games since the early 90s, combing both worlds in Virtual SEA brought together both of his passions.

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