Rendezvous Review – A decent adventure with too much wasted potential

Gare – Wednesday, April 12, 2023 5:10 PM
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There are games that could be great, but end up just barely falling short. These are the hardest to rate – you want to emphasize all their positive qualities, but when it comes to the usual question of “do I recommend this to people?”, you end up scratching your head and going “well, hmm.” I am currently at the “well, hmm” part of my assessment of today’s review subject, the cyberpunk puzzle-adventure game Rendezvous from developer Pendopo Creations. A promising project that starts out strong and ticks all the right checkboxes, Rendezvous sadly ends up awkwardly tumbling across the finish line, ultimately leaving me with very mixed feelings.

A well-realized vision of the future

So, to give you a basic description, Rendezvous is a cyberpunk adventure game with some mild action/stealth segments. Set in a futuristic Indonesia, it puts you in the role of a man named Setyo on a quest to find his missing sister in a dystopian world of greedy megacorps, seedy criminal organizations and bodily augmentations. It promises a movie-like experience, and in many ways, it does deliver on that promise – you’ll wade through busy, Blade Runner-esque streets in search of clues, infiltrate well-guarded corporate buildings and experience tense moments of stealth and gunfights. Just to give you an example, there are even chase sequences and various moments where you need to engage in a minigame to control your own heartbeat during a dialogue scene to avoid blowing your cover. So, y’know, there’s a bit of everything in here, and it does feel like a complete package in that regard; it’s clear that the developers put tons of effort into adding a variety of situations and scenarios to keep things fresh, which I really appreciated.

So, in terms of its setting, soundtrack and overall atmosphere, Rendezvous deserves high praise. The retro-style pixel aesthetics never become a hindrance, as the game is positively bursting with little details that make every location feel alive and lived-in. I tremendously enjoyed just appreciating every aspect of this fully realized, cyberpunk version of Indonesia, with its noisy, bustling streets, dark back-alleys and cramped apartment buildings – in fact, I almost wore out my screenshot button, which is always a good sign.

Guns N Puzzles

Gameplay-wise, the game focuses mostly on dialogue and puzzle-solving, with occasional bits of stealth and combat. Rendezvous’ puzzles aren’t terribly difficult, and due to the game’s fairly straightforward way of handling interactable locations, it becomes immediately apparent when you need to use a specific item somewhere. Like with most other things in the game, there’s a decent bit of variety here, but the puzzles themselves are designed for a more casual crowd – as long as you click on every interactable location and remember where everything is, you probably won’t have too much trouble getting through the adventure; besides, every item that can be picked up is very clearly highlighted with a glow effect, so it’s almost impossible to get stuck for longer periods of time. Despite their simplicity, the puzzles themselves are fun and well-executed, and you never feel like your intelligence is being insulted.

Unfortunately, I was less thrilled with the more action-centric aspects of the title. The stealth bits peak in the opening chapter and never really regain their momentum; I particularly enjoyed a part where I had to stay crouched to remain hidden behind a constantly moving robot on wheels, or the few occasions where I had to avoid patrolling enemies in order to move forward, but later on, these bits become more frustrating than enjoyable. Combat, however, stays clunky and dull throughout the campaign – while the game gives you the option to dodge-roll and slide, these are rarely useful, and most of the time, you’ll just be blindly hammering away at the attack button while wolfing down medkits, essentially tanking each hit and hoping for the best. Thankfully, the game gives you more than enough healing items to be able to do this, so I feel like the developers sort of expected combat to play out the way I’ve just described, but that doesn’t really excuse how awkward it all feels.

An undercooked story

Probably my biggest gripe with the game, however, is the way its narrative is handled. Things start out intriguing enough – a missing sister, potentially shady dealings, a protagonist with a mysterious backstory… the list could go on. For the first few chapters, when you’re still uncertain about where the story will go, this sense of mystery is generally maintained, but once you actually find your sister, the narrative takes a massive nosedive and devolves into a generic action movie plot with all the expected clichés. To make things worse, the ending is deeply unsatisfying, leaving various things unresolved while seemingly setting things up for a potential sequel that may or may not happen. I was also not really blown away by the quality of the English dialogue, as it felt stiff and lifeless, with awkward phrasings and grammatical errors that only ended up hurting my overall immersion. The unconvincing voice acting, particularly that of the protagonist, doesn’t really help matters, either.

I also need to make a mention of the game’s seemingly abysmal optimization and stuttering issues. In certain areas of the city, my framerate plummeted to single digits, and I experienced stuttering so severe that the game essentially became a literal slide show, without any form of exaggeration. On several occasions, I ended up having to quit and take a break because the aforementioned technical issues simply became too unbearable for me to continue playing.

Final thoughts

RendezvousPlatform: WindowsGenre: AdventureDeveloper: Pendopo CreationsPublisher: HitcentsRelease: 04/11/2023Overall, I’d call Rendezvous a decent effort. It is by no means a bad game – its cyberpunk Indonesia is well-crafted and lovely to look at, and the retro visuals work surprisingly well with the setting’s neon lights and vivid colors. The gameplay is mostly fine, too: some combat-related frustrations aside, I had fun playing detective, solving cool puzzles and sneaking around as I looked for answers and appreciated all the little details of the setting. However, what ultimately prevents me from giving this one a strong recommendation is the underdeveloped and cliché-ridden story, the generally poorly written dialogue and the inconclusive, unsatisfying ending that all hold the project back from reaching its full potential.

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