Dark Light

I remember the day when I left my parents behind and came to live in a big city for a job. It was new and unknown, filled with people that spoke a different language, and I had to find my objective within all that. Things were repetitive and hectic and just making it through the day was like a puzzle to be solved where I needed to figure out what things or skills can be used where. But despite all that, there was a certain beauty to all this, especially at night when the neon signs lit up standing stoically in the soft drizzle inside the never sleeping night market. And therefore, playing Rendezvous was like reminiscing my past days.

Rendezvous is a 2.5D cyber-noir pixel art action-puzzle adventure game of family, betrayal, and dangerous secrets set against the backdrop of Bay City and Neo-Surabaya. Developed by Pendopo Creations and published by Hitcents, Rendezvous was released on 11 April 2023.

The Prodigal Son Returns

The year is 2064. It’s a time of innovation and technological advancement resulting in highly policed super states. Drones hover above, cybernetic enhancements lace our skin, and our protagonist Setyo’s sister Arum has gone AWOL! With the help of a detective, he discovers that she’s rolling in with a group of dangerous cyberrunners, operating somewhere out of Neo-Surabaya, Indonesia. However, Setyo, being a former criminal agent, knows how to get things done in the underworld, and therefore sets out to search for his sister, venturing into a city which had undergone massive changes since the day he left.

First, it feels refreshing to finally see a cyberpunk city other than any American, European or Japanese city. And the way the Rendezvous showcases Neo-Surabaya using its 2.5D pixel art, it appeared so lived-in and immersive that I literally had dreams of exploring it in 3D! The visual is retro, the city is futuristic, complete with towering skyscrapers and holographic ads sprawling into the distance. But what struck me more was the ‘show-don’t-tell’ technique of giving tidbits of the lore of Neo-Surabaya.

The city is teeming with lore but none of it is spoon-fed; not even diary entries or audio files exist, unlike other immersive sims. Instead, you draw your lore from the environment like a billboard about military police, a worker’s riot outside an office building, graffiti about separatist uprisings, a second Cold War etc.  And since all of it is told in the Indonesian language, which is alien to me, it really made me nostalgic for living in an unknown city. Even Setyo explains how he strangely felt in an alien land despite Surabaya being his childhood home. But all is not what it seems. It’s a time of chaos and conspiracy and Arum is clearly on the run, either from the law or someone far worse!


The gameplay is fairly simple consisting of mostly inventory-based quests. The right item needs to be used at the right spot and therefore a lot of tedious backtracking is involved, mostly because you can’t interact with an item unless the plot requires it. Although this might be reminiscent of old-school adventure games for most parts, this feels dated. I wish there were choice-based mechanics resulting in myriad outcomes similar to Deus Ex, but Rendezvous is a completely linear, narrative-driven adventure game.

Besides these, a lot of puzzles are present that range from simple keycode guessing to hacking machines. And in many cases, they can act as major frustrating barriers to your progress. 9/10 times you’ll feel stupid for taking so long to solve them even though their obscure hints were right next to you blending into the pixelated environment. This is further worsened by the vague dialogues with the NPC who gives you the puzzle. For example, at one point I had to craft a key, but the old lady, the owner of the key shop didn’t even bother to help. Interacting with her repeated the dialogue over and over again saying that I need to craft the key. Eventually, I was able to figure it out, but I didn’t feel any eureka! moment at all; it was more like “Huh? That’s it?”.

Even worse are the combat mechanics. They are simply there just for the sake of it. Setyo has access to only basic manoeuvres like punches, a roll dodge, a sprint and sprint slide and a crouch. And none of it helps when you’re face to face with an enemy where you’ll mostly end up mashing the punch button hoping they go down first because every single punch cost stamina. There are a few handheld weapons that you get as per the scripted narrative, like a gun or a laser sword, however, these sections are short and spaced too far apart to be of much fun. The good thing is you’ll get enough bandages and chocolate bars to maintain your health and stamina respectively.

Visuals, Sound and Performance

Probably the best part of Rendezvous and in fact its USP. Rendezvous straightway reminded me of The Last Night about which we only have a trailer from 5 years ago. Right from the stunning neo-retro pixel visuals in the forefront to massive city sprawls in the background crafted with painstaking details, Rendezvous made me stop in my tracks and admire the beauty. The character sprites are minimalist but that means you get to appreciate the gorgeously detailed backgrounds. Enhanced by dynamic lighting, bloom and smooth animations complete with a lot of NPC sprites, makes Neo-Surabaya teeming with life even though every sprite is just a 2D object in a 2.5D world.

The sound department completely nails it with its moody synth chords that provide depth and layer to a world rife with capitalist technocracy, corporate greed and violence. It totally reminded me of Blade Runner 2049 and made Neo-Surabaya so immersive. And despite being an indie game, there are actual voiceovers though they are rare. But it’s a nice change of pace from constantly skipping the text-based dialogues.

As for the performance, the only hiccup I had were freezing loading screens where the loading wheel just stopped rotating. Besides that, if you minimize the game and switch to any other task and then come back to the game again, Rendezvous won’t recognize your peripherals; you’ll have to quit and reopen the game.

Real Talk

At its core Rendezvous is an ambitious game with stunning visuals and an intriguing plot fit for a cyberpunk world. However, the extremely linear campaign discourages any exploration in its five hours runtime as you won’t get any output from the exploration, no hidden logs or loot nothing. I just wish the devs had implemented choice-based mechanics that would have made the narrative more interesting, and it would’ve compensated for the drab gameplay. Don’t get me wrong, the ideas included in Rendezvous are interesting, however, it needs a more structured format. In other words, fans of narrative-driven action games will be left wanting.


Disclaimer: This copy of the game for the PC platform was provided by the publisher for review purposes without any riders.

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