The Sundew Review
Sunday, September 27th, 2054, Shibukawa City, Japan. Anna Isobe wakes up massively hungover, with her lover Rick at her side. Your boss angrily wakes you up to tell you it’s time to go to work. It’s raining outside, but there’s something wrong with the lights. Time to get up and investigate what’s wrong.
The Sundew is developed by Studio 2054, a one-woman video game studio by French developer Agnes “Clemenc” Vuillaume. This point-and-click game has been her passion project since years ago, and Vuillaume certainly succeeds at building a genuinely entertaining narrative arc based on a cyberpunk world. It thoroughly enthralls players through their journey as Anna Isobe, an officer of the Shibukawa Police who is having a really bad day.
After the short but helpful tutorial, you head to Anna’s workplace, the Shibukawa City Police Headquarters, where you will be quickly introduced to your coworkers Jimmy, Donna, Neo, and Karin. Through some snarky and comedic banter, you get to know more about Anna’s relationship with them.
Point and sleuth
Yet from your conversations with your colleagues, it’s difficult not to note the underlying tone of distress in their voices over the current state of the world. It’s this grim narrative that renders The Sundew’s cyberpunk-themed world authentic; it’s one that’s treated with respect rather than twisted into an overly edgy tale.
Through the dialogue, imagery, and lore, Shibukawa City is shown to contain greater multitudes than it appears at first glance, with streets that are full of vitality and buzz with the usual activity of a city, but also home to abandoned ruins with echoes of times past. The amalgam of such contrasting scenery makes for an interesting, story-driven setting, rather than serving as just a superficially luminous city. It’s an impressive feat, given the game’s short length and the story’s rapid pace.
When a physical examination goes unexpectedly bad and one of Anna’s coworkers mysteriously disappears, the state of affairs becomes increasingly suspicious as you are sent to investigate another assassination. What seems to be another normal day at work will soon get you entangled in a twisted web of lies, deception, and violence, as you make critical decisions, often with unexpected results.
When things go south, or whenever you simply need to figure out where to head next, how you interact with your environment becomes a crucial part of your experience. I may be biased because I love point-and-click adventures, but it’s worth noting how satisfying puzzle-solving feels throughout the game. From having to put an aspirin in a glass full of water to fix a bad hangover, to mixing up complex chemical reactions in plants so as to improvise an escape through a hole behind a wall of vines, I hardly felt stuck, punished, or coddled by the game, with the clues never feeling too obvious or needlessly hard to crack.
Ultimately, the only flaw was the sensation of wanting more of The Sundew. While its length can feel underwhelming, it is still an achievement since it’s developed by one person, which is even more admirable after seeing the quality of the final product. The fact that the game left me craving for more adventures like this speaks volumes of the developer’s dedication, as well as a testament to the beautifully presented cyberpunk adventure of The Sundew.