If you're not familiar with a Roomba, all you really need to know is that it's an automatic vacuum cleaner that is good for cleaning messes, making my dog jump about fifteen feet in the air before rapidly fleeing for the safety of upstairs, and giving rides to cats wearing shark costumes. Rumu is a video game about a Roomba-like vacuum cleaner that just wants to be a good robot. Of course, being a good robot means cleaning messes for a constantly missing family. Does Rumu suck like it's supposed to, or does it just suck?
You'll play as Rumu, a goofy and loving vacuum cleaner that can't help but express its love for every object it comes across. Rumu loves its owners David and Cecily even though they're never around, Rumu loves the computer named Sabrina that runs the entire house, and Rumu even loves the pet cat Ada that tends to make messes and hitch rides. Of course, things can't just last, as Rumu's cleaning causes it to explore the house and begin to learn the story of its absent occupants, all while it continues to become more self-aware. Why are David and Cecily never around? What is Sabrina hiding?
Taking place over the course of a week, Rumu will begin to investigate the house as it cleans messes. The story of what's really going on manages to quickly drive its claws in, gripping me and making sure I was paying attention. It felt like each detail in the house could help push me a little further into solving the mystery. David's book selection in the study is telling, as is the strangeness of someone writing "I'm still here" in invisible ink all over a hallway.
The real star of the show is the development that both Rumu and Sabrina go through, with the two robots becoming more self-aware as the game continues. Sabrina's motto of "be a good machine" is stretched in ways that make sense, but provide some unique perspectives on a simple phrase. Would a good machine invade someone's privacy to figure out if they're doing okay? Or would it disobey a direct order if they believe it's against a human's general interest?
Interestingly enough there are some dialogue options as you play. Rumu can give answers to Sabrina's questions, but there's a catch that it can only really express love. Rumu loves everything, but it can love some things more than other things. What exactly Rumu tells Sabrina it loves is important. There's a world of difference between "I love David and Cecily and Sabrina" and "I love Sabrina and David and Cecily." That said, while the dialogue options may elect difference responses out of Sabrina, the narrative doesn't change all too much. You'll see the same basic story no matter where you attribute your love, and there's only a single ending.
Of course, Rumu is basically a glorified Roomba, so it has a job to clean up messes that the residents leave behind. You do this simply by driving over the mess until it's all gone. That's all that's really involved in Rumu's cleaning segments, and the puzzles aren't much more involved. Most of the time you need to unlock doors by finding passwords in the environment. I can't think of a single time where the password wasn't right next to the locked object in question. Sometimes it's 'hidden', in that the name of an object is right next to the lock. It doesn't really take a genius to find these passwords.
Pretty early in, Rumu gets an ability that allows it to see the internal wiring of the house and highlights all objects that it can interact with. This mostly means sometimes you'll need to either solve or take apart basic pipe puzzles to power something up or deny it power and shut it down. Once again, these are basic at best and it makes it feel like Rumu's puzzles are distracting from the story and exploration. They mostly feel like they exist to pad out the game to its three hour running time. Thankfully, they're not difficult and I wasn't getting stuck on any of them. They're just sort of there to create busywork, which I guess makes sense for a robotic vacuum cleaner.
At least I could gaze at some great art while I was cleaning messes. Each room in the game has a "floating in the void" aesthetic like it's completely unconnected from every other section of the house. They also feel genuinely lived in, and I could see where each character added their own personal touch to it. The game is also accompanied by some fantastic voice acting that helps sell each scene, each actor giving a really good and genuinely emotional performance. Rumu combines this with a great soundtrack, ramping up when needed while quieting down to a lonely piano during the emotional moments. The art, voice acting, and soundtrack all team up to further enhance the excellent story.
I never thought I could fall in love with a fancy dustbag, but Rumu stole my heart. This weird little chirping vacuum is expressive, fun, and loves everything. I couldn't tear myself away from this journey of self-discovery, and the more I got to see the story the more it drew me in. While the busywork puzzles are unfortunate, the game has way more going for it that I forgot about them before long. I just wish I could love my Roomba this much.
Our Rumu review was conducted on PC via Steam using a copy provided by the developer.
Rumu is slightly held back by easy puzzles, but the fantastic story, wonderful character development, and lovely audio video package do a lot to make this robot's journey of self-discovery worth it.
- Great Story
- Fantastic Character Development
- Strong Presentation
- Rumu is Adorable
- Puzzles are Easy at Best, Busywork at Worst
- Dialogue Choices Don't Really Affect Story