Rumu is an intimate, narrative-driven adventure that follows the path into sentience of a robot vacuum cleaner.
Rumu is the story of a robot vacuum cleaner and its journey of discovery in its own home. You will probably fall in love with Rumu -- it’s hard not to with all the bleeps and bloops it makes while explaining it loves this and it loves that. Adorable. But underneath the cute aesthetic and fantastically-designed AI-charged house lies a darker tale and several puzzles to make you pull your hair.
Opening on your first day on the job as a vacuum in the house of David and Cecily, you’ll be taught the basics. Cleaning mess and loving to clean the mess, and loving Sabrina the house AI system, your friend and voice leading you through your day-to-day jobs and tasks. Sabrina will guide you through your first day as you will unfortunately not meet David and Cecily, who are out working. But when the next day comes and they're still missing, you start discovering some weird things happening in the house. Slowly, as Rumu starts understanding its own mind more, plus its own world, you will discover some weird things happening.
Each day will see you solve a puzzle or two that can vary from straightforward and simple to confusing because you missed a vital piece of information in a prior area of the house (or maybe that’s just me). Either way, two puzzles had me whipping out the old pen and paper to takes notes as I searched for clues to answer three questions to bypass a computer password. Other environment-based puzzles, like moving boxes around, are simple, while moving slight grid systems around to unlock doors and turn on power were also simple enough. The ones that involved paying attention to details in notes or your environment may prove to be harder for those missing something right under their nose. But the puzzles are fun and designed well. Exploring a room and reading the notes to look for clues gives you more insight into the house, David, Cecil and Sabrina, which is the main attraction of playing Rumu -- the characters.
My one problem with the exploration in Rumu was that controlling the little thing was often annoying. I believe it's supposed to control tanky, and the game also makes jokes about this, but it's cumbersome. Often I was trying to click on an object to interact, only to have Rumu start moving forward, or I’d be close to something I’d want to select but it’d open the menu that appears when you click on Rumu. Little design choices like that also got in my way several times. Also, no pause button -- c'mon. I don’t want to be alt-tabbing in cutscenes because my doorbell is ringing.
Rumu's story is best gone into blind. I played a demo at PAX a few months ago that spoiled a little too much, but admittedly, this type of game is hard not to spoil in a demo. I'd best describe it as Gone Home meets Wall-E. So instead of selling you on the intricacies of the story, I can tell you this -- I made friends with a toaster, a waffle maker, and a cat named Eda. If Robot House decides to make a sequel to Rumu, I'd quite happily just play a social sim where you talk to other appliances as Rumu and tell them you love them, because that's a nice way to start your morning.
Rumu made me fall for this cute little vacuum cleaner -- I adored it. The little bleeps whenever I told someone I loved them -- heart melts. But the game also tackles a subject matter I'm highly interested in, especially in today's age of technology. It also challenges and poses interesting questions about human emotions and by the final moments, I was genuinely moved. Some of Rumu's final words before the game's end really hit me. All of this from a game about a cleaning appliance.