Capsule Review: Rumu

A short narrative adventure game where you play as a robotic vacuum cleaner named Rumu who is designed to clean messes and feel love. It soon becomes clear that things are not as they appear and there are mysteries to solve - possibly deadly ones.

The game features a sleek, ultramodern aesthetic with visuals that wouldn’t be out of place in some kind of near-future interactive IKEA catalog or a commercial for Aperture Science. Rumu itself is adorable with bright expressive eyes and friendly audio chirps - as if the Roomba had been designed by the people who made AIBO. This consistent, plausible design philosophy makes the world feel believable - and provides a perfect contrast for the hints of horror lurking beneath the surface.

The story is mostly solid, with a steady increase of suspense and surprise reveals that make sense but raise further questions. The heart is the relationship between Rumu and the house’s central AI, which is well-executed and owes a lot to a stellar voice performance by Allegra Clark. Unfortunately, I found the ending unsatisfying, due to the plot building toward a particular confrontation that you only get to see a small part of when it actually happens.

The gameplay is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some standard point-and-click-adventure-style puzzles that are very simple, which is probably the correct choice for a game that leans so heavily on its narrative. The controls are perhaps a bit too simulationist - rather than just clicking on distant objects to automatically navigate to them and interact with them, as in a standard point-and-click, Rumu must be steered and driven around the floor. There’s a sense in which this is more immersive but it can become frustrating and distracting to keep bumping into furniture on your way to objects that may or may not even be interactive - and the realism goes out the window anyway when Rumu can pick up objects that are larger than it is or placed on shelves above it. It might have been better to include a bit more assistance navigating around obstacles.

Overall, the game is a compelling story you can experience in a single sitting (my playthrough took about two hours). But I don’t feel like it quite lives up to its potential and isn’t quite as easy to recommend as it should be - smoother navigation and interaction as well as a more fleshed-out ending would have gone a long way.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the game.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.