Reviewed on PC, copy supplied by publisher.
Putting you in control of a sentient vacuum cleaner, Rumu is a game that wasn’t exactly on my radar last year, and to say I was surprised by what I experienced is an understatement.
What I thought would be a fun little mini-game of vacuuming up after your messy owners turned out to be an emotional and poignant experience that knows how to place some well timed gut punches. Gameplay wise, Rumu is nothing revolutionary, it’s more or less a point and click adventure that feels a lot like a walking simulator (not a negative term, we love walking sims).
Exploring a smart home that has been dialed up to the extreme, almost every piece of tech you encounter in the game is sentient, including the moody AI that runs the house. I won’t delve too much into the narrative that plays out in Rumu, as that should be explored for yourself, but I will say that the sense of emotion and anxiety that this game conveys is done incredibly well with little resources. When I write resources I’m not talking about the budget of the studio, I’m talking about minimal level design managing to tell a story through voice work, background colours and sound work alone.
In fact the backgrounds warrant further discussion, as what developers Robot House have done to convey a sense of emotional connection to a cleaning device is extremely smart. Typically when exploring or cleaning rooms in Rumu, the background will be a pastel colour.
The pastels give a nice comforting touch to the game, with an innocence to them that reflects Rumu and his cute robotic face. It’s all daisies when things are pastel. Yet, when things take a sinister turn -which they do on a number of occasions – the game reflects it with the colour palette.
Dark brooding colours and stormy clouds will fill the void behind the levels as the story develops, which when paired with the soundtrack is a one way ticket to emotion and wet cheeks. This way of telling the story through colour really stood out, and is part of the reason I can vividly remember set pieces in the game, despite the fact they don’t look overly different from each other.
As sci-fi stories go, the one here is pretty damn solid, and Rumu as a vessel is the perfect way to experience it. The Robot is objectively cute, with his innocent love of everything and willingness to help. Experiencing complex issues from his naive point of view is all the more heartbreaking.
The only real negatives I can say about Rumu are that certain levels dragged on longer than they needed to. The inability to skip dialogue is an issue too, especially when a crash (to do with my PC not the game) meant that I had to re-listen to an entire level’s worth of dialogue over again.
For those fond of the emotional side of video games, this is a must play, although the relatively high retail price for roughly three hours of game time may turn some off.