Review: Rumu | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: Rumu

Imogen Claire takes control of a tiny cleaner robot in Rumu: a game that probes the problems of integrating technology into human lives.

Rumu is the question of what you would do for love. To pass it off as a simple and sweet point-and-click-puzzler would be dishonest, and a disservice to the messages it leaves on its form like fingerprints on glass.

You play as the titular tiny hoover, tidying up the mess that your inventors David and Cecily Kennedy leave around the house, directed by its AI Sabrina. The couple are often busy out of the house, centring the story around the relationship between Rumu and Sabrina. The game begins charmingly enough – the robot chirps its love for cleaning, vacuums the clutter and chats to the other appliances, as well as the cat, Ada. However, it becomes clear, however, that truths may be not be as self-evident as Sabrina states.
Rumu screenshot
Days pass and tasks become more complex, with Sabrina leading you into new rooms and Rumu gaining new emotional functions. I adored the spaces we discovered, drifting against soft colour schemes painted subtly to reflect early dawn, midday sun, lunar eclipse. Inspecting the décor and nosing through files reveal clues as to what actually happened, as well as occasionally triggering dialogue or silence between the two characters. Where the game shines are in its curious observations on the entanglement of technology and domestic life – ever-so-pertinent with Alexa, Siris and Cortanas.

I adored the spaces we discovered
Understandably, these themes are well-established in various books, TV, films and other games alike, but Rumu offers something beyond the superficial binary exploration of ‘human’ and ‘not-human’.

Accompanied by a cool, quiet soundtrack, you are left to contend with what love means, and what loss may do to a person and to a family. It masterfully layers multiple stories, stowing away details and also leaving them bare for the player to absorb. There’s not a lot I can reveal here without spoiling, but even as I meandered slowly around the Kennedy’s home, I don’t believe I unearthed everything that Robot House wove into the compact, three-hour game. As Rumu becomes more sophisticated and aware, its branching dialogue options begin to undo Sabrina’s accepted authority. Allegra Clark’s evocative performance of the house AI marries cold awkwardness with petulance and endearment, and the ending is a sucker punch of happiness and horror.
Rumu screenshot
For all that it does so very well, it is a shame that the puzzles either take no effort at all or far too much. Fortunately, there is an option in the pause menu to restart the room if, contrary to Rumu’s function, you have made a total hash of it. Additionally, the wee hoover is best scooted around the floors with a controller, but it can be glitchy and select the option you didn’t want to choose. Yet these are insignificant scratches on the whole experience of Rumu. It prompts a closer examination of human relationships mediated by technologies we now consider ordinary, that perhaps despite our ambition and expectations for the future, there are things that could never translate into ones and zeroes.


11th June 2018 at 9:00 am

Last Updated

11th June 2018 at 1:35 pm

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