PCPOWERPLAY - - Indies -

Years ago, I pur­chased Gone Home, think­ing it was more of a clas­sic ad­ven­ture. De­spite gen­er­ally en­joy­ing ex­plo­ration/ nar­ra­tive games, my mis­matched ex­pec­ta­tion de­tracted from the ex­pe­ri­ence, at least a lit­tle. Rumu is another ti­tle which looks as if it be­longs in the ad­ven­ture/puz­zle genre but I’d ar­gue that it’s pri­mar­ily a nar­ra­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, where set­ting and de­sign sup­port story rather than play, most of the time. This is an im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion be­cause Rumu shines most brightly when it is sim­ply be­ing what it is.

As one of a small, but de­tailed, cast of char­ac­ters, the pro­tag­o­nist is a robotic vac­uum cleaner. Al­though the story could have un­folded in sev­eral ways, this point of view is ideal for un­cov­er­ing se­crets be­cause you’re mo­bile, cu­ri­ous and use­ful. Another main char­ac­ter is the sen­tient house who, from the out­set, ini­ti­ates dis­qui­et­ing con­ver­sa­tion. Given the game’s rel­a­tively slow start, I ini­tially won­dered if the vol­ume of di­a­logue was nec­es­sary, but clues that seed the de­light­ful plot twists later are scat­tered ev­ery­where, of­ten quite ex­plic­itly.

A lot can be learned about char­ac­ters and their re­la­tion­ships sim­ply by ob­serv­ing the lo­ca­tions in this mod­ern, vi­brant home. Clean­ing pro­vides an im­pe­tus to ex­plore the house, al­though pro­gres­sion is al­ways

lin­ear and gated. I ap­pre­ci­ated be­ing di­rected to the next com­pelling in­cre­ment of story, mostly be­cause I found the con­trols dif­fi­cult to mas­ter. Plot­ting a course with a mouse click re­sulted in col­li­sions and driv­ing Rumu with WASD was es­pe­cially con­fus­ing when clean­ing com­pact spills. I did feel like a vac­uum cleaner, how­ever.

Over three hours, the puz­zles didn’t de­velop or be­come more com­plex, they were just there. Rout­ing power and find­ing ob­jects are a fair di­ver­sion from in­tense story mo­ments, nonethe­less, and it is some­times nice to never be stuck in a game, as mo­men­tum is main­tained. At one point, though, I had to back­track my un­wieldy self to find in­for­ma­tion I’d read but couldn’t re­call, pos­si­bly be­cause the game is a lit­tle light on in­struc­tion. For ex­am­ple, I didn’t find the jour­nal un­til the end or know that progress was be­ing saved at the be­gin­ning of each day.

Rumu’s branch­ing di­a­logue sys­tem is im­ple­mented more for humour rather than to pro­vide non­lin­ear con­se­quences, even though the choices them­selves can be very weighty. Again, this does sup­port the over­ar­ch­ing nar­ra­tive. Rumu may ex­press love for the toaster or just ask for some toast, but this sim­ply makes an ex­pres­sion of “not love” or a less mun­dane ac­tion all the more shock­ing later. Why does the vac­uum cleaner love ev­ery­one and ev­ery­thing? Trust that this story will neatly tie ev­ery in­trigu­ing thread.

Rumu wasn’t pre­cisely what I was ex­pect­ing, but I en­joyed it a lot. If the puz­zles were mostly busy­work, that’s prob­a­bly au­then­tic to your vac­uum-based, nar­ra­tive ex­pe­ri­ence any­way. I left feel­ing re­freshed by the unique­ness of the set­ting and in­spired by a tightly struc­tured story, sym­pa­thetic char­ac­ters and mean­ing­ful themes. If you can ap­pre­ci­ate a great “aha mo­ment”, sci­ence fic­tion world and don’t mind knock­ing over ev­ery chair be­tween here and the kitchen, I’d highly rec­om­mend this.

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