It’s Christmas, the family is out and all is quiet… Until! A window is smashed in and intruders are on the scene to ruin the holiday fun. Their horrible scheme to pilfer the family jewels by stuffing them into a comically oversized swag bag. Never fear though, kids! A sucky little hero is here to save the day and season from these blaggards. Yes, the family Roomba is on the case, and this Harry and his gaggle of Marvs will regret the day they stepped into the family home!
Roombo: First Blood is a title built on an idea, much like all of developer Samurai Punk’s catalog it feels like something thrown together after a conversation between friends. “Like, what if, Home Alone, but a Roomba?”
That’s the apparent depth of the planning stage. The subversive comedy idea game is one genre I can totally get down with and Roombo is so low-priced that it doesn’t feel like too much of an insult to you for giving it a go, but at the end of the day it is still a shallow product. The last few years have seen the growth of the comedy concept game. Titles built solely to be played on live streams and YouTube videos. These can be bona fide hits like Goat Simulator, but there are so many “comedy concept” games that the bulk veers into shovelware levels of quality.
That’s not to say Roombo: First Blood is bad in the slightest. With my very brief run through its nine stages, I saw a perfectly well put together title that was fine to play while it lasted. You play as an adorable little Roomba that has to stealthily move around the family home attempting to prevent an ever-growing army of cat burglars from stealing the family valuables.
Roombo: First Blood starts out with a default control scheme that uses tank controls for movement, this feels really nice and actually preferable to the alternative 3D stick movement option. The game actually presents the second option as the game’s easy difficulty, but really there’s nearly no challenge here. I breezed through the nine stages available in less than two hours.
In order to defend the family home, our little Roomba buddy has to use a secondary “hacking mode” to trigger objects around the house to spring into life, using sprinklers, ceiling fans, and fridges as traps to attack and murder the intruders. Yes, you read that right, you are a Roomba that murders people. Time your hack right and a nearby fan may fall and bludgeon an unsuspecting thief. Pop open the overhead heater and freeze a criminal in the bathroom. The house is filled with a multitude of options for your murderous rampage. Over time a bloodlust meter slowly fills with each maiming and boobytrap assassination. Fill it and Roombo reaches his final form; Roombo, in a headband. You can ram into enemies and send them flying, but doesn’t seem to actually make the little guy any better at killing.
Once you are done with your final kill our delighted little room buddy gleefully sucks up blood and body-parts against a short-timer ahead of the family coming home. Clear a stage and you are met with score ratings for trap accuracy and percentage of the house clean and an overall letter-based grade.
Ultimately these are all meaningless, as aside from outright failure, there’s no punishment for failing to clean a specific amount on time.
In concept, it’s a funny idea and there’s some fun to be had for a couple of stages, but the problem is that it’s all too shallow. The game is built to be a short experimental experience, but is sold on the idea of a range of scenarios, yet for six out of the nine available stages, the scenario is always the same. Some people are breaking into the home, you set off traps to kill them and stop them from taking the household valuables, the only difference is that there are more people now. While the idea of using a smart house as a big trap to kill people is fun, stages are also broken when it comes to challenge. During the hacking mode, you still have full control over Roombo, but now you can move a cursor around the screen to highlight specific things and trigger traps. The game was so broken in favor of the player that there is no reason to leave the slow-motion mode. Even using the much slower tank controls you can easily move along triggering traps as you go and never see any consequences of your actions.
The game is billed as stealth, but ironically it generally does little harm for you to make any noise. Roombo can use a little horn to attract the home invaders to his last known location setting up possible booby trap scenarios. The stealth mechanics are flawed and flimsy though, with AI apparently able to see you through walls and vision cones being unhelpful for avoidance.
Not that it matters as it often pays to be as loud as possible. For example, by the later stages I was triggering all the sprinklers around the front door before anyone had even broken in, and then moving through the house quickly triggering fans and sprinklers, honking my horn to attract intruders as I did. The enemy AI being so simplistic that it would often run into fans on the floor and kill itself in seconds.
For the last three stages, we are given three “Experimental” scenarios. If you are playing through the game naturally these are unannounced and presented without any clear instructions as to what’s going on. When the eighth stage “stealth” loaded up and I found Roombo being beaten to bits, I assumed that the game was suffering a game-breaking glitch. If you hadn’t guessed the thieves are invisible in this scenario. Ironically it’s the one point when the game felt like it was showing some real potential to do something interesting. Within ten minutes, it was all over and I was just left disappointed.
Roombo: First Blood is a tech demo for a great idea but is too short on variation to make it worth recommending as a purchase. If the game was given a little more polish, had more consequences for not engaging with its stealth mechanics, and had more stages with a wider range of more unique scenarios to have fun with, it could really be something fun. As this stands now it’s just a little bit too throw away. With a sequel on the way, we do look forward to seeing more of the murderous Roomba in a full-length title.
Roombo: First Blood
A short and shallow experience that has a fun central idea but is too light a game to honestly be able to recommend.
- Interesting idea
- Cute protagonist design
- Very short
- Not much variation
- Object physics get in the way
- Repetitive music and gameplay