Developer/Publisher: Visai Games
Release Date: July 31, 2023
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Series X/S
Reviewed on: Steam Deck
Venba is a cozy, deep narrative in bite-sized form that was showcased at Wholesome Games 2023 earlier this year. Since its release at the end of July, it’s received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Let’s not dilly-dally and dive right in:
Because of how short this game is, I will avoid major story “spoilers”, but I hope to properly summarize its premise and review gameplay elements.
In summary, this game follows an Indian woman named Venba, who along with her husband, struggle to make a life as immigrants in Canada. While they miss the comforts of home, they end up staying in Canada to provide a better life for their newborn son, Kavin.
The story progresses in brief chapters as years pass and Kavin grows up. Each chapter, Venba recreates South Indian cuisine from her mother’s recipe book. As you cook as Venba, you also witness her family’s challenges, including the growing rift with her son who struggles with his heritage in Canada.
Kavin grows up and soon connects to his roots through cooking.
If you look up the reviews of Venba in Steam, it pretty much sums up its massive impact. Venba is a story meant to relate to all first and second generation immigrants that have moved to Canada (or the U.S., etc). Families that move from the East to western countries like Canada or the United States struggle learning English, finding work, experiencing discrimination, and raising their children in a completely different culture. The children also have a unique experience where they often struggle to fit in. For example, kids like Kavin often feel isolated in school when they bring in home-made lunches. Other children may make fun of how to food looks or smells because it is ‘different’. Kids like Kavin also may take up more interest in western culture and become more hesitate to speak their native tongue. These struggles are well illustrated in Venba through vignettes over the 1980’s onward.
The core mechanic of Venba is cooking. Between story bits, you control Venba and work your way through an incomplete (or difficult to read) recipe book. Because Tamil cuisine is complex and technical, you must utilize several spices and precise techniques. This is what kept me engaged in the gameplay. At the same time, it is very forgiving if you don’t get the order of ingredients right.
The bright visuals and tantalizing sound effects are what kept me engrossed. My mouth watered at every dish I prepared. Not only that, but elements of traditional music were sprinkled throughout the game. It was a delight to my senses, and I was proud every time I successfully completed my meal.
As a second generation American myself, I immediately could relate to this family’s struggle. In addition, I come from a culture that bonds over food, and I believe Visai Games did a fantastic job getting this message across in a way that can impact any player.
Although this is a short game (and a short review), Venba packed a powerful punch. You can tell it was made with love and treated with care. It shares a story that I feel is under-represented in gaming, and I hope to see more of the like in the future.
I give Venba five stars because I have no complaints about the game other than I wish the experience could’ve lasted longer! However, there is something to be said about ending a story at the appropriate time. While it may not be a game for everyone, it earns full marks because of:
- engaging and impactful story
- fun cooking mechanics
- vivid colors and sound
- and fun to play
If you enjoy narrative-driven games, I highly recommend Venba.
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Featured Image Source: Visai Games