Venba review: "A master of the subjects it explores"

Venba screenshot
(Image: © Visai Games)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Venba is a must-play experience, an enthralling tale of immigrants across multiple generations, all backed by a brilliantly absorbing puzzle game in the form of cooking.

Pros

  • +

    Masterclass in cross-generational stories

  • +

    Fantastic representation of Indian culture via cooking

  • +

    Seamlessly blends cooking puzzles into the narrative

Cons

  • -

    A little on the short side

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Fast Facts: Venba

Developer: In-house
Publisher: Visai Games
Platform(s): PC, PS5, Switch, Xbox Series X
Release date: July 31, 2023

Venba is not a game about me. It's a game about my mother, and her mother before her. More specifically, it's a game about immigrants uprooting their life in India to make it in the west, keeping their traditions and eastern lifestyles alive by cooking the food of their ancestors. 

Venba is not a game about me – it's a game about the world I inhabit. It's about the melding of eastern and western lifestyles, and how the descendants of immigrants might lurch between embracing their heritage, and throwing it all away for just a shot at being accepted by the western world around them. 

My mother bleeds history

Venba screenshot

(Image credit: Visai Games)

The game's title is also the name of the mother of the family, and it's chiefly through her eyes that the visual novel story unfolds. Venba and her husband left India for Canada in hope of a better life, but right before they could return, their plans were uprooted by the arrival of Kavin, their son. Developer Visai's game is under two hours long, but the story hits the ground running. 

The parents are first-generation immigrants, wracked with immigrant anxieties about whether they're working hard enough, or whether they would've been better off staying in India in the first place. Kavin, on the other hand, is a second-generation immigrant, with eyes at times only for the country of his birth, shirking the eastern values his parents feel bound by. It's relatable – painfully so, even. 

This is much of Venba's central theme: Kavin struggling to embrace his heritage while integrating into western society, while Venba and her husband fight to make something of their lives. It's a story millions of diaspora around the world are acutely familiar with, one that's kept up countless people at night as their hopes and dreams crash against the cliff face of uncertainty and second-guessing. 

Sumptuous servings

Venba screenshot

(Image credit: Visai Games)

"Venba perfectly melds together a story of generational anxieties and dreams"

When Venba isn't a visual novel perusing the lives of the three central characters, it's a puzzler cooking game. There's several instances of being presented with a cooking book, an heirloom passed down from generation to generation around the world, and being tasked with recreating a dish entirely from scratch based on the options you've got in front of you. 

The recipe book isn't always legible though – instructions might be hard for Kavin to translate, or the pages have just been worn away by time. You'll have to work out how to use up all the rice without wasting any excess in a blender, for example, or how to position small pots above each other on a rack so steam rises through each level and cook them all.

It's brilliantly simplistic stuff, yet immediately rewarding. Venba doesn't punish you for making errors, so you're free to kick back and have some fun experimenting with its cooking. The feeling of nailing a dish washes over you like serotonin – the puzzles might just be a few minutes long, but they're so fantastically fulfilling when they're complete. 

This is explicitly Tamil culture and cooking coming to bear in Venba. There's beautiful Dosas and sublime Idlis alike to recreate at various points in the story. Immigrants carry their food with them wherever they land in the world – Venba knows this, and it's channelling Tamil culture and personal history via its cooking. 

The act of cooking is also seamlessly interwoven with Venba's overarching narrative. There's one point where Kavin just wants pizza, but Venba entertains him by cooking  a dish cooked entirely in a tube that resembles a rocket, so it entertains the young Kavin. Cooking is such a central part of life for Indian people, and that Venba manages to tie it into the story beats is excellent. 

Venba is a stunning tour de force adventure through the lives of Indian immigrants. It perfectly melds together a story of generational anxieties and dreams, pulling from strands intricately familiar for millions of people around the world. That the story is told alongside a cooking puzzle game – itself a brilliant and enthralling aspect – that seeps into the narrative shows Venba as a master of the subjects it explores. 

Venba was reviewed on PC, with a code provided by the publisher.

More info

Available platformsGames, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch
GenrePuzzle
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Hirun Cryer

Hirun Cryer is a freelance reporter and writer with Gamesradar+ based out of U.K. After earning a degree in American History specializing in journalism, cinema, literature, and history, he stepped into the games writing world, with a focus on shooters, indie games, and RPGs, and has since been the recipient of the MCV 30 Under 30 award for 2021. In his spare time he freelances with other outlets around the industry, practices Japanese, and enjoys contemporary manga and anime.