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‘Venba’ review: The Perfect tribute to South Indian culture and cuisine

Embrace food, heritage, and yourself with Venba.

Growing up in an Indian and Tamil household, I was brought up to believe food is a significant part of our lives. My family and I marked every occasion of importance, be it a birthday or a holy festival, by preparing various traditional dishes like Payasam (sweet pudding) and Kesari (sweet semolina). For my mother, food has always been something more sacred, a way to show love and care. American economist and writer Winona LaDuke has said, “Food has a culture. It has a history. It has a story. It has relationships,” and this is exactly what Visai Studios’ new game, Venba, succeeds in emulating. 

I was immediately struck by the vibrant, cheerful aspect of Venba the first time I saw its trailer. Little did I know that playing it today would have me look back at my own life and relationships. The story follows Venba, an Indian woman living in Canada with her husband, Paavalan. They’re immigrants who left India to start anew but are struggling financially. They debate whether they should move back to India in order to live a more comfortable and secure life, but that debate is cut short when Venba discovers their little family of two will soon become a family of three. 

Food is the heart of Venba’s story.

The game takes place during different points in Venba’s life as a mother. At each stage of her life, we see Venba dealing with different hardships she and her husband face together. However, the only time we see glimpses of happiness in them is connecting with their son through their love of food. Venba does a good job of highlighting the anxieties of parenthood; in this case, their son outgrowing his culture and heritage in order to fit in rather than stand out. During such pivotal moments in the game, I am reminded of my own experience growing up in a different country and soon I found myself relating to these characters on the screen.

Venba is a point-and-click cooking game that’s easy to play even for non-gamers. Venba’s gameplay is simple and concise, complementing the narrative perfectly. The basis of the gameplay is mainly to fix lost recipes from Venba’s recipe book given by her mother as most of the pages have been partially damaged or erased with time. Figuring out the right techniques and order was a fun challenge and made me feel like I was practically experimenting in the kitchen. One thing that stood out for me were the small tidbits Venba shares about certain dishes during gameplay, allowing players to become more familiar with South Indian cuisine. 

Venba’s simplistic yet fun gameplay is sure to make you hungry.

Venba is a rollercoaster of emotions that deals with the struggles of immigrant families, touching on topics such as culture shock, language barriers, and racism. At certain points, the game was unapologetic and did not shy away from making me feel melancholic. The story smartly parallels Venba’s past with her mother and the present with her son. This is when the game is at its best as it subtly explains the cycle of modern day generational differences between parents and their kids. There is no voice acting present in the game, but that doesn’t take away from the experience. Instead, the free flowing conversations between characters felt natural and allowing the players to pick dialogue options made the story more interactive. 

I found that the game’s vibrant visuals to be warm and easy on the eyes. The soundtrack very much reflected the themes of the game, adding authenticity to the gameplay (I’ve been listening to them while writing this review). It also awoke me to memories of my mother’s morning playlist as she prepared my breakfast before I left for school. The kitchen sound effects were an integral part of the game in order to set the ambience of being in a South Indian kitchen. This made me appreciate the developers for being so dedicated in representing the smallest detail with so much care.

A tender moment between mother and son.

Venba’s ability to reflect the tribulations of everyday life is what makes the game so special. The game is a love letter to parenthood. Venba is not just one woman, she represents mothers everywhere who are simply trying their best in the given circumstances. It touched my heart and soul in more ways than one. This game is for everyone, no matter the age or level of gaming experience. And I can’t wait to share it with my own mother.

‘Venba’ review: The Perfect tribute to South Indian culture and cuisine
Venba excels in being a meaningful and emotional game. Its story will have you reflect on your own life's journey, making you smile and cry. One thing is certain: by the end of your time with Venba, you'll surely want to call your mother.
Reader Rating2 Votes
Wonderfully emotional story.
Vibrant visuals and excellent sound design. You'll want to listen to the soundtrack long after playing.
Simplistic, easy to learn gameplay.

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