Venba Review
Screenshot by Destructoid

Review: Venba

Something I’ve come to appreciate more than ever is entertainment’s ability to introduce us to cultures other than our own. It probably has something to do with the fact that I live in a small, redneck part of California where white people loudly complain about the number of Mexican restaurants in town. Listening to that crap day in and day out, it’s no wonder I’m always jumping at the chance to discover something beyond my powder-white existence.

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That’s why I was excited to play Venba, a narrative-driven cooking game that takes the idea of Cooking Mama and transports it to an immigrant family’s house in the 1980s. It’s a darling game, but it might be hard to justify the price, given how fleeting it is.

Venba (PC [reviewed], PS4, Switch, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One)
Developer: Visai Games
Publisher: Visai Games
Released: July 31, 2023
MSRP: $14.99

Venba is a story-driven experience where you witness brief events throughout the lives of an immigrant family. Venba and her husband Paavalan moved from India to Canada in the 1980s to start a new life for themselves. As is the experience for many immigrants, it’s not easy for them, even with all that “free” healthcare lying around. Across seven chapters, you’ll witness snapshots of their lives and struggles, and watch as a couple becomes a family that tries to keep hold of their heritage. Heritage is a central thread throughout Venba, whether it’s the mother asking her son Kavin to speak Tamil or the delightful-looking dishes you’ll assemble.

While the trailers for Venba make it look like there is a great deal of cooking to do here, there are only a few meals to create. Venba relies on her mother’s cookbook to make traditional South Indian dishes to keep her family tied to their roots. But the book is old, faded, and ripped. You’ll need to rely on what is still in the cookbook or any other hints to properly make each meal.

This approach turns the cooking segments into something of a puzzle game, and I enjoyed deducing how to solve them. I don’t imagine anyone will struggle too hard figuring each recipe out. That said, if you make a mistake, the game is quick to give you another shot.

The food is lovely to look at, as is the rest of the game, but it’s all so brief. Venba took me about 90 minutes to finish. I felt there was more of this family I was meant to see, more dishes I was meant to make. I admire the creativity on display here, such as how the speech bubbles become muddled when Kavin speaks English words Venba doesn’t understand.

Alas, Venba is an exercise in brevity. I greatly enjoyed my peek into the lives of strangers who exposed me to a culture different than mine. I just wish I could have got a longer look at it.

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.

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CJ Andriessen
Editor-at-Large – CJ has been a contributor to Destructoid since 2015, originally writing satirical news pieces before transitioning into general news, features, and other coverage that was less likely to get this website sued.