Review: Visai Serves Up a Rich Story in Venba
Image via Visai Games

Review: Visai Games Serves Up a Rich Story in Venba

Sometimes short games can inspire intense feelings. Florence is one. Now Venba, by Visai Games, is another. The concept is so good. Following a Tamil family through moments in their new lives in Canada, we see moments in the titular Venba’s life and assist as she makes dishes from her culture at these critical times. The only downside is, I’m coming away from this otherwise delightful dish still hungry.

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Venba begins with her and her husband Paavalan not long after immigrating to Canada from India. They’re having trouble finding work in their respective fields. In Paavalan’s case, it is because nobody is willing to hire him. Venba got a job, but she can’t get a promotion to secondary education. After waking up under the weather, the game begins with her insisting she’ll make food for both of them to start the day, and the player helping her puzzle her way through making her mother’s idli’s. It sets a recurring theme in which we’ll watch their growing family face challenges, working out recipes from the damaged cookbook along the way.

Review: Visai Games Serves Up a Rich Story in Venba

Image via Visai Games


While some of the early trailers and screenshots might make Venba seem like there are a lot of choices and opportunities to make Tamil cuisine, it’s actually a rather limited experience. You can choose responses for Venba and her son Kavin from time to time. However, doing so only involves seeing some different reactions. It doesn’t alter the course of the story. Likewise, you do get to make some meals, but these cooking segments are quite limited.

Which is probably the biggest disappointment, because getting to make the recipes is such a rich experience. The colors are so vibrant. It’s more of a puzzle than something like Cooking Mama, as whoever is making the dish is typically needing to piece things together along the way. You might not be able to clearly make out parts of the recipe, due to the book being damaged, or other factors. So you need to pay attention to clues and context. Every single meal was this pleasant, delightful experience. Especially since the soundtrack is so much fun and the finished food looks delicious. I kept hoping certain mechanics would come up again or be built on with additional dishes. But then, the next story segment would fast forward to further time periods and I started to realize that wouldn’t happen.

Review: Visai Games Serves Up a Rich Story in Venba

Image via Visai Games


Speaking of which, Venba is fantastic at conveying emotions and experiences in very small bites. So much so that I, once again, wished that we’d get to see more of Venba, Paavalan, and Kavin’s lives. Especially since it feels like there are so many opportunities to show other occasions (and let us see what other amazing recipes the family could make). But what is there is handled so well and is so insightful. Seeing what they’re going through as newcomers to Canada, watching the relationships between all three of them and those around them, and seeing conflicts that come up when moving from one culture to another is fascinating. It also feels like it rings true and is identifiable. When Kavin is acting as a translator for Venba to call Paavalan’s work, it reminded me of hanging around at my friend’s house and her filling the same role for her grandfather. Getting to see the different perspectives, and how things progress over time, is so touching.

What’s also fantastic is the way Venba highlights certain situations during its script with specific effects. When Kavin or Paavalan is speaking English, rather than Tamil, the font color is yellow instead of white. If there’s a certain emotion coming through during dialogue, the textbox could be clouded. When people converse via texts on phones, there are the situations where things are typed out, then erased. There’s a great use of color and effects throughout the story, and again it helps build these connections with the player and show the emotion tied to every scene.

Review: Visai Games Serves Up a Rich Story in Venba

Image via Visai Games


Venba is so good that it leaves you wanting more. Even if I could have my wish and the game could be twice as long, I suspect even that wouldn’t be enough for me. Visai Games offers such small, delightful slices of these family members’ lives, and I just wish I could get to know more about them and their culture during the game.

Venba is available for the Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.

8
Venba
Venba is a short narrative cooking game, where you play as an Indian mom, who immigrates to Canada with her family in the 1980s. Players will cook various dishes and restore lost recipes, hold branching conversations and explore in this story about family, love, loss and more. Switch version reviewed. Venba is an incredibly heartfelt, yet short, experience that offers glimpses into a family's life, culture, and delicious-looking meals.
Pros
  • It would have been nice to have an actual “recipes” section hidden in the options, so we could then make the items we saw in-game in real life.
  • You can go back through a chapter menu to replay certain parts of the story.

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Author
Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.