Ever since I first played Cooking Mama, I’ve loved cooking games. It’s fun to learn about new recipes and try them out in my everyday life. Expanding my cooking to try different cultures’ foods is one of my favorite things, especially when I can share that with my family. In my opinion, food is a great way to share culture and bring people together.
When I first saw that Venba had such a heavy focus on food, I got excited. Add in it was supposed to be a reasonably relaxed game with some nice puzzles and a heartfelt storyline, and I was immediately sold.
Another cozy game in my cozy game collection that I could replay when I felt down and wanted something to take my mind off of things; what could go wrong?
Apparently, I misinterpreted what heartfelt meant because I cried twice while playing Venba. It has its heartwarming moments, and it has some heartwrenching moments. The story of Venba is raw, all too real, and over all too soon. I came for the cooking, but I stayed for Venba herself.
I’m Not Crying; I’m Just Cutting Onions
Venba is a short game about the life of an Indian, specifically Tamil, mom, Venba, and her family from the late 1980s to the 2010s.
The primary and most interactive way you explore Venba and Kavin’s Tamil heritage is through the cooking sections of the game. Even as Venba’s family grows and she and Paavalan grow older, the food remains just as delicious.
The story of Venba explores the difficulty of immigrating to an entirely new county and culture and how, while it does offer some opportunity, it comes with plenty of its own challenges. These challenges are subtly demonstrated through Paavalan and Venba’s difficult time getting work, remaining financially stable, and even connecting with their own son.
Venba is not an entirely happy story nor an entirely sad one. It deals with the harsh realities of raising a child in a culture that is so different from your own and without a noticeable community from your own culture around you.
Food for the Eyes
You will be delighted whether you’re looking at food or the narrative sections. Venba is a heavily stylized game, playing into the unique hand-drawn aesthetic. The graphics play incredibly well into how good the food looks Venba, making your mouth water as you play.
If you’ve never had the dishes in Venba before, then you, like me, will probably walk away wanting to try a few new recipes. Given that the cooking puzzles in Venba often rely on visuals or context clues, it’s important that everything look fairly distinct.
Thankfully, Visai Games was keenly aware of this because, as long as you pay attention, it’s fairly easy to figure out each puzzle based almost entirely off of graphics alone.
Venba, more often than not, has a warm and friendly color palette, which helps to add to the cozy, fairly wholesome nature of the game. It makes the drastic switch to the cooler, darker color palettes much more noticeable, which helps to set the tone of each scene incredibly well.
The subtle storytelling in Venba is almost better than the dialogue, making it worth spending time looking at the background and the subtle things the characters are doing.
Turn Up the Radio
Venba’s music is the kind you’d want to jam out to when you’re whipping up a feast for yourself and others. The game features an original soundtrack inspired by Tamil music, both old and new. This music plays throughout the game, but it’s especially noticeable when you’re cooking.
The original music in Venba is incredibly well composed and works wonders to set the mood for each chapter alongside the visuals. Usually, it’s upbeat and makes you excited to cook each meal and share it with Venba’s family.
Although I didn’t purchase the deluxe version of Venba to get the soundtrack, part of me is incredibly tempted to go ahead and buy the soundtrack.
Anybody Can Cook
Anybody can cook, and anybody can play Venba. The gameplay mechanics are pretty simple. Click and drag, occasionally move the mouse in a circle, and click on the dialogue option you want. The simple mechanics pair well with the cooking puzzles that appear in all but two chapters (out of seven) in Venba.
Each puzzle relies heavily on the context clues in the recipe book or through a brief memory sequence. If you’re struggling, Venba has a hint mechanic that you can use, but the puzzles are easy enough to figure out through trial and error that you likely won’t need to use.
When you’re going through the puzzles, if you click on the dialogue/hint box at the bottom, you can access what the game calls “flavor text.” This gives extra information about each recipe, and if you read through all of the flavor text in the game, you can get the “Flavor Text” achievement.
The cooking and story portions of the game are reasonably well-balanced, so you’ll likely spend an even amount of time on both aspects of the gameplay during your first run through the game.
Cooking the Same Recipe
Even if it’s the only thing you want to do, cooking the same recipe repeatedly gets boring quickly. It can be enjoyable or fun during the first few attempts, but when nothing changes, it loses the same impact. Unfortunately, Venba is very similar to cooking the same recipe one too many times.
Unless you’re going for all of the achievements, Venba doesn’t have much replayability. The story is short, and no branching paths could offer a modicum of replayability. Despite the promise of branching dialogue, the options you pick during dialogue mostly provide the illusion of choice until you replay it again.
Thankfully, however, if you want to replay, you don’t need to go through the entire story again. Instead, you can choose which chapters you want to go through to get every achievement possible.
Since Venba isn’t a game you can play over and over again, it’s worth checking out some other games that offer a similar stylization or feeling or can teach you a few new recipes too.
The Verdict – 8/10
I enjoyed every moment of Venba. I even went back to play it a second time to feel the satisfaction of gaining every achievement. However, I will probably never play it again. I walked away from Venba with a world of new recipes I now want to try and with an ache in my heart that I’m not sure any game can fill.
Venba’s story is short, concise, and to the point with its heartfelt narrative, and it’s perfect where it ended. However, I wanted more from the cooking and the puzzles. I wanted to walk away with a recipe rather than a process for the recipe.
In Chapter 5, I felt like I missed out on a lot because no recipe, or name for the dishes, was provided.
I understand that the point was to prove that things were in a rush to prepare the feast, and yet, as someone who isn’t Tamil, I feel like I missed out on learning something new, making me a little sad and distanced from the game.
- Beautiful graphics
- Excellent story and storytelling
- Fun music
- Easy to obtain achievements
- The puzzles are great
- You probably won’t learn the recipes
- Very short for the price
- No replayability
Venba Review: FAQs
Question: How do You Get the Paavalan Would Be Proud Achievement in Venba?
Answer: You can obtain the Paavalan Would Be Proud achievement by looking through all of Venba’s texts with Kavin, all of Kavin’s texts, and getting the Flavor Text achievement.
Question: How do You Get the Flavor Text Achievement in Venba?
Answer: You can get the Flavor Text achievement by looking through all of the optional dialogue at the bottom of the screen during each segment of the cooking puzzles.
Question: How Long is Venba?
Answer: Venba can easily be completed in 1-2 hours.
After just over three hours of playtime, Tallis managed to gain every achievement in the game and perfect every recipe without messing up a single time. She explored every dialogue option and shed tears at least twice.
Now she readily awaits for Visai Games to put out something new so she can snatch it up in a heartbeat.