Venba Review: Food For Thought

Besides being the name of the game’s protagonist, Venba also describes a Tamil poem style. It’s short, but brevity doesn’t mean it lacks depth. The title brilliantly captures the game’s essence. Brief, but beautifully complex. The narrative says just enough to allow the player to fill in the gaps with their own experiences, making the events more relatable, touching, heartbreaking, and joyous.

Our heroine’s journey is a struggle. She’s moved with her husband, Paavalan, to start a new life in a country where neither have friends or know the culture. But for the sake of their unborn child, they want to make things work. The narrative unfolds over decades, revealing each character’s attempt to navigate thier reality in their own way.

Venba’s trials are impactful, but often understated. A job rejection letter shows up in almost every chapter, though only for a moment. Money is obviously tight has her husband frets about the cost of the ingredients in a celebratory meal she makes for her son. In one emotional scene, Venba and her family encounter chilling malice, through which she attempts to shield her child from noticing by telling him stories of her past.

Cooking makes up the bulk of the puzzle-like gameplay, but it’s also a vehicle for storytelling. What foods are being made, why they’re being made, and what they’re being made with all hint at a thousand unspoken stories and complicated feelings.

Consequently, I’m often laser-focused on making the dishes perfectly, even if my recipe book is smudged or completely unreadable. I love the way this puts me in Venba’s shoes. I worry about how the food will come out and if it will have the intended effect in the same way she does.

It’s easy to finish Venba in one sitting, but the game’s complicated narrative, it’s exploration of family relationships, identity, and hardship, will linger in my mind for so much longer than it took me to play through it.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

One response to “Venba Review: Food For Thought”

  1. […] this week boasts plenty of great releases — including Venba, Word Factori, and Super Space Club — it also sees two games with a lot of potential enter […]

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