David Reviews

 "You're not an artist, Peggy. You solve problems." Don Draper.

DAVID PLAYS... VENBA.
10 August 2023

Narrative cooking game 'Venba' is about food and family. The former made me hungry—the latter made me cry.

My dad passed away in May this year, and I knew 'Venba' tackled themes of loss and regret. Still, I never expected Visai Studios' gorgeous debut to hit home like it did.

Warning: Contains spoilers for 'Venba'.

The game centres on Venba and Paavalan, a South Indian couple who move to Canada in the 1980s. Job worries and culture shock take their toll, but the birth of son Kavin persuades them to stay. With three mouths to feed, Venba raids her mother's recipe book.



Sure, some the pages are stained, ripped, or missing altogether, but players will soon figure out how to make biriyanis, dosas, puttus, and other Tamil dishes. Brilliant colours and sound design (this game celebrates the spatter of oil like few others) make you long for the return of Smell-O-Vision.

I was hooked by these culinary puzzles, interspersed with heart-to-hearts between Venba and Paavalan that move the story along. Yet as Kavin grows up and moves out, parts of the script threatened to break me.

One to scratch and sniff.  

Like Kavin (or Kevin, as he prefers to be known), I've brushed over text messages from my parents and skipped family meals because I was out with friends. The game even has you cook a six-part banquet to celebrate Kavin's return—he cancels at the last minute. It stings like chilli between finger nails, and made me think about all the moments when my teenage self thought, "What's the big deal?"

Years later, Kavin looks back on his father's death. "It was so sudden," he says: "I always thought there would be time to tell him how much he inspires me." There are many things I wanted to tell my dad before he passed, but at least I got to say, "I love you". That made my next meal go down just a little easier.

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