Venba – PS5 Review

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As far as cooking games go, there’s plenty in the market focused solely on re-creating the mechanics of cooking in a step-by-step sequence or on time and resource management challenges. Whilst Venba is at its core a cooking puzzle game, it also brings with it a robust and emotional narrative. This is the debut release from Canadian-based Visai Studios which aim to tell intimate stories through interesting mechanics. Join me below as we take a look at one of my most highly anticipated games of 2023.

Venba –  Cooking Amma

What’s your favourite Indian dish? Sound off with your recipes in the comments!

Venba, Paavalan and Kavin stood together in the kitchen about to start cooking. A speech bubble indicates Venba saying "Alright, let's get started".
Nothing left to do but dive in!


The game begins in the 1980s, Venba and Paavalan have recently moved to Canada due to some tension back home in India regarding their relationship. Venba has been feeling unwell for a few days but drags herself off the sofa to make lunch for herself and for Paavalan to take to work. Thus we are introduced to our first recipe and our first puzzle.

Hey Good Lookin’, What Ya Got Cookin’?

Throughout the game, we are presented with an unfinished recipe to cook. These make the contents of a book passed down to Venba from her amma (mother).  The problem is, due to wear and tear, the pages of the book have become damaged and unreadable. It’s up to Venba to call on her memories and experience with cooking to complete the recipe. We as the player, must take in all the information available and recreated the recipe with the tools and ingredients provided.

In the first recipe, we’re tasked with making idlis – small, UFO-shaped rice cakes, usually served with sambar (stew) or chutneys.  Most of the instructions for the recipe have survived, we have just one step to figure out. We interact with ingredients and utensils with point, click and drag actions. I feel that the freedom of manipulating the objects in this way helped me feel more involved with the cooking, rather than just pressing a single button to initiate an action. There’s a question mark button at the bottom of the screen where a hint can be found if needed, but this also contains some more information and context on the food, so make sure to check it out.

A table laden with many Indian dishes. Chicken drumsticks, a full sigh, a bowl of rice and various chutneys are among them.
Is your mouth watering too?

Once we’ve successfully made the idlis, we’re treated to more of the introduction story. We learn that Venba and Paavalan are struggling to adjust to life in Canada, money is tight and they are considering going back home to India. While Paavalan is at work that day, Venba discovers she is pregnant and she announces it to Paavalan in the cutest way, which I won’t spoil.

Try Not To Chai

Alongside the cooking puzzle elements, Venba presents a story that will resonate a great deal with first and second-generation immigrant families. Venba and Paavalan represent those that take the leap to move to a new country for better opportunities or to flee a situation at home. It explores the anxiety of trying to make ends meet in a foreign place and the doubts of whether they’ve done the right thing.

As the story progresses and Kavin is born and raised with dual cultures, we are shown the struggles Venba and Paavalan face in allowing their son to fully integrate into the society they live in versus wanting him to stay true to his roots also. We want the best for our children, but if we struggle to understand them and the world they’re growing up in it can be difficult to know what’s best. I definitely empathise with it. On the other hand, it will speak to children of immigrant parents. The story explores how Kavin feels, being the outsider in his friend group, trying to fit in but being pulled in opposite directions.

Venba deserves the world. She goes through a lot during the story. I felt her joy and her pain at different times thanks to the well-written narrative and by the end, I just wanted to give her a big hug.

Venba and Kavin take a walk. A speech bubble indicates Venba saying to Kavin "See? You can speak Tamil when you want to".
Venba is keen for Kavin to not forget his heritage.

Graphics & Audio

Sam Elkana, Artist and Art Director on Venba, did a phenomenal job with the visuals. Their signature style of bold, pastel blocks of colour with rough edges gives everything a very distinct feel. There’s a significant amount of detail put into each recipe, allowing us to see the distinct ingredients as the meal progresses. The food visuals in Venba made me feel hunger that the hyper-realistic visuals in other games, such as FFXV, could never.

The praise extends beyond the food though, as the work that has gone into the character designs and their emotions and ageing throughout the story is brilliant. Away from the art itself, it was a nice touch that the spoken language of the characters appeared in a different colour to distinguish when they are speaking English vs Tamil.

If the saying is true that we eat with our eyes, then Venba will not leave your tummy rumbling.

A cartoon style picture of a cooking scene in Venba. A black frying pan atop a portable stove. Inside the frying pan there are 5 chicken drumsticks, along with red chillies and green mint leaves. 2 of the drum sticks are well charred from cooking and bubbles are shown forming and popping in the oil.
I will be forever aiming to cook something that looks as delicious as this.

Lend Me Your Ears

Some absolutely fantastic side dishes to the main course of gameplay and narrative are the music and sound design. When you see Venba reach for the radio, you know it’s bopping time! Alpha Something has created a very special mix of songs inspired by decades of Tamil film music, paying homage to popular composers. The soundtrack also contains a song performed by Deva who has composed for more than 400 films over his career, mainly in Tamil cinema. This speaks to the lengths that the team have gone to to create a fully rounded, Tamil experience through every aspect of Venba, giving players an authentic window into their rich culture.

Moving away from the music, Neha Patel has done an outstanding job at capturing the sounds of an Indian household. When cooking a dish, you’ll hear sounds created by someone actually making the same meal you are preparing. The sizzles of the oil, the pop of the whole spices as they heat up, the jangle of jewellery as Venba stirs the gravies and meats. The only thing missing is some kind of smell-o-vision so we could also be presented with the aromatics of the dishes.

A screenshot from Venba showing a hand reaching and turning on an old wireless radio.
Pump up the jam!


Venba is an experience akin to a feature film – clocking in at around 1 and a half hours, but fully achieving what it aims to do within that time. I think one of the best things I’ve seen online since Venba’s release has been the number of people talking about how they played through it with their parents – sharing the experience, the story and the nostalgia with them. Having the game be the length of a film makes this infinitely more possible for a generation who may not see the appeal in video games generally.

Something you could do to draw more out of the game is to go back and try making the featured recipes. One thing that I do wish was included, is the full written ingredients and instructions for the dishes in the game, maybe in the menu after completion. I attempted to recreate the biriyani at home with mixed results, it looked fantastic, but my blend of spices was definitely off.

Side-by-side comparison of 2 biriyani dishes. On the left a screenshot from Venba. On the right, a picture of a real life version cooked by review writer, Paul. They look pretty similar.
Visually, I think I nailed it. We don’t talk about how it tasted.

Venba ultimately did leave me wanting more, but only because what there is was so tasty.

Final Thoughts

Venba is a triumph. Its representation of a culture rarely seen in video games is refreshing and sorely needed more. The story is both heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measure and covers several scenarios that families with a similar history will no doubt resonate with on a personal level. Visai Studio has loving crafted a stunning recipe of puzzles, story, music and art that blend together in a rich, well-rounded dish that’s not to be missed.

Venba receives a very well-deserved Thumb Culture Platinum Award. Please sir, can I have some more?

Thumb Culture

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