Venba's gorgeous meals stir up the joy and challenge of recreating family recipes

Telling an authentic story is at the heart of Venba, which focuses on the mother of a family of Indian immigrants to Canada in the '80s. With a new trailer at the Wholesome Games Showcase, the team at Visai Games dropped the release date for its debut narrative: July 31. 

Told looking through the lens of the meals her family makes together, Venba promises that you’ll cook "authentic food from regional South Indian cuisine" and from the lovely stylized art, the recipes already look ready to eat. Venba’s cookbook was damaged in the move to Canada, so you’ll have to puzzle out the mangled recipes and missing ingredients to answer the eternal question: "What’s for dinner?" Every part of Venba looks like a heartfelt love letter to south Indian cuisine and culture—from the meticulously recreated food to the Tamil music-inspired radio you can pop on in-game.

(Image credit: Visai Games)

Venba’s visuals are gorgeous, courtesy of art director Sam Elkana’s distinctive style and color palette. It’s always laudable when visuals do the heavy lifting on making digital food look appetizing—a task we know all too well can be difficult to achieve with pixelated food. But more than just evoking their taste, Venba also goes for your softer feelings by trying to remind you of your own childhood experiences with family cooking. Using food as the medium, Venba’s narrative is about the emotions and memories we make during time spent around family meals. From the look of it, Venba isn’t going to shy away from what those memories mean to us, and how they react to changes, loss, and growth.

While the narrative looks to be deeper than a stew pot—and with dialogue including branching decisions—you’ll also need to actually cook Venba’s dishes. With many of her recipes being incomplete, you’ll have to experiment or even rely on visual clues from Venba’s memories. This sort of assist seems like a great idea to someone who has trouble figuring out when to use the bay leaf, though perhaps not as big an issue as accidentally eating the bay leaf. Thankfully, the actual cooking puzzles that form the core of Venba’s gameplay seem delightful to experiment with. Using tools and ingredients to fiddle with different steps in the process and refine them seems like a satisfying setup for impressing your digital family with authentically messed up cooking—though in the demo you’d be corrected if you cooked the dish wrong, so you may not actually have to inflict your botched attempts on them.

Whether I’m succeeding or failing at preparing our dinners, I’m curious to hear the stories of Venba’s family when it launches at the end of July.

Philip Palmer

Phil is a contributor for PC Gamer, formerly of TechRadar Gaming. With four years of experience writing freelance for several publications, he's covered every genre imaginable. For 15 years he's done technical writing and IT documentation, and more recently traditional gaming content. He has a passion for the appeal of diversity, and the way different genres can be sandboxes for creativity and emergent storytelling. With thousands of hours in League of Legends, Overwatch, Minecraft, and countless survival, strategy, and RPG entries, he still finds time for offline hobbies in tabletop RPGs, wargaming, miniatures painting, and hockey.