One part exploration of culture, another puzzles in the form of food prep, Venba has a fresh feel but requires some patience
When I saw some footage of Venba on one of the Indie Directs I got pretty excited, as the prospects of a cooking sim tapping into the preparation of foods from other cultures is always pretty fascinating. I’m not sure I was expecting what Venba turns out to be, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To its credit, this is an experience much more focused on family and culture than merely knocking out dishes. For me that made it quite touching at times, but for someone just looking for their prep fix I could see this being a big downside. What’s also different though is that rather than being so focused on fast execution, Venba plays out in a more puzzle-like fashion with your family recipes always being partially obscured in some way. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though I’d argue your first recipe may be more aggravating than it should be as you will continue to make mistakes in understanding every nuance of how it should be made. If you can get over those humps I’d say the only other periodic annoyance is how you’ll often know what you want or need to do but the game is extremely picky about what you’re picking up to interact with what and the preferred order or method isn’t always intuitive. If you were looking for a more exotic version of the likes of Cooking Mama this won’t likely satisfy with its slow pace of learning recipes, but if the thought of a very touching and generally realistic family story splitting time with the cooking works for you it has a different speed then the norm that’s appreciated.
Justin Nation, Score: