There’s something about familiar smells that hits you more than any other sense. Setting the right mood can take you back to a specific time, place, or memory. That’s exactly what the idea is. Bemba Such feelings are evoked every time you delicately prepare one of the few great South Asian dishes.
Bemba is a narrative game centered around its titular characters, Venba, her husband Purvalan, and young son Kabin, depicting their journey from India to their new home in Toronto. Each chapter of the game not only focuses on family milestones across decades, but also defines the events and struggles the trio face throughout their lives.
The story ties in with interactive cooking. Players must piece together snippets of instructions from family recipe books to complete each level with a variety of dishes, from simple idlis to busy biryanis and decorated dosas.
I was lucky enough to speak Bemba Creative Director Abhi talks about how the game came about, the story it wants to tell, and how each recipe was meticulously curated to be part of Venba’s design.
Bemba Originally of humble origins, it began as what Abi described as an “art project” with art director Sam Elkanah.At the time, the two were also working on balloon man, a comic-style superhero action game. However, the attraction Bemba Development plans soon changed.
“I emailed him one night and then it just got stuck,” Abi recalls. “In less than a week, he gave up making Balloonman. Bemba”
BembaThe first format of was a small cooking game consisting of recipes that the two of you were already familiar with. But as the project and its response grew, the team realized they had a responsibility to make the food as authentic as possible. Note that some of these recipes have evolved, subdivided, and mutated over countless years and cultures, and for some dishes, finding the “perfect” recipe is a journey in itself.
The team began a consulting process to handpick the perfect selection of recipes. Bemba, which required contacting various sources. Professional chefs, friends, home cooks, and YouTubers were all welcome to share their thoughts on what cuisine could represent in-game.
“The main lesson I learned from this is that everyone’s recipes are different,” says Abi. “These recipes are very old and have changed over generations, so in some places everyone has a very strong opinion of the recipe. For me, it was important to have variety within a single recipe.”
These recipes are very old and have changed over the generations…It was important to me to have variety within a single recipe.
From here, Abi was able to identify the most common components and methods for a given recipe. At some level BembaIn , players are tasked with putting together a biryani recipe. Biryani is an example of a food that has long gone beyond a single method. Biryani recipes vary geographically, from as simple as personal preference or leftovers in the pantry, to regional availability of particular ingredients in particular time periods.
This is reflected in the food as well. Bemba Let the player cook throughout the game. In the first level, vemba deciphers an old recipe for idris, a flavorful rice cake made primarily from rice. Biryani comes much later as a more complex puzzle.
“When Vemba first moved to Toronto in the 1980s, recipes were much simpler and ingredients like rice and flour were readily available,” Abi explains. “But in 2006, when making biryani, ingredients that used to be hard to come by are now much easier to find in those places.”
“The questions for me were, what makes good puzzles, what makes good storytelling, and what makes sense to cook in those times.”
Abi confesses that this was also where he had his strongest opinions, but what really cemented the final version was “playtesting” the recipe in real life. Bembabiryani.
“I feel more confident about these recipes because of the rules we had in place: we had to cook them ourselves before we started to puzzle them,” says Abi. “In fact, the biryani has become our favourite.”
BembaThe food, characters, and setting are all packaged in the light, breezy and stylized art of Elkana. According to Abi, Elkanah grew up watching a lot of her 90s cartoons like The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory, and the style exudes a very specific nostalgia that fits right in. Bembais the setting.
“For me, this is really unbelievable because I was initially skeptical about how that style would translate into a nuanced story like BembaIt doesn’t look like action,” Abi says. “But he was able to find a really nice medium between them.”
“One of the things that I am very impressed with is how the characters are animated and how they react and how it stays in the culture.
The tale of Bemba The film is told primarily through Vemba’s own eyes and the moments she faces as an immigrant, a professional, and a mother. Abi says there is a lot of media focused on assimilation from her child’s point of view, but few stories from the parent’s point of view, and that lies in between.
“Many of the first-generation parents who come here in their 30s and 40s are not assimilated and live very isolated lives,” Abi said. “I felt like that side of the story was under-told, and I wanted to focus on that.”
The relationship between Venba and Kavin was initially strained. As Kavin grew older, he became more interested in fitting into Western culture and settling down with his friends than in his own Tamil culture. Abhi also noted that the story was not autobiographical, adding that his relationship with his parents did not reflect that of Vemba and Kabin.
“We have a lot to talk about. We watch a lot of movies together and all these things are still the same,” he says. “But many of my friends who grew up here are completely isolated and the bridges between parents and children are broken.
I found it very sad that there are many cases where parents cannot understand what their children are saying due to language loss and cultural gaps.
Venba’s husband Purvalan has an adjacent story that delicately highlights the assimilation struggle from another perspective. While young Kabin is eager to blend in and will take every opportunity to do so, Purvalan, through no fault of his own, is trying to adjust to an unfamiliar level of neglect.
“Purvalan who He is a well-known writer in his home country of India, but I can’t express any of that here,” Abhi explains. “In Toronto, he’s always looked down upon.”
In South Asian contexts, food is the language of love expected of mothers. Cooking is Vemba’s bridge to connecting with his family, and of course most of the gameplay takes place there as well. Pieces together of old, fragmented recipes passed down from generation to generation are satisfying, not only from a mechanics point of view, but from a story point of view as well.
There is one important point Abi has to make about the generational divide that this piece depicts. Wemba, Whatever the conclusion, it’s that certain characters aren’t “bad guys.” He states that no one can be blamed for what is going on and that the reason Kavin is unable to contact his mother in the first place is more of an organizational rather than a personal choice.
“Many of my friends are assimilated, but they still want a relationship with their parents, and many circumstances make that difficult,” he says. “of Bemba, more open-ended in the sense that they have hope for their future, but stopped hurting each other. ”
Bemba This story tells a quietly important story that is seldom shared in the media, although countless people have experienced it in one way or another. It explores the realities of immigration, the sacrifice, and the hardships of building a new life for yourself and your children. But there’s hope alongside growth, love, and learning in this story, and it’s sure to make you feel as warm as a bite of home-cooked biryani. So did I.
Bemba It launches on July 31st and is available on Game Pass on consoles and PC from day one.