Tchia review: the year’s most delightful open world adventure
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Featured Image Credit: Kepler Interactive
Tchia is quite simply utterly delightful. Many of us play video games to have fun and unwind. Tchia certainly helped me do both of those things, but what is perhaps most astonishing about this game is that it left me feeling personally enriched. Tchia is not just a love letter to New Caledonia, it’s a love letter to life - celebrating all that is good in the world. From music to nature to spending time with those we love, Tchia demands very little of you - and I mean that in the best way. It simply asks you to be present and to embrace the experience ahead - one that’ll bring you equal heaps of joy and relaxation.
Set on a fictional tropical archipelago - but inspired by the very real territory of New Caledonia - Tchia centres around the titular character who embarks on a journey to save her kidnapped father from the evil Maevora - who, I’ll admit, is far more of a disturbing character than I expected from this sweet island tale. As far as plot goes, I won’t be diving in any further as it’s a story that’s best experienced as it unfolds, but Tchia will rely on her friends, the valuable resources in her surroundings, and her handy ability to ‘soul jump’ into animals and objects in order to succeed.
If that’s piqued your interest, take a look at the trailer for Tchia below.
Tchia’s gameplay certainly isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes, but the team at Awaceb have created a beautiful sandbox action-adventure where, as Tchia, you can freely roam and navigate several islands. This navigation is perhaps one of my favourite elements of the game. Essentially, nothing is off limits. Tchia can scale walls, use the momentum of a swinging palm tree to cross a canyon, traverse cliff edges using a handy glider, and sail the seas using her raft. I felt as if I had unbounded freedom which is a major achievement for an indie game - and this variety of traversal is important because while there are a handful of fast travel points, you will spend much of the game journeying back and forth across the various islands.
This isn’t something that ever felt like a chore though, thanks to the care and attention that the developers put into the design of the island and the accompanying gameplay mechanics. Sailing isn’t a simple matter of steering. You’ll need to steer, alter the sail, and be prepared to drop your anchor which took me a while to get used to, but it felt like quite the achievement when I finally gained control of my raft. I’m also yet to mention perhaps my favourite way to travel across the island: soul jumping. Tchia can soul jump into any animal she stumbles across which is incredibly handy. Soul jumping into a deer hugely helped me cover long, flat distances in a short space of time while the island’s various bird species allowed me to quickly reach cliff-top peaks.
With this in mind, Tchia is a game that forces you to embrace your connection with nature. There are no cars or vehicles to be found here. Well, there may be one but it belongs to the game’s villain and I think that says all you need to know. Soul jumping into the island’s various creatures allows you to appreciate the archipelago’s beauty, especially if you're enjoying a bird’s eye view - because let me tell you, Tchia is quite honestly the most gorgeous looking game I have played in a long, long time.
You’ll automatically witness the cycle of day to night as you play Tchia but when the developers were creating the game’s golden hour, they really did formulate a little slice of heaven. When the sun begins to set, the clouds develop a dazzling angelic glow. The sky suddenly takes on a pink hue and the resulting rosy shimmer on the crystal clear ocean is breathtaking. Everytime the sun set, I couldn’t help but stop and stare at the ocean. On a grey rainy English day, Tchia offered me a slice of paradise - and that’s medicine for the soul.
While you’re journeying across the island, you’ll be able to locate collectables and power-ups that’ll increase your stamina and soul-meter, plus you can partake in mini-games including various races, slingshot shooting galleries, and rock-stacking - the latter of which I became surprisingly fond of. If Tchia falls down anywhere it’s here. For the most part, I felt entertained by the offerings I stumbled across as I journeyed from point A to point B, but there were certain sections of the game that required me to backtrack to villages I’d previously visited. Seeing as I’d already seen to most of the collectibles and such like, the island suddenly felt a lot emptier and I fear these occasional stretches of simple walking, sailing, jumping and gliding may not be enough to satisfy some players.
Tchia places a lot of trust in you as the player. I’ll admit, when I first got past the opening section, which you’re very much led through, I had no idea what I was doing when I was dropped on a much larger island. I knew I had to gather a dead chicken, an egg, several trinkets, three pearls, an ancient tooth and a sculpted totem, but I had no idea where to start. Eventually, I learned that that’s part of the fun. Tchia, to me at least, is primarily a game about scavenging and navigation - about utilising your surroundings for good. Once I’d located several points of interest, I began to understand the nature of the journey I was embarking on and that sense of self-discovery is part of the charm. You do have a handy map and compass to help but again, don’t expect Tchia to spoon-feed you directions. It won’t even tell you exactly where on the map you are.
There is combat within the game, although I’d imagine it is very different from any combat you’ll have played before. Throughout the story, you’ll encounter the evil Maevora’s henchmen which are basically beings made out of enchanted - or perhaps I should say hexed - fabric. To destroy them, Tchia will need to set them alight either by throwing various flammable items or by soul jumping into one and controlling the trajectory of the explosion herself. These are sections that I very much enjoyed, simply because they added a gentle sense of urgency to Tchia’s otherwise easy-going gameplay. It perfectly suited the story too as the only characters to exhibit violent tendencies are those in allegiance with Maevora. It would’ve been wrong to see Tchia engage in traditional ‘fight’ sequences.
As I mentioned, Tchia is a love letter to New Caledonia - and it’s clear to see the heart and soul that was poured into that aspect of this game. The voice acting is performed by local talent in a variety of languages. While French is the official language of New Caledonia, there are 30 languages across the islands in total - their speakers are known as Kanak. Having local talent bring these characters to life brought a real depth of emotion. There’s a lovely relationship that blossoms between Tchia and a girl she meets named Louise. Sitting on a cliff-top lookout, you get the sense that island life is somewhat lonely for Louise but as soon as she meets Tchia, there’s a real spark that ignites within her, and you sense it in her voice. You can’t help but feel joy.
That’s what I’ll take away from Tchia. We all get so bogged down by problems both big and small in our loud confusing world but Tchia reminded me that that doesn’t have to be the case. When Tchia would get out her ukulele to play along with friends, family or during village ceremonies prompting me to play along as a form of mini-game, the game would remind me that it didn’t matter if I missed a note - or even partook at all. The joy lies in listening or having a go - not in seeking perfection. What Tchia discovers on her journey wouldn’t be possible without the kindness of strangers and friends. Tchia is also a girl with a powerful gift but this is a game that shows you what happens when you use such a gift for good - and what can befall you if you only seek power. Since I finished playing, I’ve noticed that I'm focusing more on the joy and beauty in my own life. What greater gift could you ask for from a game? Thanks Tchia.
Pros: stunning tropical world, varied and fun traversal, a worthwhile lesson on life and a celebration of culture
Cons: island mini-games could be expanded and developed
For fans of: Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Disney’s Moana, and screenshot-worthy sunsets
Tchia releases for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (version tested), and PC on 21 March. It is available as a day one PlayStation Plus release. A review code was provided by the publisher Kepler Interactive. Read a guide to our review scores here.