Tchia describes itself as a game inspired by New Caledonia, which is a group of islands situated east of Australia and also the homeland of Awaceb’s, the developers of the game. Awaceb’s love and appreciation for this place and its culture shines through in the game’s rich visual presentation, but a poorly told story and lackluster gameplay aspects mars down those merits by a significant margin and what we get is a classic case of an interesting concept but squandered potential.
The game starts with a grandma rounding up orphaned children to tell a bedtime story by a campfire, which revolves around our player character Tchia and her adventures across the many islands of New Caledonia. The narrative opens with Tchia celebrating her birthday with her loving father, but those moments of joy are quickly swept away when a helicopter arrives on to the scene and an armed man takes her father away to a mysterious place. This kickstarts Tchia’s journey to do everything in her power to get her father back, and in doing so – restore the peace back to her land.
"Awaceb’s love and appreciation for this place and its culture shines through in the game’s rich visual presentation."
The story seems to have a folksy feel to it with its simplistic setup and characters that can almost pass as caricatures, but the developers do a good job of not taking this fabled narrative too seriously. There are light-hearted moments of humor sprinkled throughout the narrative, which are to be appreciated because the core story feels pretty predictable and uneventful. The game teases some heavy themes like hatred between different tribes of the island, but those themes are quickly brushed off and what we get is a forgettable story with little in the name of memorable characters or plot revelations.
The pretty basic writing also does little to no favors to the rather bland story. The characters in Tchia are voiced in the native language of the land, so the story is told through translated dialogues which mostly ends up being boring. Furthermore, the narrative pacing is all over the place, with the first half of the story being Tchia essentially running errands for leads, and it’s only in the latter half that we get to meet the core characters and witness events that are vital to the story.
" Music plays an important part in Tchia’s narrative, and almost each of the essential story beats are accompanied by a song in the native language of the land."
Music plays an important part in Tchia’s narrative, and almost each of the essential story beats are accompanied by a song in the setting’s native language. Tchia mostly sticks to playing the Ukulele, but some songs will feature different local instruments which serve to showcase the rich musical history of the land. The rhythm minigames are pretty basic but enjoyable to get through, and the game also allows you to sit back and let Tchia play by herself through an auto play option.
Tchia is an open world sandbox, and the moment to moment gameplay revolves around completing objectives and exploring the many islands that constitute the game’s rendition of New Caledonia. As something that was lifted straight out of Super Mario Odyssey’s hat, Tchia has a special ability to perform a Soul Jump which allows her to assume the role of any creature or non living object as she sees fit. So you can become a rock, a coconut, a fish, a bird, or any creature or any object that catches your fancy. Tchia can also climb up any surface until she runs out of stamina, and can use a parachute to gracefully glide through the air and safely reach the surface.
Anyways, these mechanics come together to make Tchia a very nimble character to control, which makes just getting around the islands an incredibly fun activity. You can climb to high viewpoints littered throughout the islands, and scream at the top of your voice to reveal nearby areas of interest. You can also take part in many side activities like races courses, sculpting, and rock balancing challenges among others. They are fun to engage with during the first couple of times, but since the formula remains the same for each type of activity – doing them over and over again can quickly grow out to become a frustrating affair. Furthermore, the rewards received from completing these challenges aren’t that significant – be it stat upgrades to Tchia’s Soul Jump ability or cosmetic additions to her wardrobe. As such, I mostly avoided indulging in side activities after having a first taste of each new hustle that was presented to me.
"The first half of the game is focused on fetch quests for one NPC after another, and when things start to get interesting – the game is already inching close to the climax."
But what’s really egregious is how the main missions are designed. Objectives are generally spaced far from each other, and thanks to a lack of a proper fast travel option – getting from point A to point B consumes most of your mission playtime. Further making matters worse is the fact that the objectives aren’t really fun for the most part. The first half of the game is focused on fetch quests for one NPC after another, and when things start to get interesting – the game is already inching close to the climax.
The combat isn’t even introduced until two-thirds of the game, and frankly speaking – it’s nothing worth the wait. The combat revolves around trying to soul jump to inflammable objects, and using the throw ability to light your enemies on fire. It’s pretty basic in its scope, and things can quickly get pretty chaotic as you try to find the next inflammable object to hurl at your adversary. Enemy AI is pretty poor, and there were several instances of enemies getting stuck on geometry during my time with the game.
"Tchia puts a decent first impression with its faithful rendition of a hidden tropical wonder and fun traversal mechanics. But the game quickly tends to devolve into a subpar open world experience complete with all the trappings that usually come with that description."
One of the most impressive aspects of Tchia is undoubtedly its superb visuals that are a beautiful mix of cartoony and realistic. Awaceb has crafted a wonderful world that looks just like a tropical wonder. The islands are filled to the brim with lush green grass and tall palm trees as far as the eye can see, and each of these islands are visually distinct from one another. The clear blue waters surrounding the islands is also a beauty to behold. There are times when you are cruising around the ocean on your makeshift boat while the sun is settling down, and when the swelling music kicks in – Tchia is simply at its best.
Briefly touching upon the performance, Tchia isn’t a very stable game on the PS5 and I experienced a dozen or so crashes and bugs that required me to restart the game time and time again. Thankfully, the frame rate remained constant throughout and there were little to no gameplay hitches or slowdowns. But it’s also important to mention that the review build I played was a couple of updates behind the launch version, and the latest update seems to have resolved most of the crashing issues.
In conclusion, Tchia puts a decent first impression with its faithful rendition of a hidden tropical wonder and fun traversal mechanics. But the game quickly tends to devolve into a subpar open world experience complete with all the trappings that usually come with that description. Boring mission design and repetitive side activities can quickly come together to make this experience a dull time, which is a shame considering that Tchia could have been so much more.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Good music; fun traversal mechanics; great visuals.
Bland mission design; repetitive side activities; inconsistent story.
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