My gaming tastes have evolved quite a bit over the years, and I’ve grown especially more open-minded to games that rely on story or setting as their primary selling point rather than combat. In other words, beautiful titles with a story to tell that don’t emphasize making things go “boom” have really grown on me in my older age. That is precisely what Tchia is – a touching story in a gorgeous world that works best when you’re just soaking it all up. It’s a shame then that it’s held back from reaching its true potential by tedious combat that feels somewhat unnecessary.
The world of Tchia is a fictional place inspired by the real-life French territory known as New Caledonia, an archipelago off the eastern coast of Australia that is the homeland of developer Awaceb’s co-founders. As such, the game is clearly a love letter to New Caledonia, its culture, and its people. It’s hard not to be impressed by this absolutely stunning world and its gorgeous environments thanks to a stylized art direction that creates a lot of beautiful vistas. I so very badly wanted to Tweet screenshots of an ocean sunset within 10 minutes of playing!
The game opens with you assuming the role of the titular Tchia as she visits one of her and her father’s favorite locations to have dinner together. It’s a sweet moment that doesn’t take long to get interrupted, as Tchia’s father and others are abducted by the evil Meavora. Naturally, you set off on an adventure to free your father and put an end to Meavora’s wickedness. You’ll accomplish this by shutting down factories controlled by his minions – possessed fabric creatures that can only be destroyed by burning them. As a package, it’s a touching (and surprisingly twisted) story filled with tender moments, endearing characters, and supernatural powers.
Battling Meavora’s fabric baddies are where Tchia lost some of its luster for me, and I would argue that combat isn’t entirely necessary for a game like this. As I mentioned, the fabric bad guys (fab guys?) can only be destroyed by fire, which means you’ll be throwing lanterns, gas canisters, and other explosive objects at them to light them ablaze. You don’t just have to pick them up, however, as you can also use Tchia’s supernatural soul jumping ability that allows her to take control of an object or animal. Possessing a lantern and launching it at a bad guy is much more satisfying than simply picking one up and throwing it, after all. One of my issues with the combat is that it becomes rather tedious. I grew tired of running around the various outposts, loading my inventory up with explosive items, and then running around looking for bad guys to launch them at. It was quite “rinse and repeat” and frankly not where Tchia excels, which is unfortunate since these sequences are a big part of the main story progression.
Thankfully, Tchia excels in many other ways including its phenomenal open-world. I’ve already established that it’s a gorgeous place, and while its beauty does indeed do a lot of the heavy lifting, there is much more than meets the eye. For starters, the music is outstanding and includes some lovely tunes that can simultaneously make you feel like you’re on this epic yet peaceful journey. I thought to myself on multiple occasions that it was like I was listening to music from a feature film soundtrack.
Music plays a huge role in Tchia, even beyond its excellent ambient soundtrack. I made a note during my playthrough, wondering if the game is in a sort of sub-genre that might be classified as an open-world adventure musical. You’ll engage with music early and often throughout your journey, with plot moments typically underscored by a musical performance mini game. These rhythm games are simple but effective, with you selecting the correct chord or note for an instrument and pressing a button to play them as a box aligns to indicate proper timing. If you’ve played a rhythm game before you’ll definitely find these sequences familiar and intuitive.
The game also features perhaps the best instrument simulator in a video game, as Tchia carries her ukulele with her wherever she goes. You can take a break and pull it out anytime for some free play, which features a surprising amount of depth. I spent over an hour one night teaching myself how to play the opening of Vance Joy’s “Riptide”, for instance. The ukulele is also used to play soul melodies, which do things like grant you temporary unlimited underwater breathing capability or change the time of day.
So now that we’ve established Tchia’s two biggest positives – its sights and sounds – let’s discuss the means through which it all comes together: exploring the open-world. The game wears its Zelda inspirations squarely on its sleeve, as things like a stamina bar and glider are a big part of traversal, in addition to the aforementioned soul jumping. Climbing, swimming, and taking hits from enemies will all drain your stamina bar, and when it hits zero you will pass out and wake up at the nearest discovered campfire. Campfires are just one of well over 100 points of interests in the world, which also includes things like treasure chests, viewpoints, totem shrines, and boat docks. I know this is going to turn some people off, but it is a very Ubisoft-style open-world in that regard. If you just rolled your eyes, I would advise you to reserve judgement, as Tchia’s world and the way you move about it make this a rather enjoyable collect-a-thon, should you choose to do so. For me, each collectible gave me another good reason to explore the world and engage with the game’s satisfying traversal mechanics.
Your first act of traversal is actually via sail boat, which was my favorite way to get around. Sailing the boat is a simple process that requires you to move around the boat a bit to raise and lower the sail to adjust speed, operate the oar to control direction, and then drop the anchor to come to a complete stop. There are also lots of customization options for your boat (as well as Tchia herself). Find cosmetic items such as sails, paint jobs, and flags in the aforementioned treasure chests and equip them at any boat dock. Cosmetics for Tchia work almost exactly the same, by the way, only she can be outfitted with a lot more options from head to toe. As for the sailing itself, cruising around this digital rendition of New Caledonia and listening to the exceptional music never got old.
If sailing somehow turns out to not be your thing, you can also soul jump around the islands instead. Like the sail boat, it is simple and intuitive to do by pressing the left shoulder button, selecting an object or animal that can be jumped into, and pulling the right trigger. There are around 30 animals and dozens of objects that can be possessed, and occasionally you’ll need specific ones to solve puzzles as they have special skills. You will need the powerful pincers of a crab to cut some items loose, for example. There are some other really neat ones as well that I don’t want to spoil for you! Soul jumping really blows the world wide open, as you can get pretty much anywhere that you can see. The first time that I jumped into a bird, soared high in the sky, jumped out, and then glided over the ocean was pure magic.
Regardless of how you choose to explore the world of Tchia, you will have plenty to do and discover. I’ve already mentioned the wealth of collectibles, but some of those points of interest double as side activities such as boat races, rock balancing challenges, slingshot shooting challenges, and totem shrines. When I tell you that I was constantly distracted from the main story quest to go investigating another marker on the map, I am not kidding. I had lots of “oh, look at that” moments, and the cool thing is that I never felt like I was wasting my time chasing after those moments of discovery. And without spoiling anything, after finishing the main story, you do get to continue exploring and collecting if you please.
I do also want to note that at the time of review there are numerous glitches or bugs present in Tchia. We were provided an early build of the game that will not be the same version you play at launch, but developer Awaceb has promised that a day one patch will fix all of the known issues. Nothing I experienced was game-breaking, but still a word of caution to make sure that patch actually comes down the pipe before (soul) jumping in. The most egregious thing I experienced was that clicking the left stick crashed the game nearly every time for me.
Perhaps you noticed that I only spent one paragraph discussing Tchia’s combat, one of the key pillars of the main quest line, mind you. That was no accident, as it’s a speed bump on this otherwise great journey across a world that pays homage to the people, traditions, and culture or New Caledonia. Tchia is a game with a lot of charm and a big heart – a heart that is at the core of its world. Existing in and exploring that world is a treat on so many levels that developer Awaceb’s debut title is one you should not miss.
Tchia is a gorgeous, endearing open-world adventure filled with the heart and soul of New Caledonian culture. It’s a world you’ll love being in despite the overall experience being stymied from reaching its true potential by tedious combat.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the resident noob here at Gaming Nexus. When not working my day job, I moonlight as a husband to a human and a father to two canines. Of course, I am also an avid gamer and general nerd. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours.
My first video game system was the NES and I never looked back. I currently play on PS5, PS VR2, and PS Vita, although I've dabbled in Xbox Game Pass on PC in the past. I co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast with a lifelong friend/family member called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.
Follow me on Twitter @TheDualSensePod, or check out my YouTube channel.