Tchia from Awaceb and Kepler Interactive is an outstanding island adventure that you need to check on PlayStation. Find out why in our Tchia review!
Tchia from Awaceb and Kepler Interactive is an outstanding island adventure that you need to check on PlayStation. 2023 has been a solid year for games so far, and it does not seem to be relenting anytime soon. The next game to demand, to deserve your attention this year, is Tchia. From Canadian developer Awaceb, we’re getting a coming-of-age adventure that can best be described as someone seeing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and saying to themselves, “OK, this is great, but what it needs is more New Caledonia influences.”
New Caledonia is a French territory made up of dozens of islands somewhere in the South Pacific, and its influences are all over this game. Whilst Tchia, on the surface, is about the titular Tchia going on a mission to rescue her father after he is kidnapped by a crime lord, along the way, she will also go on a journey of self-discovery, learning about her heritage and the world around her. Of course, this is all just on the surface. In actuality, Tchia is a love letter to New Caledonia. It is an homage to the islands, the people, the culture, the beauty, and just about everything there is to know about the place.
This is apparent from the moment you start the game. You are told instantly that the game is a labor of love made to honor the territory, with the talents behind the game being locals, from the developers to the voice artists who perform exclusively in the French and Drehu languages spoken in the region. It is very rare that you get to see a game pay so much respect and dedication to its inspiration and hold it with such reverence. It is possible to spend an eternity acknowledging the amount of love and respect this game has for its inspiration, but ultimately, this is still a game, and it is clear the developers wanted it to shine.
When playing Tchia for the first hour, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s a rhythm game akin to Rock Band or Guitar Hero. You are given a ukulele for your birthday and are invited to a couple of performances to start things off. The ukelele’s keys are presented in a circle, and you use the left analog stick to rotate the cursor to your desired key and then press X to select it. When attempting a performance, tabs fly toward you, Rock Band style, and you need to press a button at the right time to get it right. It is amazing how well the minigame is implemented, from the intuitiveness of the gameplay segments to the little vibrant and jubilant vignettes that play in the background as you perform. At times I found myself wanting to pay attention to the scenes going on in the background or to take a moment to read the subtitled lyrics or the songs.
The game seems to be aware of this as it offers you the opportunity to skip these performances and just observe the musical sections. That is not the one key that this game is about. Soon after that, you are asked to find some collectibles just to set your expectations. There are loads of collectibles to find, from pearls to trinkets and all manner of costumes, and you would be forgiven for thinking that is what the game is going to mainly focus on a collect-a-thon with the occasional musical performance sprinkled in. That is not what this game is about.
This game is so much more. It is so clear that the developers wanted to give as much respect to the place that inspired them almost as much as they wanted to respect the games that influenced them. It becomes clear early on that you are able to climb nearly every surface you encounter, ala The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You are given a parachute early on, ala The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You are given a stamina meter just like in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Oh, and you must find items similar to Koroc Seeds – here referred to as Stamina Fruit. The more you collect, the longer you can glide, swim and climb before you tire only difference is that here your stamina bar is also your health. Should you get injured when your stamina is at 0, you will die.
Yes, this game wears its Zelda influences on its sleeves, and it is not afraid to show it. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not its only influence since your Ukulele can change the time of day, and it also grants you other abilities once you find music sheets to play, just like in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time. The developers clearly sat down and looked at the trends in gaming and figured out how they could capitalize on them, and the influences are clear as day. There are “shout points” you can climb to the top of to allow you to see new areas of the maps, just like in Ubisoft games. But unlike in Ubisoft games, the towers here are not obnoxious or tedious. In Tchia, there are many ways to either climb up to them or circumvent the climb entirely.
There are even elements from Just Cause thrown in for good measure, as traversal seems to be the name of the game here. Tchia is surprisingly big in terms of its map, with two main islands hosting most of the game and a large bed of water separating them. Whilst not as big as a Ubisoft copy-and-pasted world, it is still sizeable. It can be argued it suffers a little from the collect-a-thon that games with a large map can fall into, but weirdly here it feels… OK. The map is not as big as it could have been, and it feels comfortable and homely.
Intermingled with collectibles are a wealth of other activities once again inspired by the location the world is set in. You have your obligatory staples, of course, such as races, whether on foot, flying, or sailing. It is also spruced up by including other non-conforming activities, such as wood carvings and Cairn making, with these two activities serving additional purposes.
Cairn making, or the art of rock stacking, is an interesting inclusion to the game. Whilst it doesn’t always work perfectly since balancing the rocks on top of each other can get a little tricky at times, it is something original and successful completion of Cairns in certain areas can unlock new melodies for your Ukulele. Wood Carving, on the other hand, can gain you access to certain areas hidden on the map. These areas can be equated to the trials in Breath of the Wild. Upon completing the challenges lying within, you can unlock additional bars to add to your Soul Meter.
What is a Soul meter? It’s possibly the most unique selling point of Tchia. Early on in the game, Tchia learns she has the ability to Soul Jump into most creatures and inanimate objects, meaning she can assume control of them for a limited period of time. Unlocking these trials gives you the ability to increase the time spent controlling your object of choice. Of course, the ability to assume other creatures/people/objects has been featured in games before, so it is not a revolutionary inclusion, but it is the implementation that speaks to me. The ability to jump into creatures is seamless. The controls for each animal feel well thought out, and you quickly start to learn which creatures are more advantageous to jump into as you are able to jump into sea creatures to swim, birds to fly, and land animals like deer to run faster than Tchia can run on foot.
As mentioned before, this ability is nothing new in games. It is just the level of consideration that went into the process and implementation that makes it so fun. Jumping into inanimate objects, granting them sentients, and just going for a stroll is a silly little diversion but is one you will see yourself doing over and over again. Tchia is an interesting game that has a heavy focus on fun, exploration, and child-like endeavors as its main focus, all the while having the heavy plot of kidnapped parents as its call to adventure, all of this while using The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as its inspiration and building blocks but tries to set itself apart from its inspirer. In any other world, this game would be a hot mess, but yet it works oh so well.
It goes so far out of its way to pay respect to its influences but yet strives to stand alone. One area it does this is in its combat. Whilst in Breath of the Wild, combat is prevalent and commonplace, here, the combat is few and far between. Every once in a while, you will come into contact with an enemy base camp where you need to defeat the enemies housed there and steal all of the loot within. With the enemies being weak to fire, you need to Soul Jump into flammable objects. Ignite them and effectively kamikaze your way into an enemy to blow them up. This is not the most fun part of the game, as some bases can be a little too large, and finding the last enemy can become a little tedious when trying to empty out a base because this game doesn’t tell you much in terms of where things are.
OK, well, that last sentence is not entirely fair. You have a map that is populated with all activities, collectibles, and all you have discovered so far. You can even add a point on the map should you wish to travel to specific areas, just as you would in any other game. You have a compass and when you get close to a point of interest, the icon will appear in your view to let you know that you are close to something that might interest you. What Tchia does differently is that, unlike other games where you know exactly where you are at any given time on a map, for Tchia, most of the time is just guessing where she is. When looking at the full map, you can press the L3 button to locate you, and a big circle will appear on the map with Tchia guesstimating she is somewhere there.
It’s clear the developers wanted to make this feel less gamey and to encourage players to actually explore rather than rely on the gamified nature of exploration most games tend to go for. Whilst it is interesting and welcomed when goofing around and not looking for anything in particular, it can become annoying when trying to follow story beats or find specific locations on a map. Thankfully the game puts story markers and your waypoint on your compass, but not knowing just how far away something is can get a little frustrating at times when you don’t know if a point on your compass is a two-minute walk or a “two hours” walk away.
As with everything in life, no game is without its flaws, and Tchia is no exception. Tchia is a game with a great deal of scope and many moving parts, so a bug or two- or three- are to be expected. I experienced a hard crash and a need to restart quite a few times. It seems the game does not like being left on standby, and doing this will cause it to become unruly, so make sure to save often when playing. In fairness, the auto-save function works well, but as with any open world game, one should always have multiple saves.
Tchia is a game with soul, love, and passion infused into it. This can be seen in not just the bright and colorful art that the game is presented in but also the wonderful soundtrack that the game has to offer. The writing is spectacular, with a lot of the jokes catching you off guard. The world as a whole is so solid, and the activities are plentiful and inviting, with nearly none of it feeling like a slog. Tchia is a wonderful game, and those with a PS+ Extra subscription would do themselves a great disservice if they somehow end up skipping this one since it’s available for download at no extra cost.
This Tchia review is based on a PlayStation 5 copy provided by Kepler Interactive.