The open-world genre is littered with games that more or less follow an identical blueprint, giving players an endless to-do list filled with monotonous tasks and busy work. Seldom do these worlds have depth, something to really appreciate beneath the surface. That’s exactly what Awaceb has achieved with Tchia, a joyful open-world game that’s brimming with life and personality.
Save what you love
Tchia is named after its protagonist, a young girl who sets out to rescue her father after his kidnapping under the order of an evil ruler, Meavora. It’s a long journey to save him, and Tchia must brave new environments and seek help from strangers to save him. It’s an island-hopping journey that is packed with memorable places and moments.
Tchia is set on a fictional archipelago that’s heavily inspired by New Caledonia, an island in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia. It’s the homeland of Awaceb’s co-founders, and the studio put intense research into studying the island and bringing it to life in the game. Tchia’s story, environments, creatures, and music are all inspired by New Caledonia. A true love letter.
Music in particular stands out as one of the strongest elements in Tchia. It's clearly an important cultural touchstone in New Caledonia, and it shines through in the game. Music feels like a character, influencing the story and setting the tone for each chapter.
It’s beautiful how much this real-world island, which I admittedly hadn’t previously heard of, shapes the experience in Tchia. There is immense passion on display in every element of the game. It felt like an interactive lesson or cultural lecture, but without any compromises to gameplay and enjoyment.
The world is your oyster
Tchia's mechanics and gameplay systems are impressive. As an open-world game, you’re free to explore at your own pace. This includes the land, water, and sea. There are seamless transitions to running around on land, hopping on a boat, diving beneath the ocean’s surface, and soaring through the skies. Tchia takes a nod from Breath of the Wild in that it lets you climb any vertical surface and soar through the air on a glider, so long as your stamina permits. There are special fruits littered around the world that will increase your max stamina.
Tchia features a lot of minigames that can unlock new clothes, provide valuable items, or progress the story. There are rhythm game sequences in which you have to play a song with your ukelele, rock-stacking challenges, a cooking minigame, and more. I even spent a considerable amount of time playing with a claw machine in a parking lot, trying to score some cosmetic rewards. Props to Awaceb for making their claw machine much less of a scam than the real-world version.
Feel it in your soul
What really distinguishes Tchia from any other open-world game is its Soul-Jump mechanic. This allows Tchia to jump into and assume control of any miscellaneous object or creature. Whether it be a fish, a chair, a chicken, or a large rock, Tchia can Soul-Jump into it. There is a time limit on Soul-Jumping, as you’ll be kicked out once the Soul Meter is depleted.
Soul-Jumping can be used to complete objectives or just screw around in the world. There was one side quest that required me to gather an egg, so I went to a farm, Soul-Jumped into a chicken, forced it to lay and egg, and then brought it back to the quest-giver. When I had to cross large distances, I would often Soul-Jump into a bird and quickly fly through the sky, dropping poop on unsuspecting people below. I got into the habit of Soul-Jumping into any new object or creature I found, just to see what unique ability it had.
The physics-based engine and Soul-Jumping mechanic come together to make a beautiful sandbox that’s fun to just goof around and experiment in. It breathes life into the open-world, and I never felt discouraged from going off the beaten path and doing things completely unrelated to the main story.
While I enjoyed exploring the New Caledonia-inspired land, there were large portions of the world that felt like empty space. While fast travel makes it easy to get to recently-visited locations, you’ll have to make the manual journey to new places. This felt like a bit of a chore when trying to get to areas far away. It’s a common drawback of open-world games that Tchia isn’t able to skirt.
An island of potential
Tchia is a beautiful piece of art that is equal parts enriching and enjoyable. The heartfelt story is reinforced by a lovely tribute to the unique culture of New Caledonia. Outside of some standard open-world woes, Tchia is an endlessly charming game with an endearing protagonist at its heart.
This review is based on a PC download code provided by the publisher. Tchia launches on PS4, PS5, and PC on March 21, 2023.
- Beautiful love letter to New Caledonia
- Soul-Jumping is fun and inventive
- Excellent minigames
- Endearing protagonist
- Unrivaled soundtrack
- Open-world can feel empty in some places
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Tchia review: A soulful journey
This was on my radar, I’m a sucker for underwater exploration.
This is on PS+ Extra tomorrow.
this looks really nice