In the Gorgeous New Adventure Game Tchia, the Fun Comes From Taking Things at Your Own Pace

I first remember glimpsing a trailer for the beautiful new game Tchia in a PlayStation Showcase a couple of years ago, struck by its gorgeous tropical environments, swelling music and exploration.

The title looked right up my alley, so when the team behind the game reached out to me to ask if I wanted to preview the title (out this week), I was eager to jump in. They were kind enough to provide me with a review key for PlayStation, and after downloading it on the PlayStation 4, I was able to finally check out the anticipated game. Here's what you need to know.

The Influence of New Caledonia

From the opening screens of Tchia, it's clear that this is a title made with real love and care. Before the game begins, a few pages provide some background for the game, which takes place in a fictional setting that draws its influences from New Caledonia, the island homeland of Awaceb studio founder Phil Crifo. The presence of the Pacific archipelago can be felt in everything from the characters in the game to the represented culture and landscapes, as well as the music heard throughout. The fully voiced cutscenes also swap between the official language of French and the native language Drehu, truly bringing the island adventure to life.


Starting Tchia's Journey

Tchia's narrative is actually a story told within a story, with children gathering around a campfire at night to hear her tale. The game opens with the titular Tchia on her 12th birthday. She receives a slingshot from her father, Joxu, and is asked to prepare a customary gift (or coutume) for a visitor called Tre—the only outsider she's ever met, from beyond her tiny island of Uma.

Tchia readying slingshot

(Tchia via Kepler Interactive)

This section serves as a nice tutorial for the game, showing off its lush, tropical vibe as you learn to shoot Tchia's slingshot, jump around with her paraglider, collect the right crops and locate a special trinket for the incoming visitor.

Not having seen the trailer for a long time, I imagined that this would be the bulk of the game, serving as a cozy little journey with a bit of exploration and lots of fetch quests. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Tchia with Tre and Joxu

(Tchia via Kepler Interactive)

That's because, not long after Tre arrives, the villainous Pwi Dua also shows up in a bizarre helicopter contraption, aided by living fabric creatures called Maano, and kidnaps Tchia's father in the name of an evil god called Meavora. In the process, Tchia's green left eye glows, and she unlocks a power she never knew existed in an attempt to rescue him—before Pwi Dua escapes with her father, and she's left unconscious.

When she wakes up, Tchia has a big journey on her hands. It's up to her to sail across the archipelago and seek an audience with Meavora in order to save her father and return things to normal, and lucky for her, that'much more than her than meets the eye.


The Next Step

After learning to dive for pearls to prepare another coutume for Tre, Tchia learns how to play a magical ukulele (with some pretty impressive play options) before finally setting across the sea toward Meavora.

Tchia playing ukulele

(Tchia via Kepler Interactive)

When she arrives in the big city, the industrial, graffiti-filled land of skyscrapers feels completely at odds with the natural beauty she came from, and in trying to meet with Meavora, she's met with bureaucracy and forms, and turned away by the demand of a huge coutume for the god. She'll have to sail out even further, across many lands, to gather what she'll need to see him—and the longer she takes, the more danger awaits her father.

Dejected, she returns to the beach to sleep near a bonfire, where she somehow taps deeper into her abilities, placing her soul into a coconut and allowing her to not just roll around within it, but lob it across the sand and leap out of it at top speeds—and it's here that Tchia really begins picking up speed.


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Soul Jumping and Getting Around

It seems that Tchia's special birthday also comes with the arrival of her special power, Soul Jumping. Essentially, Tchia can possess any animals or small objects and temporarily take control of them, which comes in handy for a number of reasons—including traversal.

Tchia wearing crab hat soul jumping

(Tchia via Kepler Interactive)

After sailing back across the sea to another huge island where many of her next tasks await her, this movement becomes especially useful. You can Soul Jump into everything from lamps and rocks to coconuts and bananas—all of which are faster than Tchia on foot—or explore as cats, dogs, boars, deer and more. Of course, the animals you really want to come across or birds or crickets, who aren't confined to the ground and can travel huge distances in seconds, getting you where you want to go as quickly as possible via flight.

Basically, you'll always want to be flying, and there are so many times I was in the middle of something and dropped everything to Soul Jump into a dove simply because it crossed my path, and just as many times that I lamented having to cut my flight short (and having my bird immediately leave me) because I had to stop to collect something at an important point of interest.

So, whether you're looking for a specific village to speak with its leader, or a special part of the island where you can find a specific resource, Soul Jumping will usually be the best way to get there. You can also climb to the tops of trees, bending them back and forth to create momentum before leaping and being carried by your paraglider, but initially, you won't have a lot of stamina, so you won't be able to glide for too long.

And speaking of gliding, a lot of the traversal in this game reminded me of the parts that made Breath of the Wild so special. You can climb walls, trees and mountains, as well as dive and paraglide, which gives you lots of options, but it's all limited by your stamina. As you explore, you'll encounter Stamina Fruit, which ups your max stamina by one, and I recommend finding as many of them as possible.

There are also Soul Fruits, but they are much rarer. These will increase the amount of time you can Soul Jump within one creature or object, with each added bar feeling like a major advantage on your journey. If you drain your Soul meter below two bars, it will only recharge up to that second bar, which is why it's important to use Soul Jumping wisely.

Luckily, it's not too tough to recharge the Soul meter fully. You can eat food, either at your bonfires or at food stands, to do so. Not only is this super useful, but it also gives glimpses of the customary foods of New Caledonia, which is always a treat.

While I do see why both limitations are in place, there were times I wanted to see as much of the land as possible, but felt like I was held back by both the limits on Soul and stamina. This became less of a problem as the game went on, but I would love the ability to explore with complete freedom.


Creating the World of Tchia

If Soul Jumping and fetch quests was all there was to Tchia, it would probably get stale pretty quickly, but it helps that the world is absolutely brimming with heart, culture and interesting ideas. Visually, both the land and the sea have so much to offer, and whether you're running around in a cityscape, traveling across the various biomes of different islands or swimming along the coral as a dolphin or turtle, it's hard to tire of the environments—and the beautiful music certainly helps, too.

But for me, it's the characters and the culture they participate in that really make the game soar. The people you meet seem fully realized, whether they're beefing with the inhabitants of another town over a misunderstood feud or they're inviting you into their homes to make a delicious crab dish. The game features numerous musical minigame sequences that aren't about how well you perform but simply participating and helping bring the gorgeous music to life. You'll carve totems, create rock sculptures and take part in all kinds of experiences that are special just because they aren't a typical part of your everyday life.

Even the way the enemies work in the game is unusual. There's really only one type of creature who will attack you in the game, and those are Meavora's Maano, who are made of cloth, and thus can only be defeated with fire. If you're not careful, they'll wrap you up and drain your stamina, but tapping a button will set you free and allow you to destroy them and their evil cloth piles by possessing flaming objects and setting them alight. Usually, you'll take advantage of logs from firepits or lamps to get the job done, but there is a more interesting way to fight them later in the game, which I won't spoil here.

Tchia Maano cloth creature

(Tchia via Kepler Interactive)

Taking down Meavora also means lessening his influence by destroying 10 Meavora statues scattered across the land. This will take more than just fire, but it is so satisfying when you finally get the job done.


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Finding My Way

During my own adventure with Tchia, I realized that the best way to play it wouldn't necessarily be an "optimized" playthrough, but the one that made me have the most fun. When I couldn't be flying around as a bird, I realized I'd much rather Soul Jump into a bunch of banaas than an actual animal for getting around, because that put a bigger smile on my face. While there is fast travel between docks, I found myself barely using this feature, wishing to actually go on Tchia's full journey along with her.

I'll also admit that I spent a good chunk of the first five hours of this game hopelessly lost—mostly because I'm absolutely horrible with maps, and because Tchia does the map a bit differently than most games. Since Tchia can't usually identify precisely where she is on the map, zooming in will give you a rough idea of her location, based on nearby landmarks, rather than tell you exactly where she is. While I find this quote innovative, it's also a bit frustrating. However, things got a lot simpler when I realized that pushing R3 would cycle between a mini-map and a compass, which doesn't just note the cardinal directions, but also features waypoints of current objectives. Once I figured this out, I was able to move a lot more efficiently, or at least get lost in the correct direction.

It's also helpful that this isn't the kind of game where you're just trying to get from point A to point B. It was always a delight seeing a trail of smoking coming out of a campfire, indicating somewhere new to go, or green glows in the dark letting me know about braided trinkets I hadn't yet found. While it does have some of the open-world feel of Breath of the Wild, complete with climbing and paragliding, I enjoyed that it was a much smaller, more personal adventure.

lot of the content in the game is also fully optional, so you can decide to either stick fully to the main journey or go way off the beaten path (with my experience falling somewhere in the middle). It's also helpful to know that rewards for anything that don'have to do with the main quest are just clothing options to dress up Tchia, making them fun, but not essential.

I also played on PlayStation 4, which at this point is a last-gen console, but I don't think that hampered the incredible visual experience or the movement at all. If I do have one recommendation on the console, it's that you avoid running out of stamina, because this will take you back to a loading screen, and it can take a while to finally get back to the game in earnest.

Overall, I adored that the same wasn't really about fast reflexes or puzzle-solving, but traversal and discovery, as well as a love and appreciation for both nature and a very special culture. If you need your games to be fast-paced and challenging, this one may not tickle your fancy, but if you love quiet, beautiful moments, tropical environments and having a big, fun sandbox to play in, don't miss out on Tchia.

Tchia floating with paraglider

(Tchia via Kepler Interactive)


Tchia is rated T for Teen and is available March 21 on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and PC via the Epic Games Store for $29.99.


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