There were several occasions during my time with Tchia that I completely forgot I was sitting in my apartment, during what felt like a never-ending series of dreary, cold days. Instead, I was getting lost in a sun-kissed archipelago; spending my time swimming close to the sea bed as a dolphin, sailing around the ocean on my boat, or soaring across the skies as a Silver Gull. The world of Tchia is an inviting playground that’s ripe for exploration, discovery, and experimentation; offering up a delightful escape you can easily step in and out of. And thanks to its inventive Soul-Jumping mechanic that allows you to warp into any animal or small object, the experience of playing Awaceb’s ambitious sandbox adventure is truly at its best when you’re traversing the landscape, and leisurely losing yourself in this pocket of paradise.
Release date: March 21, 2023
Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5
Publisher: Kepler Interactive
At first blush, it’s easy to draw parallels between Tchia and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. After all, with familiar features such as climbing, using a glider, and having a stamina bar that you can increase, some aspects are reminiscent of Link’s last open-world adventure. Dig a little deeper, though, and the Soul-Jumping mechanic, New Caledonian inspirations, and a rich coming-of-age story give Tchia its own distinct identity. I didn’t really know what to expect from the story itself going in, but it certainly has its share of heartfelt moments and unexpected surprises over the course of its 10-15 hour playtime.
The opening chapter of the journey sees you first take control of Tchia on her 12th birthday, when she receives gifts such as a slingshot and glider from her father. While you’re free to explore as you complete objectives from the get-go, the early hours help to establish the many key items and abilities available to you. My first task sees me knock down and gather coconuts from nearby trees. The reticule is quite small on the slingshot, but there is an auto aim feature which makes hitting targets a breeze. I also try out the glider, which becomes a useful staple as I traverse the landscapes throughout my adventures.
After sharing a heart-warming moment with Tchia’s father by a campfire, things suddenly take a turn. Not all is well in paradise. Her father gets kidnapped by the henchman of an evil ruler known as Maevora, who’s been causing trouble in the archipelago. This event acts as a catalyst that awakens Tchia’s Soul-Jumping ability, and sets me on the path to try and face Maevora and free her father. There’s a nice sense of progress through the early hours, but the adventure truly opens up once I unlock Tchia’s boat.
A mast controls the boat’s speed, while you use a paddle to steer, and an anchor to bring it to a halt. Sailing is a very enjoyable pastime in Tchia, so much so that I would often find myself sailing around just for the fun of it. During my first sailing session, I’m taken by the scale of Acaweb’s open-world. With different islands of varying scales to venture to during the main story, it all feels so full of life. From locals wandering around various parts of the islands, to the oceans and lush greenery of the land both teaming with flora and fauna to discover. This is a setting you’ll want to explore and immerse yourself in.
In order to encourage exploration and give Tchia a more open feel, there is no player marker on the map. While you can see where your boat is, you can’t see where Tchia is when you’re swimming out in the ocean or traversing on land. Instead, there are signposts dotted around key areas that you interact with to mark down your last known location. You can also put down a pin that will appear on your compass to help direct you to your desired destination.
For the most part this works well and I can see what Awaceb is going for here, but I would often lose my bearings when I set a location and became distracted by something on the horizon. There is a feature that lets you ask “where am I”, and Tchia will draw a circle around the area you’re in to give you a rough idea, but this meant that I felt more tied to the map if anything to work out where I was on certain occasions.
Music and soul
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Soul-Jumping is the real star of the show in the world of Tchia, though. While you can jump into small objects and use them as projectiles, this ability really shines when it comes to the animals. Embodying fish or sharks gives you more speed to explore underwater, while warping into a bird or locust allows you to cover vast distances. Whether it be sprinting across land as a deer, laying explosive eggs as a chicken to blow up walls, or climbing just about anything as a gecko, each animal has a practical skill that can be put to use to explore the world. While you do have a Soul-Meter that depletes as you control a critter, this can be replenished by eating food and increased by completing Totem Shrine challenges scattered around the islands.
There are a few instances where you’ll use Soul-Jumping as you set about completing the story,. but I would have loved to have seen the adventure do more with what is undoubtedly the best mechanic in the game. You can of course be as experimental as you like as you venture from one main objective to the next, but for the most part, the missions will see you gather different items or take out various guard camps. The latter areas are full of guards known as Maano, who are made out of fabric and work for the kidnapping antagonist.
In order to clear the camps, you have to burn the guards and any fabric piles down by warping into explosives or using burning wood, which does get a little repetitive. Racing challenges, for example, make more of the Soul-Jumping by having you race as different animals, and there’s also a treasure hunt that requires you to become particular critters. But with so many animals in the world that have their own abilities, it would have been great to have more of a reason to use them directly to complete missions.
As well as having a wealth of cosmetic items to unlock with some inclusive features such as pride flags for your boat, the adventure is a real celebration of music and culture. The ukulele Tchia can pull out of her bag at any time is a fantastic feature that factors into some of my favorite scenes in the story. While you can have jam sessions any time you like, it also has a practical use not unlike a certain Ocarina of Time. Different songs can be learned that change the time of day, affect the weather, and summon an animal or object to you.
Admittedly, aspects of the story caught me off guard, with some instances of cartoonish violence (that aren’t overly graphic) and Maevora serving as quite an unsettling antagonist in an otherwise charming backdrop. But there’s a welcome helping of humor and touching moments in the mix that kept me invested. The standout moments of Tchia are always centered around the different people and communities you meet along the way, who each come together and share in a musical moment you can take part in with a rhythm mini game, or sit back and enjoy. Overall, Awaceb delivers a delightful, inventive adventure that I was happy to get lost in. Tchia really is wonderful in many respects.
Tchia was reviewed on PS5, with a code provided by the publisher.