Tchia Review: a beautiful open world adventure bursting with hearts
After playing a short clip of Tchia back in January for a preview, I have full confidence that the Awaceb developers will live up to the promise of their open-world adventure. The island of Tchia is a marvel to behold. Not only is it gorgeous, but there are plenty of activities to do: boating, rock climbing, totem carving, roller coasters, pearl diving, sniping, tree jumping, treasure hunting – the list goes on and on. repeat.
Not only that, but there’s a 10-hour story to follow, quests to complete, and bad guys to contend with. That’s a lot, but Awaceb seems to have it all in their stride. Never before has Tchia felt like it was bursting at the seams; the balance between activities, exploration and story makes it feel perfect. The game’s incredible scope doesn’t sound like the launch of a nine-man team, but amazingly, it is. We had a good activity best best on RPS this month and I’m happy to renew because Tchia is an absolute win.
We first meet Tchia on her home island, a small coral reef on the outskirts of a larger, larger archipelago, where she lives in peace and quiet with her father. However, the two’s quiet isolation is violently interrupted, when Tchia’s father is kidnapped by the henchmen of Meavora, a half-human, half-worm god creature that rules the archipelago. Tchia leaves her island to save her father and stop Meavora’s evil reign.
In my 20 hour playthrough with Tchia, the story spans around 8 hours, and if we remove all the times I’m distracted by exciting explorations or playing with the latest exciting activity that I find, it will be less than that. The story of its whimsical island, about a young girl discovering her new-found magical abilities, is brief yet engaging and serves as a sure-fire line in the possible. is a multitude of things thrown at you. It almost acts like a round trip through the giant puzzle pieces of Tchia. You get a bit of story in each new area before it frees you up and you’re free to run around. There’s a lot of drama, loads of adventure, and even a bit of romance – it’s a pleasant surprise.
I also love how authentic the story is to its inspiration. Tchia’s mythology, magic, and child-eating gods intertwine with inspiration from a real-world location, New Caledonia, a small archipelago in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It’s the birthplace of the Awaceb co-founders, and you can feel the love and passion they have for representing their home in video game form. New Caledonian culture, folklore and traditions are imprinted throughout Tchia. Every character in Tchia speaks in the local dialect, a mixture of French and Drehu, and is also voiced by local actors, some of whom have never acted before. It just makes Tchia feel like a game lovingly made by people who really care.
These inspirations channeled into the archipelago itself in the game, to put it simply, is absolutely stunning. There are dense forests, murky swamps, sandy beaches, jagged cliffs, winding rivers – it’s basically a giant patchwork blanket of different terrain . These microbiomes are home to various plants and wildlife, which may seem a bit far-fetched until you know that New Caledonia is known for microclimate and exceptional biodiversity. And not an inch of the islands in Tchia is barren. There is always something to find from sunken ships at the bottom of the ocean to treasures found on the highest mountain peaks. Only openness and curiosity feel great, and it’s a lot like a ‘follow your nose’ type of adventure.
I talked about this in my preview, but the way that Tchia lets you traverse its islands is one of the best features of the entire game. Marking a bunch of icons on the map to explore is great, but if I have to walk all over the place to get to them you can forget about it. You don’t even have to touch a toe in the ground in Tchia unless you want to. The island’s many rivers mean you can hop on a boat and ride the wind to your destination. You can jump trees over bushes spread across the landscape, leaping from tree to tree. Totally wrong timing to jump your tree? Just break your glider and sail gently to the ground.
You can also climb any surface you like, Breath Of The Wild style. Sometimes there are minor glitches, such as the awkward way you need to position the Tchia. only the right way for her to start climbing, or you touch your lips to a wall or surface she can’t move around – but that’s easily forgiven since you can literally climb anything what. WHATEVER. It’s pretty cool. You have a stamina bar that will deplete, but it can be permanently extended by finding and eating Stamina Fruits located around the island. Even more reasons to explore!
I also like that you have a map that doesn’t show you exactly where you are on it, leaving you to use your surroundings to figure out where you are on the island. If you want help, Tchia will circle a large area of the map for you, but can you narrow it down or not. It’s easy to orient yourself using the shape of the island and surrounding satellite islands, but if you’re confused, you can always climb up to reach a more vantage point. You also have a ukelele available, which you can not only play during musical cutscenes but also possess magical abilities. Take it out and start strumming and you can influence the world around you, from changing the time of day to planting giant trees that can send you into the air. It also allows you to summon different animals for the spirit—jump in, and oh, I can’t believe I haven’t touched the spirit jump yet—so let’s get to it.
Another way to hitchhike in Tchia is to release souls into animals. Whenever you are near an animal – be it a dog, a turtle, a wild boar, a cow, a fish, you name it – you can activate Tchia’s powers and take possession of the creature. Each animal also has their own special abilities, such as the way a crab gives you the ability to grip ropes and other materials, or the way deer can sprint extremely fast to You race across the island. I’ve been forever jumping on birds to move quickly, flying through the air then jumping out of them and using my glider to gracefully land. The only thing you need to keep an eye on when jumping excitedly from creature to creature is a magic bar at the bottom of the screen that will deplete over time. When it’s empty, you’ll exit the animal’s body regardless of whether you’re 50 feet in the air or on the ocean floor.
Soul dance feels incredibly smooth, whether you’re playing with a controller or a keyboard and mouse. You can use your powers from afar, so there’s no need to be sneaky. I played Tchia with the controller, as it feels a bit more intuitive than M+K, and the soul jump is as easy as aiming with LB and pressing RT to launch yourself at the creature. You will quickly move around the island, letting your soul fly with ease.
Think your soul dance is pretty slick? Well, your skills can be tested against Maano, cloth monsters that lurk around designated camps containing special items. Jumping on animals is a good approach, but you’ll need to jump on objects like lights, fuel canisters, and other flammable objects to launch yourself into the Manno and set them on fire. Early-game camps advance into large-scale factories as the story progresses, really testing your familiarity with soul jumping. I love these challenges; they feel more acidic than Tchia’s usual laid-back vibe. Something for everyone, innit.
When you want to escape the arson scene, there are plenty of activities for you to relax. The map has hundreds (I mean hundreds) of icons and I just wanted to give you some statistics here. There are 95 treasure chests to find, 180 jewels to collect, 33 Maano camps to dispose of, 10 statues to destroy, 58 stamina fruits to find, 8 temples to visit, 80 pearls to search, 36 campfires to unlock, 16 race challenges to win, and so on – ridiculous. It doesn’t matter to get them all, but if you’re a completionist who likes to clear the map of symbols, you’ll cut your work out in Tchia.
I haven’t even talked about the totem temple quests, the photo mode, or the fun rock balancing minigame! I finished the story and cleaned up a bit of the map but, oh, I’m still not done with Tchia. I feel like I still have 10 hours left to explore and do activities. It also doesn’t look like marking a pointless quest, because the island has such a presence about it that it’s just a joy to behold. Awaceb has really made something big here and their whimsical island adventure about a young girl discovering her magical powers makes them feel incredibly heartfelt. There’s a passion for pure, authentic game development in Tchia that I haven’t felt in a long time. It’s a great game.