WHAT IS TCHIA?
From game studio Awaceb, Tchia is a wonderfully crafted exploration platformer and a heartfelt celebration of New Caledonia culture. With a concept and an air of magic that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Disney movie, Tchia embarks on a journey to rescue her kidnapped father while trying to figure out her newly acquired “soul jumping” power, which allows her to possess and control various animals and objects. Exploring the islands of New Caledonia is a great experience from the beginning as we are introduced to its people’s customs and daily life. While minor technical hiccups detract a little from a uniquely charming experience, Tchia is a fun and educational ride through an archipelago you may never have heard of. This delightful little indie game is colorful, amusing, and full of possibilities.
THE LOOK AND FEEL OF THE ISLANDS
New Caledonia is found in the Southwest pacific ocean and is home to a wide variety of beautiful fauna and flora, as well as a deeply rich Kanak culture. Founders of Awaceb, Thierry Boura, and Phil Crifo actually grew up in this Pacific nation and wanted to share the culture of their home with the rest of the world. Each area of the tropical archipelago is passionately crafted and brought to life with genuine care for the real island. Finding each new open area, beautiful beach, underwater cave, swampy marsh, or a more modern built-up city was a genuine pleasure. Hearing the traditional languages and musical score composed of the local sounds and roaming around the islands was a total joy and dazzling to get lost in.
SOUL JUMPING GAMEPLAY
The soul-jumping mechanic is the main gameplay draw for Tchia. This ability allows Tchia to possess over 30 different types of animals, each with its own specialties, such as digging as a dog or flying as a bird. Each animal feels unique and provides bonuses based on what it can do. For example, when looking for a treasure chest, I had to possess a crab to slice through chains that had bound it shut. This makes for some fun puzzle platforming gameplay, and the novelty does not wear off soon at all. Even after hours of playing the game, I still enjoy screaming through the forests as a deer and plunging into the depths, and flipping over the waters of the Pacific as a dolphin. You can even fulfill a lifelong dream of possessing a seagull and pooping on someone’s head… that just me?
Tchia can also take control of hundreds of objects like rocks or lanterns and use these to get around or figure out puzzles. Using the lanterns or even burning logs from a fire, you can battle against the fabric figures that serve as henchmen for the antagonist, Meavora. Possessing rocks, you can roll around like a rolling stone, literally, and then shoot them off a fair distance when you are done. The archipelago is your oyster.
EXPLORATION AND CUSTOMIZATION
Exploring the islands is trickier than the average game. You are given a map and a compass but no real marker as to where you are on the map. This can be confusing at first but does so well at inviting you to explore the islands. Each time you set off, you can pin a location on the map and follow the compass to make your way there. This was frustrating at first, but once I let go of how I would normally navigate in a game and began to focus on exploring, I didn’t mind that a simple objective was taking longer than it should. While there isn’t a focus combat in the game, Tchia can interact with most objects in the world. She can climb a tree and launch herself off it, scale walls like Spider-Girl, glide around with her woven glider, and even sail the seas on a boat.
Tchia offers a wide range of customization options as well. You can change everything from her footwear to hairstyle, glider color to Ukulele design. You can find all kinds of extra customization options all around the world, which becomes a fun little journey to make Tchia look exactly how you’d like.
COLORS AND CULTURE
A big part of Tchia is the culture of New Caledonia, and there is an abundance of it in the game. Along the journey, there are a few rhythm-gameplay musical sequences that are surprisingly difficult to keep up with but also addictive to try to perform perfectly. Tchia plays various traditional instruments alongside friends with guitars, a tribe, and sometimes by herself, solemnly next to the fire. The Ukulele also plays a big role in the gameplay, where you can change the time of day or even create an air bubble around her head to explore underwater; just a few ways her Uke can impact the world. This can be done with a few strums of a specific chord progression. The Ukulele gameplay is well executed, and I often found myself strumming along, trying to create some catchy, island-style music.
The customs of the people from New Caledonia are also represented well. There were a few times I had an objective to create and put together a “Coutume,” which is a welcome gift presented to a person or population as a gentle mark of respect. Learning more about the traditions and ways of the Kanak culture was a highlight of my experience with Tchia.
Playing on the PlayStation 5, Tchia consistently looked and felt great. As is customary with most PS5 games today, the game has two graphics settings. You can play fidelity mode favoring graphical quality, or a performance mode targeting 60 frames per second. Both modes feel and look great, but the 60fps mode makes Tchia play much smoother. I did notice some frame rate drops, even in performance mode, and the occasionally delayed texture load, but it was never too bad or something that marred the experience. The features of the PS5 controller are implemented well, with the adaptive triggers providing feedback when soul jumping or doing various other activities. It did, however, feel like a missed opportunity not to include a strumming feature with the touchpad during the Ukulele scenes. Graphically, Tchia looks amazing. Each design choice, from the cartoonish character designs to the sprawling landscapes, look great and compliment the intentions of showing off the beauty of New Caledonia.
Tchia will certainly not hit the heights of a triple-A video game, but it should not be ignored. It is a beautiful and delightfully fun indie game that celebrates a lesser-known culture to most of the world. The gameplay is polished and fun, the world is a wonder to explore, and at only around 8-10 hours to finish the story (closer to 40 hours to complete everything); it won’t take up too much time and will be worth every second. Tchia is available now on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4, currently free on game catalog with a PS Plus extra subscription, and is also available on PC.
Tchia gets a solid 8 out of 10 for me.