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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Kepler Interactive
Developer: Awaceb
Release Date: March 21, 2023


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PC Review - 'Tchia'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 20, 2023 @ 10:00 a.m. PDT

Tchia is a tropical open-world adventure where you climb, glide, swim, and sail your boat around a beautiful archipelago in this physics-driven sandbox game.

Tchia is set on the tropical archipelago of New Caledonia. A beautiful (and real) place, New Caledonia is as much a star of the story as its titular protagonist. Tchia is a young girl who grew up there and might have lived a perfectly normal life had things not gone wrong. Her father is kidnapped by a villain, aided by strange fabric monsters, and her attempt to save him awakens a mysterious power in her. Armed with little more than her wits and her new possession power, she sets out to find her father. Along the way, she'll find danger, adventure, and perhaps even love.

Tchia is a simple but charming gaming. The story is generally straightforward but cute and enjoyable enough that it can be a fun experience for players of all ages. A lot of the story serves as an excuse to introduce some part of New Caledonia's history or culture, but that's an appealing feature that makes some of the game's slower moments really shine. It might not break the mold too often, but it will make you smile a lot.

Probably the most obvious parallel to draw for Tchia is Breath of the Wild. The core mechanics have a whole bunch in common with that game. You can climb almost anything (as long as your stamina holds out), glide around, and you're generally not limited in what you can do to get around. Long distances may require you to travel by raft or dive under the water, but even that is rather freeform. Aside from some plot barriers, there's not a lot to prevent you from seeing something potentially interesting in the environment and going to it. It also borrows a bit from Ocarina of Time in that you can get magical ukulele songs that let you do things, like change the time of day or summon things.

The environment is full of interesting things to explore. There is a huge number of collectibles to find. Most only exist to unlock new cosmetic options for Tchia, but there are a lot of those, including allowing you to customize your raft and a few other elements of the world. There are also shrines that contain puzzles that use your abilities but can improve Tchia's basic abilities.

Probably the most intriguing ability in Tchia is the Soul Jump. It has a bit in common with Cappy from Super Mario Odyssey, but it's more involved. At any time, Tchia can slow down time and any object or small animal in the environment within her reach can be "jumped" into, which allows Tchia to possess it and control it. Hop into a fish and swim, hop into a bird and fly, or hop into a tire and ... roll around. Not every object is useful, and sometimes you can hop into something just because it's there. Leaving a possessed object also allows you to throw it hard in a certain direction or throw Tchia high up into the air.

Movement is easily Tchia's most striking feature. Sure, it borrows a lot from Breath of the Wild, but the addition of the Soul Jump mechanic makes for smooth combos. You might slide down a cliff, hop into a bird, use that bird to cross a gap, launch yourself out of it, so you can grab a nearby cliff, pull yourself up to spot a barrel and hop over to that — all in one smooth, effortless movement. It's fun to move. Sure, there are probably more optimal ways to handle situations, but sliding in and out of different bodies, gliding and climbing and springing around feels awesome.

Tchia has combat, but it's not the centerpiece by any means. Tchia is a young girl who is not remotely equipped to go hand-to-hand with sentient fabric monsters. Instead, you tend to use your array of abilities to damage them. You can carry certain explosive or flammable items, or you can possess objects in the environment to toss them at foes. Avoiding enemy attacks tends to reward you for moving and making smart use of your Soul Jumping to leap behind them or jump ahead of attacks.

Tchia's most striking aspect is how much of an obvious and adoring love letter it is to New Caledonia. It's rare to play a game that contains this much raw affection for a real-world place, especially one that isn't a big city. While obviously fictionalized for the game, New Caledonia's atmosphere and culture radiate from every inch of the game, and it makes it shine quite a bit.

However, it does mean that the game is very slow-paced. It's a game about luxuriating in your surroundings more than anything else. You'll frequently break to learn a new instrument or cook food or learn a little more about the world. Sure, that's broken up by climbing around, doing quests and turning into a bird, but that's all a way to provide cute context to a love letter to the country. If you're hoping for something drastically action-packed, you won't find it here. It has some challenging moments, but that is a smaller part of the game compared to diving for pearls or strumming a ukulele.

This also means it is a fairly different experience from Breath of the Wild. It shares a lot of DNA with that game, but it doesn't want to tell a dramatic battle between good and evil. It wants to give you bright, colorful vistas to explore. Everything else is secondary. It does mean that if you don't enjoy the fun of exploring a tropical paradise, you might find it a little dull. Even with the supernatural elements, the game is more grounded in reality.

I did run into a number of bugs during my playthrough, but a number of them are scheduled to be patched before the final release, and there are enough built-in safeguards that none of them can hard-lock the game. I wouldn't say any of them ruined my experience, and at worst, they were a mild inconvenience before I figured out what to do.

Tchia is a pretty game. The cartoony art style and striking colors mesh perfectly, and it can just be a dream to walk around. The environments can occasionally be a little empty, but when they aren't, they absolutely shine. It's the kind of game that puts you in a good mood by just playing it. The voice acting is done entirely in French and Drehu, the native language of New Caledonia, which lends to the pleasant atmosphere. There's also a bevy of lovely songs played on a variety of instruments to add to the feel.

Tchia might be a game-long love letter, but it's a real love letter. It's a fun little exploration game, and the BotW-inspired movement mechanics make it a delight to move around the world. It shines most when it is an outpouring of love for New Caledonia's culture and environment. It's rare that I've played a game that makes me want to visit somewhere more, and it's hard to pay Tchia higher praise than that.

Score: 8.0/10

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