Tchia was originally announced as a Google Stadia exclusive, before Google Stadia went down. Fortunately, the team and game didn’t follow Google Stadia’s fate. Tchia swiftly found a new home on different platforms. It even managed to be the second day one launch for PlayStation Plus Extra/Premium. You can read our thoughts in our Tchia review below.
The name of the game is derived from the game’s protagonist. A girl named Tchia. She lives in a world which is based on New Caledonia, the country where the development team is from. In the initial reveal of the game, it was clear the game was set in a beautiful paradise with vibrant colors and tropical seas. Before starting the game, it’s made clear the game, locations and characters are fiction however based on life in New Caledonia.
A rough intervention
Tchia lives with her father on a small, remote island enjoying true island life. However, pretty soon into the game her father is kidnapped by the archipelago’s tyrant ruler, Meavora. Meavora rules with an iron first and is slowly but surely exploiting the landscape, leaving pollution and devastation in its wake. Before Tchia can be captured as well, she is rescued by a friend of her father and soon after sets off on a quest to free her father from Meavora’s clutches. The subplot is also a reminder to us how we are exploiting the natural world which is inherently so beautiful. More games do this, obviously, however with Tchia’s setting having a close resemblance to real life it becomes much more real. Equipped with a raft, essential for traveling between islands, a trusty ukulele and a mysterious soul jumping ability, she goes on her way.
The story itself is pretty straightforward, despite its serious topics. There aren’t many surprising plot twists along the way. However, you’ll learn a lot about the importance of culture and music to New Caledonia. It’s a very educational story which aims to give you an insight into their island life but also show you the challenges the world has regarding exploitation of the environment. There is little violence and combat, which makes it the perfect story for a younger audience.
Part of showing of New Caledonia is through Tchia’s open world. And it’s absolutely stunning. There are multiple biomes, such as tropical forests, cities, mangrove’s, grassy hills and of course there’s the ocean. Each biome has wildlife you can discover and record in your journal. This doesn’t really do anything gameplay wise, but it’s cool! The greatest biome, in my opinion, is underwater. There’s coral reefs, dolphins and even collectibles underwater! And it’s exactly what you would expect from a pacific island region. Full of color.
Tchia is a true open world game, meaning you can literally go everywhere. Every object is climbable. There’s a stamina system much like in Breath of the Wild, which limits how high and far you can climb. You can upgrade this by collecting stamina fruits. Once on top, you can use a glider to swiftly travel across the landscape from high up. It’s pretty clear early on in the game exploration is what Tchia is all about in terms of gameplay. Either by climbing, gliding, sailing, diving or running, it’s up to you to explore its beautiful vistas. If you manage to climb or dive too far and your stamina runs out, you’ll simply respawn at the last campfire you used. Whichever route you go, you’ll meet beautiful places to explore.
Exploration is a key pillar
To further enhance the feeling of exploration, Tchia does something different with its navigational mechanics. You start off with just a map. No marker where you are, no quest pathing. That’s it, a map. I must say, it always seems awesome to explore a game world without waypoints, markers and so on. But the first time I got on the raft with just a map, I realized that it’s actually not as fun as you’d think, especially on the open sea. Fortunately, pretty soon you’ll receive more tools such as a compass which at least gives you a general direction. Later on, on the sea they actually do show your location on the map. I think the developers realized not knowing where you are on the open sea just isn’t fun. On land however, where you have landmarks for navigation, you don’t see where you are. You can ask the game to pinpoint your general vicinity, but after that it’s up to you and your compass to find your way.
Exploration in Tchia isn’t just about pretty sights however. There’s loads and loads of collectibles riddled across the landscape. As a gamer who loves collectibles, this initially excited me. However, with so many collectibles (Literally hundreds) and the way Tchia handles navigation, it eventually gets old quickly. Especially as most collectibles really don’t do much besides act as currency for cosmetics. There’s also various minigames such as sharpshooting challenges, surfing, rock stacking and so on. So there’s a lot of activities in the game besides the story and exploring. Fortunately, there are some indicators about where to find them. If you go to Point of View vista’s, you can reveal the collectibles in the vicinity. Much like most Ubisoft games.
The game also offers limited fast travel capabilities. There are a few docks scattered among the islands, from which you can fast travel to other docks. You’ll have to find them first though. So at first, you’re really going to have to sail the open oceans. The islands are pretty far apart, so it’ll take you some time to sail between or around them. Which isn’t bad per se, however the sailing mechanics can be a bit annoying when you are sailing the rivers on the islands themselves. Controlling your speed through your sails and your rudder to turn are two separate mechanics on your ship. You’ll have to go from one to the other. I get that this is more realistic, but it can be really annoying if you need to turn tightly at times. This is a clear example why realism doesn’t always mean fun gameplay.
There’s also very little combat in the game. Meavora has minions under his control in the form of fabric come to life. They won’t really attack Tchia, but will entangle her. If you don’t mash your buttons fast enough to escape, you’ll be caught. It’s not a bad thing the game has little to no combat, however important to know for those of you who value challenging combat. You’ll find none here, Tchia is purely focused on story and exploration. It does make it a perfect family experience though.
Soul with a capital S
During the course of the game, Tchia learns she has a special ability called Soul Jumping. She is able to soul jump into any object or small animal and take control of them. This can be used to manipulate objects, use them to solve puzzles or, in the case of animals, find new ways of travel. You can soul jump into a dolphin and explore the waters as a dolphin. However, there’s a limited time you can do this. If your soul bar energy depletes, you morph back into Tchia. The capacity of this bar can be upgraded by finding totem shrines. A neat mechanic, which feels unique to Tchia. Unfortunately, it is a little underused in my opinion. I would’ve liked to see it have a more prominent approach in the game.
As I mentioned earlier, Tchia also carries a ukulele with her. This musical instrument is very important to Tchia, both the character and the game. A lot of the story is told by making music. Minigames pop up all the time where you get to be a little Ukulele guitar hero. It also shows music is integral to New Caledonian society. Besides minigames, Tchia can also learn Soul Melodies. These melodies can be played with her guitar for special in-game mechanics such as changing the time of day or summoning minions you can soul jump into.
Music at its core
In terms of music, the game has an amazing soundtrack which really makes you feel like you’re on a paradise island at times. Strengthened by so many musical minigames and the fact Tchia can just play her Ukulele and deciding to freestyle, the sound designers have done a great job. While sound is crucial for delivering the atmosphere of a game, it’s often a background thought for most. The characters in the game are also voiced by local talent, speaking french or Drehu (Their native language) . Awaceb did an outstanding job in terms of sound design, because it is one of the highlights of the game.
Graphically, the game is stunning. Tchia has a cartoony art style which works out well with its color palette. This also means the graphics are more timeless compared to realistic graphics and works well for a younger audience. The world is so full of color yet believable, that traveling across feels like a treat. The underwater world captivated me in particular. In some cases, I decided to just go on foot across the island instead of sailing across.
Despite being a gorgeous open world game, I did find that after completing the story (About 8 to 9 hours) I wasn’t compelled to continue on. I had crossed most of the map, saw a lot of sights and stopped to think what else was there for me. Tchia is all about story and exploration. With the story done, all I could think of was minigames and to collect and see everything. However, there’s so many collectibles that it felt like a daunting challenge, compared with its map mechanics. That didn’t leave me with much to do after that.
Something important to note, which mostly applies to dads. Tchia is an excellent game to play with your kids. It’s a colorful and vibrant world, focused on exploration and little to no violence. Its open world mechanics ensure they won’t get stuck real easy and there’s plenty to see for them. There’s even a specific setting in the options to make it family friendly, with even less violence. If you’re looking for a game to introduce to your young kids, I’d definitely recommend this one.
Despite the lack of challenge and endgame activities, I did enjoy my time with Tchia. It offered a refreshing setting and amazing world to explore. Its cultural and musical importance offered a fresh perspective. However, after finishing the story there wasn’t a lot more for me to do besides collectible hunting. I am glad I decided to try the game however and its family friendly gameplay is definitely another plus. That was it for our Tchia review.
- Beautiful, open world
- Underwater biome
- Family friendly
- Musical mechanics
- Little variety in endgame activities
- Map mechanics can be tedious
- Sailing mechanics could be improved