Tchia Review (PS5) – If you have been watching Sony’s recent State of Plays, it’s more than likely you would have seen Tchia. Awaceb and Kepler Interactive‘s visually striking open world, action-adventure is hard to miss. However, the imminent Tchia arrives during a period where video games are releasing thick and fast, so is it worth your time?
Tchia Review (PS5) – A Melodious Adventure That Is Found Wanting
Tchia Is A Labour Of Love
As soon as you boot up Tchia, it is made quite clear that the game is a labour of love. The fictional archipelago that provides a backdrop for the entirety of the game is inspired by New Caledonia. A French overseas territory, located in the Pacific Ocean.
Tchia at its best, welcomes you into the culture and myth that inspires it, and provides a real sense of warmth, and character, that really does come from a place of pride and adoration for its roots.
After a surprisingly thorough introduction to its mechanics, and establishing the story and its stakes, you are set free to explore the isles on your raft.
Most of the controls are very intuitive, and it feels smooth to play, if not a little floaty with the jumping mechanics. Controlling the raft is equally snappy, and using it to travel around the surrounding waters is often a very calming, and relaxing experience.
Hearing the soundtrack come in, whilst riding across the calm ocean, sometimes felt like I was playing a scene right out of Moana.
Satisfying Soul Jumping
The most interesting and fun aspect to Tchia’s gameplay is her ability to possess animals and objects within the world, that the game calls Soul-Jumping. Possessing the variety of animals in the world is a blast, and their singular abilities gives them a sense of character.
Cats have night vision, dogs can dig, crabs can pinch to break locks, and birds can poop, simply by pressing R2. Traversing the world as these animals makes for a great time. There were moments where I was chaining possessions together and it felt amazing.
Sliding down a hill to gain momentum, into a jump, using the glider, possessing a bird flying by, and then dropping into the ocean to possess a fish, was such a cool and unique experience. It makes for some exhilarating sandbox gameplay.
If for some reason, animals aren’t something you want to control, you can also possess inanimate objects such as, rocks, or things that combust like fire.
Soul-jumping into fire or other such objects that can explode, is the basis for the very limited combat found in Tchia. Initially soul-jumping is somewhat hamstrung by a meter, which has to be upgraded by items found in the world.
For better and for worse, the world that is there to explore feels much like a world you might find in a Ubisoft game. Mark the surroundings by climbing to a high point, and clear out areas of enemies, rinse and repeat. Surprisingly, a very formulaic approach.
There are many activities to be found in the world like races, tearing down statues of the games primary antagonist, or carving totems, which is one of the activities that felt more like it belonged. There is also treasure hunts, and collectibles amongst other things, that don’t feel particularly worthwhile.
It never feels like the game makes the most of its possession mechanic, opting instead for using fire or other combustibles to dispose of the games ghostly enemies, to clear an area.
Frustratingly, this is especially true for the games main quest line. I kept waiting for the moments where I’d need the abilities of an animal that would need possessing, but instead it would almost always opt for its worser gameplay habits.
The rewards for completing objectives in the open world are usually cosmetics. Sometimes soul-melodies and stamina increases, but there really is an abundance of customisation options in Tchia.
Whilst I’m certainly appreciative of the array of cosmetic options for the protagonist, instrument, and the raft, I did want a bit more in terms of rewards.
Soul-melodies are a neat additive, in that you can play certain melodies that have different effects. such as changing the time of day, summoning animals, or create infinite oxygen bubbles.
I really enjoyed the rhythm mini games that sees you playing instruments like the ukulele, in segments that feel like they are wholly celebrating its cultural inspirations. Tchia is at its best when it feels like a slice of life, with a fantastical twist.
A Mixed Bag
The main campaign is a real mixed bag. Without getting into spoilers, the story also delves into the culture and myth that inspires it, and that is certainly refreshing. Tchia herself is a delightful, and likeable protagonist, who you can sympathise with.
Tchia offers some genuinely emotive moments, that sometimes succeed in drawing an emotional response, but other times they fall flat, as they don’t always feel earned.
More than anything, it feels like this issue comes down to the inconsistent pacing of the 10 chapters in the main quest line. Most notably chapter 7 bogs down the main quest, with a lack of enemy variety and uninspired mission design, that was moving at a steady clip until that moment.
However, there are plenty of charming moments in there that I did enjoy, which were smaller in scale, but felt like Aweceb were really trying to show the traditions of New Caledonia.
It is in those moments, where they share their culture in such a way, that is really beautiful, especially in how they’ve created a sense of welcoming. Tchia being a labour of love is truly felt in how it intertwines the developers heritage into the game.
Tchia’s Cultural Heritage Inspires A Beautiful Aesthetic And Soundtrack
Tchia’s vibrant yet minimalist art often pops off of the screen. Running through the lime green blades of grass, or taking in the stunning sunsets on your raft are eye-catching. Honestly, you will struggle to see a more picturesque sunset.
On occasion, particularly on the more urbanised isle, the minimalist art style doesn’t lend itself as well to the more desolate and vacant areas.
Inversely, the character models benefit from the art direction, in that they feel more unique. It especially works in the more comedic moments.
Aweceb, once again pulls from its cultural inspirations and heritage to create a distinctive soundtrack, complete with French vocals, that really stands out at every opportunity, especially when you’re taking part in it.
Likewise, the VO is completely delivered in the native tongue of New Caledonia, all of which adds to the authenticity, and shows the care and love that has gone into the creation of Tchia.
Centipedes Aren’t The Only Bugs In This Game
Unfortunately I ran into a host of technical issues during my time with Tchia. There were smaller complications such as texture pop in, but the greater problem I had was the intermittent sudden crashes.
For whatever reason, the game would crash and sometimes repeatedly do so, setting me back to a previous checkpoint. Another glitch I ran into on more than one occasion saw me fall through the geometry of the world forcing me to quit, if the game didn’t crash before I got the chance.
I’m sure there will likely be a day one patch that addresses these problems. However, I would be remiss not to say it didn’t frustrate me during my play through.
Some inconsistencies across the board, and the technical hiccups can make it a somewhat frustrating experience, but there is still a lot to love in this tropical archipelago.
Tchia shines most when it embraces you into its culture, and has you exploring its sandbox, making use of its awesome possession mechanics. Nevertheless, it too often puts its worse foot forward, and has you take part in its more generic gameplay and formulaic open world activities.
Tchia will release on March 21, 2023 on PS5.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.