“Terre de parole, terre de partage,” which translates to “land of the word, land of sharing,” is not just a motto—it’s an ethos that breathes life into New Caledonia. This French overseas territory, also the birthplace of Awaceb’s founders, is an archipelago teeming with extraordinary biodiversity, unique species found nowhere else on earth due to its detachment from the supercontinent Gondwana about 85 million years ago. This has made New Caledonia a beacon for scientists and conservationists worldwide.
Inspired by their homeland, Awaceb’s video game, Tchia, mirrors this fascination with its vibrant virtual depiction of New Caledonia’s culture, landscapes, and unique life forms. The game offers an innovative gameplay feature called the Soul Leap mechanism, which allows the protagonist, a young girl uncovering her magic abilities, to embody animals and objects she encounters throughout her journey. This mechanic injects dynamism into the gameplay, transforming the island setting into a thrilling sandbox for players to navigate.
In this review, we will delve into the immersive world of Tchia, highlighting its unique gameplay features, vivid representations of New Caledonia’s unique biodiversity, and how it has beautifully brought to life the ethos of “land of the word, land of sharing” in its gameplay. So, stay tuned as we embark on this exciting tropical open-world adventure.
Table of Contents
Tchia: An Enchanting Tale of a Girl and Her Slingshot
At the heart of our tale is the courageous Tchia, the namesake of the story, residing with her father on one of the visually stunning islands of the archipelago. Their peaceful island existence is abruptly disturbed when the island falls prey to an invasion by the minions of Meavor. This malevolent dictator, bizarrely resembling the Michelin man, heartlessly abducts Tchia’s father.
A Journey to Rescue and Redemption
Predictably, our young heroine embarks on a daring quest to rescue her beloved father. Her adventure takes her towards the grand temple nestled in the capital, where the despicable antagonist resides. As Tchia delves deeper into her journey, an array of hidden secrets, veiled by the enemy, start to unravel, intensifying the plot’s intrigue. At times, even the game’s seemingly innocuous exterior may deliver an unexpected jolt of surprise.
Despite its simplicity, the narrative has a certain charm, capable of evoking an emotional response. Granted, there are moments when you might need to suspend disbelief to fully appreciate the story. Of note is the game’s strong support for the LGBT community, which, depending on the player, could be seen as a commendable strength or a potential downside.
A Sandbox of Bountiful Adventure by Awaceb
Despite being the product of a relatively small studio, Tchia, is a commendable accomplishment that offers an impressively robust sandbox environment for players to explore. This expansive universe comprises two large islands dotted with smaller islets, housing an array of diverse locales.
From bustling cities with towering buildings, industrial factories, busy ports, and enemy bases to serene rural villages, breathtaking mountain ranges, lush green valleys, tropical forests, submerged shipwrecks, and mysterious swamps—Tchia’s world is a treasure trove of wonders.
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Navigating Tchia’s World
In Tchia, traversing between islands is a breeze, thanks to a delightful boat journey reminiscent of the Wind Waker. However, fast travel options within the game could have been better designed. Despite the presence of several ports facilitating teleportation, inland travel requires manual navigation, which can be somewhat tiresome.
The game often necessitates revisiting the same locations to acquire certain items or engage with non-playable characters (NPCs), which can become somewhat repetitive. The inclusion of bonfires as fast travel points—where players can change outfits, rest, or eat—would have added a layer of convenience. However, bonfires serve primarily as navigational markers on the map.
Navigating Tchia’s Islands: An Adventurer’s Delight or Dilemma?
Navigating the world of Tchia might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially when exploring the islands. Here, the location of our eponymous heroine isn’t precisely indicated. Instead, players must orient themselves using signposts, the topography, and distinctive natural or architectural landmarks.
For me, an enthusiastic hiker and mountain climber, I found immense pleasure in memorizing paths and scrutinizing the map. However, I recognize this might not be a universally appreciated feature. That said, seafaring in Tchia is a different story altogether. The boat travel is far more intuitive, showing a clear indication of your location in the ocean, making navigation simpler.
Unearthing Island Secrets: Vantage Points and More
In a manner reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed, scaling to the vantage points on mountain peaks or atop buildings in Tchia will populate your map with markers for various activities. The special fruits you’ll find enhance your stamina, allowing you to climb, glide, or dive underwater for extended periods, similar to the mechanics found in Breath of the Wild.
Hidden treasures such as pearls in the ocean depths or trinkets on land serve as a form of currency. These will help you unlock a range of clothes and outfits for Tchia, as well as customization elements for your ship, including flags and masts. You’ll find even more merchandise in treasure chests and have opportunities to clear out enemy camps, similar to The Witcher, or participate in timed trials that involve precision navigation or stylish high-dives.
The Ubigame-Style Marker Overload: A Blessing or a Curse?
Over time, Tchia might overwhelm players with its Ubigame-style marker overload. The constant map clearing can transition from being an enjoyable task to a burdensome chore. In this indie game, we see a common pitfall of AAA sandbox games, which can be a side effect of adopting industry-standard mechanics.
However, there’s some solace in the fact that some activities are well-integrated into the game’s overall atmosphere. For instance, you might find yourself building a tower of stones tall enough to unlock new combinations for playing the ukulele. Strumming the right melody could alter the day-night cycle, trigger rainfall, or summon specific animals—a quirky feature that adds a dash of magic and intrigue to Tchia’s world.
Tchia: Soul-Jumping and Animal Abilities Explored
One of Tchia’s distinctive gameplay elements is her remarkable ability to transfer her soul into animals and inanimate objects. This unique power operates across three main fronts: combat, puzzle-solving, and exploration—the latter being absolutely crucial. Given the limited fast travel points, traversing the game world can feel like a Herculean task. That’s where the animals lend a helping hand.
Animals to the Rescue: Transport and Special Abilities
With the power of soul transfer, you can turn into a deer to gallop swiftly and clamber over rocks, or become a dolphin or shark for rapid underwater travel. Birds are particularly invaluable, offering the ability to reach virtually any point on the map. It’s a strange sentiment, but I cannot recall a game where I was so thrilled to spot a bird.
Most animals come with a unique ability too. A shark can bite, a cat has superior night vision, a crab can snip things with its claws, and then there’s the cow… Now, bear with me here, the cow has the unique ability to defecate. But this isn’t just any ordinary poop, it’s useful poop. Where else in the gaming world can you transform into a cow, make a deposit, and then use it as a grenade against enemies?
Unfulfilled Potential: Animal Abilities and Puzzles
Regrettably, Tchia doesn’t seem to utilize this potential fully. The instances where I had to use the unique abilities of animals during the main campaign were surprisingly few. The side quests didn’t fare much better.
Sure, it’s fun that wood-carved totems—another activity indicated by map markers and part of local folklore—unveil nearby dungeons. But once inside these optional caves, the puzzles presented are disappointingly straightforward. Either you’re racing against the clock through glowing hoops or aiming your slingshot at a target. A small consolation is that completing each dungeon increases your ‘soul meter’, enabling longer possession of animals.
The game could have benefited from more intricate puzzles using its established mechanics, or perhaps the inclusion of environmental puzzles. The slingshot, despite its frequent mention, also appears to be under-utilized. Despite a multitude of markers on the map, including shooting range record spots, there’s no way to upgrade the slingshot.
At times, it feels like the game might have overextended with the number of mechanics. For instance, tree-jumping, a feature I learned about from a loading screen, or the hilarious, yet largely irrelevant, butt-sliding down mountains.
Tchia: A Dive into a Tropical Paradise
Tchia, the game that’s been my recent escape, could really benefit from some genuine side missions. The game, despite its sandbox vibe, fails to fully utilize the protagonist’s broad range of abilities. The main missions, too, are heavily focused on traversing from point A to B, making the world – filled with NPCs and markers – seem somewhat empty and underdeveloped at times.
The Game’s Duality: Captivating Exploration vs Repetitive Combat
The latter half of the game, sadly, leans heavily on a series of battles and infiltrations, veering away from the exhilarating exploration of stunning landscapes. Instead, it is replaced by monotonous confrontations with enemy creatures resembling torn fabrics. The combat itself lacks sophistication, mainly involving taking control of flammable items to ignite enemies.
At this point in the game, suspending your disbelief becomes quite a task. You’re expected to accept that the whole archipelago – teeming with inhabitants – is held hostage by creatures effortlessly defeated by a young girl with cow dung in her backpack.
Minor frustrations include physics-related issues and Tchia’s odd ability to stick to virtually anything (it’s often easier to scale a building via the wall than use a ladder). The inability to expand the backpack to carry more items also poses a problem, especially given the sheer amount of map markers. Allocating one to augment equipment capacity would have been more beneficial than the countless cosmetic collectibles.
The Lure of Nature’s Wonders
Yet, despite these hiccups, the sheer charm of Tchia’s world is undeniable. Sailing at sunset, diving among schools of fish and coral reefs, ascending the tallest mountain peaks in moonlight, or strumming melodies on a ukulele (a rhythm mini-game you can choose to ignore) – these experiences carry an irresistible allure.
Even as Tchia prepares food by the campfire, the game manages to stir a sense of hunger, beautifully echoing the environment’s realism. Though city textures occasionally fall short, the vibrant colors, rich biodiversity, and detailed environmental encyclopedia lend the game the feel of a tropical vacation.
Aesthetic Triumph and Soundtrack Magic
The game’s environment often impresses with its artistic vision, reminiscent at times of the vistas in “Kena: Bridge of Spirits”. The eclectic musical style creates an unforgettable soundtrack, featuring a fusion of modern rhythms and traditional folklore.
Even with its multitude of borrowed mechanics, Tchia still manages to enchant. The game world is largely safe apart from enemy camps, making it a perfect relaxing adventure after a hard day’s work. A thorough map cleanup in the New Caledonian world takes around 15-16 hours. However, don’t bank on easy trophies, as most of them require mastering individual activities.
Tchia is an enchanting open-world adventure that brings the vibrant culture and biodiversity of New Caledonia to life. With its innovative Soul Leap mechanic and stunning visuals, the game offers a robust sandbox environment for exploration. However, it falls short in fully utilizing its animal abilities and puzzles, leading to repetitive combat and underdeveloped side missions. Despite these flaws, Tchia's captivating exploration, aesthetic triumph, and evocative soundtrack make it a delightful tropical getaway for players.
- Vibrant depiction of New Caledonia's culture and biodiversity.
- Innovative gameplay mechanic with the Soul Leap feature.
- Beautiful and immersive open-world environment.
- Diverse and breathtaking landscapes to explore.
- Unique abilities and transformations as different animals and objects.
- Quirky and charming elements like the ukulele mini-game and magical interactions.
- Eclectic musical style that enhances the atmosphere.
- Captivating exploration and a sense of wonder.
- Repetitive combat and underutilization of animal abilities and puzzles.
- Lack of depth in side missions and underdeveloped world despite numerous NPCs and markers.
- Navigation can be tiresome and lack convenient fast travel options.
- Marker overload can feel burdensome, reminiscent of AAA sandbox games.
- Physics-related issues and sticky character movement.
- Limited character inventory and no ability to upgrade the slingshot.
- Narrative moments that require suspension of disbelief.
- City textures occasionally fall short compared to other aspects of the environment.