Tchia has a lot of potential as a unique coming-of-age story set in a world inspired by New Caledonia. Toss in the magical “Soul Jumping” ability that gives Tchia the power to embody animals and objects, as well as an impressively satisfying sailing mechanic, and you have the recipe for a great story and gameplay combo. Unfortunately, Tchia fails to go long-distance and performance issues hamper it from the very start.
Welcome to the world
Inspired by their homeland of New Caledonia, developer Awaceb has crafted a vibrant open world that is surprisingly large. Tchia’s story starts out on a small island, though tragic events soon force her to leave and explore nearby villages and cities.
Tchia navigates the archipelago by boat, which has a simple yet charming mechanic where players must raise and lower the sails to control speed, in addition to Soul Jumping, a less conventional method of travel that sees Tchia taking control of nearby animals and objects. She can take control of a bird to fly (and poop) high above the ground, for example, or manipulate a dolphin to speedily glide through the water.
Trouble in paradise
Soul Jumping isn’t just a great way to travel, but it’s also handy for combat. Bouncing Tchia between lanterns and explosive canisters as she catapults them into enemies — magical beings crafted from wood and fabric — can be very satisfying. Time slows down while you take aim, so it’s easy enough to keep the flow going and create fiery chaos.
When she isn’t sailing across the ocean or jumping between souls, Tchia is either hunting for the generous amount of collectibles and cosmetic unlocks, enjoying one of the many mini-games and diversions, or playing her ukulele.
Though the ukulele plays a relatively small part in the game, the amount of effort the devs have clearly put into Tchia’s musical instrument must be acknowledged. It’s on par, if not better, than Ellie’s guitar playing in The Last of Us 2. It also has magical properties, changing the time of day, causing it to start or stop raining, drawing animals towards Tchia, and more.
Hide your kids
Another element of Tchia that deserves special mention is the story. With a very evil villain who commits some unexpectedly harrowing atrocities, I was taken aback by how dark the game can be. Without going into spoilers, let’s just say that this isn’t a Disney movie and leave it at that. Thankfully, a “Family Friendly” toggle is available in the menus which I’d recommend for younger audiences.
Tchia is not only darker than expected, but it’s also quite funny. Tchia herself often reacts in a hilarious way when she doesn’t understand something or is frustrated. She might be from a secluded island where only her dad and the rare visitor offer company, but she can still deliver some sass.
All good things must come to an end
Unfortunately, Tchia’s lack of depth in combat and exploration led to my loss of interest about halfway through the 12-14 hour experience. From the beginning until the end, combat is approached in much the same way, while exploration is made monotonous by the mostly empty world. The map might be big, but there’s a hollowness that is eventually tough to ignore.
It’s good that there is an endgame state where players can keep fighting enemies and collect items to earn 100%, but I felt no urge to continue.
Not so next-gen
Performance issues make Tchia even harder to love on PS5. Though the game appears to target 30 FPS, it often drops below it, and there’s a minor stutter whose consistency quickly leads to frustration. (EDIT: Awaceb has added the ability to toggle between “Fidelity” and “Performance” modes, the latter of which targets 60 FPS.)
Tchia Review: The final verdict
During the course of Tchia’s tropical adventure, players will experience many great, carefully-implemented ideas. The open world influenced by New Caledonia remains sensitive to its cultural inspirations, the unique soul-jumping mechanic is a joy to use and explore, the boat controls and fully-functional ukulele are overkill in the best kind of way, and the story has both unexpected darkness and humor. Unfortunately, a handful of good ideas can’t save Tchia from running out of steam before the finale and crumbling beneath a wave of performance issues.