(available for PlayStation 4 & 5, and PC. PlayStation 5 version used for this review)
Tchia has been a game showing up in PlayStation showcases for quite some time, it has been shown off with various trailers and developer diaries. The team at PlayStation has teamed up with indie studio Awaceb to get this game to be exclusive. Now it’s finally out, with PlayStation going as far as to place this game on the PlayStation Plus service for Extra and Premium subscribers, which is how I got it.
Tchia is an open-world adventure game with minimal combat. The more blunt way to describe it is a Zelda clone with Super Mario Odyssey thrown into the mix. Nonetheless, I was tempted to try it out. For the most part, the open world is genuinely very interesting! The team itself originates from French Caledonia, a small island between Australia and New Zealand, but the world itself is fictional, and the team stresses both aspects, the game even opens with a text crawl explaining this.
The storyline revolves around a small girl, Tchia, trying to rescue her father after he is kidnapped by someone using magic powers to control both of the islands that you can explore. There are smaller islands in the game, the two larger islands are the only ones part of this open world. The game revolves around doing various missions for people to gain certain things that progress the story. For example, early on you have to convince the heads of two villages to give you items as tribute. The tasks mainly include getting used to traversing this world, you’ll be looking for various items like Stamina Fruit, making traditional masks to unlock challenge temples which give you fruit to extend the time of the possession mechanic (which is where the Mario Odyssey elements come in which I’ll go into later), gaining trinkets and pearls which act as currency, picking up various items for customisation for Tchia and her boat, and there’s also a few other challenges around the island like diving and races.
It’s genuinely a very well-thought-out world and there’s plenty to do. Though if you like a good map marker, you might have a few troubles with this game since the map never actually states where you are. The team wanted you to use the map to recognise landmarks and give a sense of adventure- which sounds like a cop-out, but you will very rarely get lost. If you can read a compass, you’ll get used to this very quickly.
The game clearly takes on influences, like Legend of Zelda Windwaker and Breath of the Wild as well as Super Mario Odyssey and I felt all three of those influences very strongly throughout the game.
The delays that this game faced probably didn’t help it to stand out, especially considering that this is coming out just two months before Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
The soundtrack in this game is phenomenal, probably one of the best I’ve heard all year so far. You get several musical sequences in the game, which on the PlayStation version involves you pressing a direction with the analogue stick and A to hit a chord. You use a couple of different instruments, but mostly it’s the ukulele. You don’t have to worry about these sequences though since if you don’t want to take part in the game you can select Autoplay, and even if you do screw up, the game doesn’t punish you.
The game also mixes in other songs at critical moments, which emphasised the change in the storyline and the progression of character arcs. It’s a really good use of how to use a soundtrack to tell a story.
- World Design
The open world looks really well designed in this game, it’s not like Breath of the Wild where there’s something to do in every corner, but there are a lot of collectables and it’s very clear that a ton of care was taken to recreate the aesthetic of French Caledonia. There are a lot of different biomes that are relevant to that island and the team does a great job of making sure that the culture is front and centre, to such an extent that there is no English language dub to the game, so it comes with subtitles. Most of the game has voiceovers from residents of the island that inspired the game, so all of the characters speak in either French or Drehu.
While I felt like the story itself was a bit of a mixed bag since it wasn’t too brilliant but wasn’t that bad either, the attention to detail is good, which is why I’m not putting the story in the Mixed section, since it didn’t inspire much feeling for me. Most of my time enjoying the game was down to the exploration.
For a small studio, this game looks fine, particularly the water effects look great. With Windwaker playing a part in the influences of this game, it plays brilliantly when you sail from one area to another, so it’s good that the game looks great in those moments. I will also say that the island and character designs look good as well with the restrictions in place. It’s clear that the team was going with the sort of claymation effect- not literally, but you can certainly see that a lot of stop-motion animation features have given some inspiration to the designers.
However, you can feel that some cuts have been made due to the limited budget. Tchia doesn’t look amazing even with the graphical power of the PlayStation 5. I don’t believe that it’s because a PS4 version was in the works before they had to make it for both consoles, there are plenty of games that had to be made for both and look great! Tchia doesn’t quite look amazing in several departments. It does have a rather unique art style that I quite like, just not enough to praise the game for it.
You will be doing a lot of sailing but after a while, the islands are going to involve you doing a lot of slow travel on foot. The game gives you a hand glider, almost exactly like Breath of the Wild, but without much stamina fruit, it’s not an ideal way of getting around.
After a while, traversal feels a lot slower than I would like, especially because the world isn’t that big, so on-foot travel grates quite a bit.
What’s more, after a while, the movement speeds feel too slow so as a result, it will make travelling from certain parts a bit more tedious than you would like. I also don’t think that it would help that there are a lot of collectables so there’s a lot to do if you want to get 100%, so you’re going to need to do a lot of mini-stops along the way. Unlike other open-world games, there isn’t a big difference between most environments. There is a city and also a very strange island you unlock, but as a whole, it’s a lot of tropical jungles and swamp land and beaches.
You won’t be doing a lot of combat, you’ll only be fighting these fabric enemies that are weak to fire, but these things provide so little threat that you won’t struggle against them. You are providing a slingshot, but it’s mostly useless- I only used it when it was required. You’ll mostly be throwing things like gasoline tanks or possessing lanterns that litter the environment to throw back at them. There are only a few environments that have a large number of enemies which makes the game kind of turn into Assassin’s Creed, but you can get away from them rather easily, I only got captured like three times.
The game is remarkably not difficult in terms of the combat, which suits the tranquil vibe of the game, but it does often feel very repetitive especially when you get stuck in some of the larger combat areas.
- Possession Mechanic
This is the part that is incredibly similar to Super Mario Odyssey. You’ll be possessing several animals, rocks, and objects around the island. Some come with extra mechanics.
The gameplay is fine, and none of them are difficult to control. The issue comes from the fact that there are barely any of them around! There were so many times were I wanted to skip an island by possessing a bird but there weren’t any around! The most issues I had were when I wanted to find some pearls and wanted to possess a fish, whale, or shark to get closer without losing my breath.
It also has a time limit, something which you can increase by doing the various challenge dungeons that I mentioned. There aren’t too many of them, and you don’t have to do them, but I would recommend it since the reward for it is incredibly beneficial.
I also find myself unpossessing almost as soon as I’d started because I’d get to the location that I was aiming for too quickly. Obviously, there are some exceptions like some of the snakes and insects don’t provide much benefit in travel, you’re only using them to complete your creature diary.
While this mechanic doesn’t have much wrong with it, it was mostly just disappointing how uninclined I felt to use it outside of combat.
- Limited Fast Travel
This is my biggest problem with the game. It’s not that there’s no fast travel, it does have some but it’s very limited. The limit comes from the various docks that you have for putting your boat in. You can travel between all of the various docks over the two largest islands- but the problem is that there are only 10 docks in the game, and there are large parts of each island that the fast travel won’t take you to. There are various campfires that you can access as autosave areas which also act as a way to eat food to replenish your possession meter and sleep to change the time of day if you don’t feel like playing the chords on your ukulele to do it. I assumed that they would have fast travel considering that there’s plenty of them across the island- but they aren’t! The lack of docks on two of the islands means that there is no fast travel to them either.
I understand why this was done, the developers made it clear that they intended to make this game feel like a childhood adventure, but the lack of fast travel made it feel like a bit more of a chore than I would have liked. There were so many moments where I wished I could have fast-travelled to a campfire.
- Short Run Time
For an open-world game, Tchia is remarkably shorter than I would have hoped. Because of the plot points going so quickly, I found that I had won the game very quickly even after doing a lot of extra missions. I finished the game in about 10 hours, but if you just want to go through the main story you can finish it in about 7 hours. If you want to be a completionist about it, you can beat the game really quickly. It’s not as if this game is full price so it’s not as if you’re getting ripped off, and if you have a PlayStation Plus subscription the price is even more reduced, but I felt like the game needed a little bit longer.
Tchia is a good game on the whole, but it’s also one that I felt was more unremarkable than I would have liked. The lack of fast travel and the unintuitive combat did bother me, but I’m not going to mark the game down for other games because we really should potentially be emulating our heroes to get some good ideas of our own. This feels like a unique game in many regards in terms of how it brought the team’s culture to the forefront. It’s very clearly a passion project brought to life, but I feel like I have to echo something from a conversation between me and my friends: it’s very minimalist in places where it shouldn’t be. That being said, I’ll be very interested to see what the team does next. They had some good ideas but they needed to work on them a little bit more. The possession mechanic, for example, doesn’t feel as intuitive as Mario Odyssey. The time limit makes it feel less enjoyable to use.
If you have a PlayStation Premium subscription, I would say it’s worth your time. But as a whole, I would describe this game as pretty okay but I’m not sure I’ll go back to it anytime soon- especially with Tears of a Kingdom coming out in a month’s time.
FINAL SCORE: 7.7/10
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.
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