Review: Tchia

24 Mar 2023

And…I’m back! It’s been about two months since we previewed Tchia, Awaceb’s open-world adventure game featuring its titular 13-year-old heroine, and man am I glad I didn’t have to wait long to fully experience this title. 

I knew from the preview that there was something special about this game, and I am pleased to report that after playing it in full, I was proven right. For me, playing this game gave me the same feeling as my first time playing Breath of the Wild.. if BOTW had a darker, more sinister plot and a ton more culture.

Anyway, let’s go ahead and get into the weeds of what exactly Tchia has to offer and my thoughts on it all.

Tchia was released for PS5, PS4, and PC via Epic Games Store on March 21st, 2023. The PC version was played for this review.

Story of a Girl

I mentioned in my preview that the premise for Tchia’s story had a lot of potential if executed correctly, and while cliches can be hard to get right, I think for the most part Awaceb accomplished doing what it set out to do while managing to make its narrative interesting. 

Tchia is about a young girl who goes on a journey to rescue her kidnapped father. Meavora, the aforementioned kidnapper and resident villain, has taken the young girl’s father hostage and demands certain items before he will even grant her an audience to talk about giving him back. What follows is Tchia’s coming-of-age story as she explores the world around her for the first time and not only learns about others but her own past as well. 

Despite its cliché plot points, Tchia has it all: Drama, dysfunctional families, superpowers, mythical creatures, love, murder, death, and so much more. I actually was not expecting everything that went on in the story, given the game’s lighthearted appearance. I do have to admit that this was both a good and bad thing as sometimes it was hard to discern what I was supposed to be feeling as the events unfolded.

Let’s start with Tchia herself. It’s established that she’s lived on a secluded island with her father her entire life, only getting occasional visits from her father’s friend Tre. The reason for this is explained later in the story, but given her sheltered upbringing, you would think she’d be much more scared and cautious with everything happening around her. Instead, you get a character who is brave and unbothered, and not afraid to step up. Even when she discovers she has a supernatural gift, the trooper just shrugs it off and continues about her tasks. I have to say this endeared me to Tchia because it made her the perfect catalyst to experience the vibrant world Awaceb was trying to build.

However, I can’t say that the rest of the cast was quite as easy to accept. This is in part because you hardly learn anything about them. At least, anything real. You go from town to town completing tasks but the game does nothing to give you deeper insight into what exactly is going on in the world for these people. Louis, a young girl who later becomes Tchia’s love interest, is just someone she met once during her town visit, but somehow they’re in love? This really irked me because, initially, I thought the game would do more in an attempt to flesh out its colorful cast. But a lot of the characters you meet are treated much the same.

There are a few exceptions like Youl (a young boy you team up with later in the game) who do have personal reasons for approaching you. But aside from their service to the plot, you don’t learn anything of substance about any of them and it’s incredibly frustrating because the potential feels like it’s definitely there.

The characters are not my only gripe with the story, which I know seems a bit confusing because I said Awaceb did a good job with its execution. While I stand by that statement, there are some flaws I feel compelled to point out. The story IS interesting, has a lot of twists, and is written well, however…there is something almost childish about it at the same time, which is kind of off-putting considering how dark it is.

For example, aside from Meavora, the game’s villains are these little cloth men. This normally wouldn’t be a problem but when you’re supposed to be watching your father get hauled away, it shouldn’t make you laugh to see what is essentially a bunch of bedsheets attacking him. Things like this really detracted from what would otherwise be serious happenings in the story and there were many times when it felt like the scene couldn’t decide if it was going for humor or shock value, leaving me feeling confused. I also wish a bit more thought had been put into the presentation of certain scenes because it would have helped drive them home a lot better.

Unfortunately, I also have to point out the issue of Tchia’s pacing as I was often left feeling like things were just happening without there being any time to truly take in their emotional impact.

Now, don’t let my criticalness fool you. I actually loved the overall story and felt satisfied by the end of it, I just feel like some things could’ve used a bit more polish or thought.

Girl vs The World (+ Sheets)

Tchia is a game without combat mechanics (at least the kind we’re used to), instead choosing to focus on exploration. You can do things like climb up cliffs and mountains, glide through treetops, hunt for treasure maps, unlock secret temples, carve totems, stack rocks, play instruments, collect trinkets and outfits, dive into the ocean to scavenge, take pictures, race sailboats, take on slingshot challenges, and much more!  

Being exploration-heavy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when it’s executed well. Luckily, Awaceb does a really good job of pushing players to explore their surroundings (it’s also stated at the start of the game that this is their main goal). One way they do this is by not marking Tchia’s exact location on the in-game map. Not having a precise location makes it necessary to run around to find the next quest line.  

Normally that much guesswork would get tedious, but it never did for me because of Tchia’s soul-jumping ability. Soul-jump allows her to become almost any animal or object in her proximity. This means that you can explore the map as a deer, a bird, a fish, a dolphin, a rock, and a myriad of other things. It made exploring so much fun that I honestly wasn’t worried about the storyline most of the time. 

Soul-jumping also provides you with one of the only means of engaging the game’s “enemies,” as you can use it to possess totems that shoot fireballs that burn the cloth creatures. You can also “fight” them by picking up grenades or oil lamps and creating explosions, but this requires good aim and can make engagement more difficult.

I have to admit that despite the limited ways you can interact with Tchia’s enemies, I never found the actual gameplay boring. Exploring was a treat, and coming up with ways to either sneak past enemies or flat-out blow them up was interesting in itself. 

The only real gripe I have with this part of the game is the controls. Unfortunately, they are very clunky. This clunkiness applies to simple things like properly maneuvering Tchia’s raft before it gets stuck against a random tree or rolling around as an eyeball and falling off because you pressed the forward button a little too long. 

I noticed the control issues (especially on a gamepad) when playing through the preview and mentioned how I hoped Awaceb would fix the sensitivity issues before launch, but it seems this is still around. Overall it’s not a deal breaker, but it did deduct some enjoyment for me personally. 

The last thing I want to mention is the vast amount of minigames Tchia has. I covered most of them when initially talking about the gameplay, but you can also dress Tchia up with different outfits at her base camp, cook food during cutscenes, and of course collect a variety of items to complete the in-game achievement system. There is even a post-game portion where you can complete various unfinished tasks after the game’s main storyline is over and boy is it worth it.

She’s Beauty…She’s Grace…

Let’s establish this right off the bat: Tchia is BEAUTIFUL. The game’s visuals are actually one of its biggest highlights. Even if it had no story and was just a sandbox game where you explore the archipelago I could play it for hours because it’s so lovely to explore. I mentioned in my preview that the creators based this title on a real place called New Caledonia and man do I want to visit there now. There is so much to see and do. The animals and fauna are actually part of the game’s achievement system and it’s so fun exploring both the land and sea just to take in the sights from different perspectives. 

It’s actually incredible how much culture Awaceb was able to pack into this game, especially given the more cartoonish art style. Still, no complaints from me. I LOVED looking at everything from the food to the sunsets and have to commend the developers for how well they did in making me feel like I was really on a faraway island with its own people and traditions.

The music and voice acting definitely contributed to the feeling of immersion. I learned that all of the characters are voiced by the locals of New Caledonia and it makes total sense because everyone’s voices felt fitting for the surroundings. The music portions were also huge because they often involved Tchia playing an instrument while someone sang and whether it was her ukulele or some leaves being rubbed together, I was enthralled by every song and beat. 

This section would normally be a 10/10 because visually and audibly Tchia has no real flaws, but there were some glitches that brought the experience down a notch for me. One glitch centered around the game not fully loading and instead just showing a black screen, while another saw Tchia getting trapped in a specific spot and not being able to move no matter what button you pressed. It’s pretty easy to reset the game so it wasn’t a big deal, but it happened enough times to be annoying. Hopefully, this will get patched later on.

Overall, I’m still super satisfied with the aesthetic presentation of this title.  

More Than a Girl

It’s a little bittersweet to think about the fact that I am now done with Tchia’s story. It’s been a while since I’ve played such an original game with so much culture. I actually feel compelled to commend it for how much it surprised me. Its storyline was dark but heartwarming, the cast was diverse and colorful (if not a little undeveloped), and the gameplay had me engaged for hours by letting me do something as simple as transforming into a fish. 

I would definitely recommend this title to anyone who is a fan of open-world adventure games and is looking for a fresh perspective. If anything, it’s a must-play just to experience the amount of love and detail the creators packed into it. There is also just so much to do that I feel it’s totally worth it for the price.

I managed to complete it with light exploration in about ten-ish hours, but there is definitely more I could’ve done and plan to do! All in all, this title was a treat and I hope to see more things like this in the future.

~ Final Score: 8/10 ~ 

Review copy provided by Awaceb for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Featured image courtesy of Awaceb.