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Tchia review

Tchia Review

We can’t help but feel that Tchia‘s developer, Awaceb, has done a bit of a bait-and-switch on us, and it’s left a sour taste in our mouth.

You’ve probably heard of Tchia. Its marketing material has made it look like a beautiful jaunt through a gorgeous tropical paradise, based on the real-world location of New Caledonia. We even previewed it ourselves last month, saying words to the same effect. “An island adventure filled with fun and discovery,” we’d said. It’s not a lie. Not exactly. But what the preview failed to show us – and what the Tchia‘s marketing has elected to obscure – is that for more than half of the story campaign, you’re not going to be exploring a picturesque tropical paradise. Oh no. You’re going to be in the most butt-ugly industrial complex you’ve ever seen.

We knew there’d be a bit of trouble and strife coming Tchia’s way over the course of the main story. After all, it’s framed around her father being taken by the evil ruler, Meavora. And as Tchia, a small girl with a lot of guts – and a hidden special power – it’s up to you to hunt down Meavora and save your father. And a lot of other people in the process.

Much of Tchia‘s marketing has focused on the young girl’s ability to soul jump. Admittedly, it is rather cool: with the push of a button she can possess any animal she gets close to, and even small objects. Need to hot-foot across the island? Run as a deer, or fly through the skies as a bird. Or possess a rock, and launch it at something nearby. Maybe even swim through the ocean as a fish. The world’s your oyster. Sure, we had great fun experimenting with Tchia’s soul-jumping ability – at least for a while. But outside of your own shenanigans or as a means to get around the vast islands, you have little use for it over the course of the story.

That’s the problem with most of what we knew about Tchia before going into it: it ends up feeling like filler, with no real purpose or reward for doing it. Sit by the campfire and strum a tune on your ukulele if you want, but there’s no reason to. Climb a tree to grab a coconut, or glide off the top of a mountain. The reality is, you won’t be spending as much time doing all those fun, chill activities as you think you will. Because you’ll be too busy running around an ugly factory taking out enemies made out of fabric.

Related: The Best Open World Games on PS5

We knew Tchia featured combat, but we assumed it’d be light: small camps of fabric soldiers that Tchia has to take out by setting on fire. She’s equipped with a slingshot, but it’s not a weapon and can’t be used to take out enemies. Instead, she has to use her environment: grab an oil lamp, or an explosive rock, and toss it at an enemy. Finish off by burning any piles of fabric, and the camp is cleared – it’s one thing checked off your massive to-do list. Initially, these camps have just a handful of enemies. But eventually, you’ll be entering industrial complexes filled with up to 30 of them, accompanied by a dozen or more sentinels that will shoot you from afar. Cue Tchia spending three in-game days running around and hunting down enemies.

It isn’t the worst combat we’ve ever encountered. It is at least serviceable, and the fact that Tchia must rely on objects in the environment to overcome her adversaries at least gives it a twist. But there’s far more combat here than we expected, and it begs the question: why can’t she equip her slingshot with some type of incendiary ammo that could take them out? To say Tchia isn’t a game about combat is exceedingly misleading when it ended up being something we spent so much time doing.

Alongside taking out huge swathes of enemies in these industrial complexes, we also had to take out the buildings themselves. These missions included things like dropping explosives down chimneys and throwing explosives into huge drills. Yeah, Tchia ends up blowing a lot of stuff up.

Perhaps the worst thing about these sections – which encompass the entire second act of Tchia‘s 10-or-so hour campaign – is just how ugly they are. The game’s clean art style works beautifully in its tropical beach and forest environments: you’ll want to take screenshot after screenshot, soaking in just how gorgeous it looks. But exploring textureless buildings, a sea of grey and brown, is a complete contradiction. The life and soul of Tchia is nowhere to be seen, and we’re left with an environment that feels like it’s been ripped from a completely different game. There’s also no room here for any of Tchia’s endearing abilities to be used, instead being forced to play through a sub-par third person action game until you can escape it.

It’s not all bad, though. Once you’re done with the campaign, it’s back to the beautiful islands you expected from Tchia. You’re then free to explore as you please, and steadily make your way through the ridiculously long list checklist of things to do, see and collect. It’s here you can make use of Tchia’s climbing, gliding and soul-jumping abilities to your heart’s content. The problem is… by this stage in the game, none of it felt like it had any point for us. The idea of wandering around to collect over 100 trinkets, dive for dozens of pearls, shout from various lookout points and take out 40-odd enemy camps left us feeling exhausted. Sure, some side activities will improve Tchia’s abilities: you can increase her stamina by finding stamina fruit, for example. And completing totem shrines will let you increase the time that you can stay as a creature while soul-jumping. But unless you simply want to make your own fun in a sandbox world, there’s little point once you’re done with the story. We can see it appealing to some people, sure. But we struggled to find reason to dive back in.

It’s not just Tchia‘s narrative dissonance that gave us pause for concern, either. Playing on PS5 for review, we’ve encountered a number of bugs and performance issues. Once, coming out of a cutscene, we were left with our HUD over a black screen, giving us no option but to restart the game. And when trying to complete a shrine challenge that required us to fly as a bird, we were unable to move off the starting point, no matter how many times we restarted the challenge. Some areas of the game have been prone to slowdown, too: for the most part, the framerate has been stable, but at times, it’s stuttered to a crawl.

None of this is to say we didn’t have some fun with Tchia. Awaceb has done a fantastic job of creating a rich world based on New Caledonian culture, and we’ve enjoyed being absorbed in it. There’s a decent story at its heart, too, which took us to some very surprising places towards the end, industrial estates aside. And we’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the musical scenes you’ll encounter as you play. You can strum along with Tchia’s ukulele (or occasionally tap along with another instrument), or you can simply watch a scene of dancing, singing and merriment unfold. You’ll struggle to hold back a smile and the songs will have you tapping your own feet along to the beat.

Ultimately, Tchia has left us slightly cold – and that in itself is disappointing, because we had high hopes for this title. If you’re expecting a Breath of the Wild-style adventure, as trailers and previews (even ours) may have led you to believe, you probably should keep your expectations in check. There is beautiful island fun to be had here, and Tchia’s abilities are wonderful – but by the time you’ve fought your way through its surprisingly drab and disappointing campaign, you’ll unlikely see much reason to return.

Tchia Review – GameSpew’s Score

GameSpew Our Score 6

This review of Tchia is based on the PS5 version of the game, via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS4, PS5 and PC.

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