Tchia understands that the destination isn’t important – it’s how you get to where you want to go that truly matters. There’s a freedom to Tchia’s underlying design that’s immediately appealing, particularly when you consider the breadth and beauty of the tropical open world that developer Awaceb has so lovingly created. An awe-inspiring archipelago that immediately puts the mind at ease, particularly in those (thankfully frequent) moments where you catch the sun setting gently behind a blanket of blue ocean, hear the whisper of wind gently rusting through trees, or soar gracefully through cloudless skies as a bird.
After playing Tchia, I’m not certain I really understand what the point to all this is, but then I’m also not sure that I care all that much either. What’s clear is that Tchia has a strong sense of identity, with its prioritization of movement and locomotion helping to set it apart from other sandbox games already available. Exploration feels fantastic, enough so that you’re effectively able to enter a flow state as you gradually gather momentum. Gliding across gorgeous open plains, catapulting between bending trees, and gracefully scaling mountaintops is an absolute delight, as too is the freedom to head to whatever point of interest that catches your attention after a brief scan of the horizon.
Of course, Awaceb has crafted a heartfelt narrative for you to pursue in Tchia – one which is directly inspired by New Caledonian cultures – although right now it’s fun to do anything but. Plenty of games released in the wake of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have indulged in free climbing systems, which let you ascend anything in the world without restriction, and open navigation, allowing you to build momentum with physics-based objects around you, although Tchia takes it one step further.
“Soul jumping is one of Tchia’s special abilities, which lets you take control of any object or animal that they can find in the open world,” says creative director Phil Crifo, who teases that there are over 30 animals and hundreds of objects to possess – aiding everything from puzzle solving to treasure hunting to exploration. “For example, it can be super useful for locomotion, for getting places faster, but the animals also have special abilities.” For the record: Yes, you can Soul Jump into a dog; yes, the dog has an adorable dig animation that can help you unearth buried treasure; and no, I didn’t find an NPC that was willing to pet me.
Take the time to rest awhile
There are many moments in my time with Tchia that I could point to as a highlight – that worked to slow my breathing and calm my worried mind from the world around me – although I do want to focus on the ukulele. That’s a tool that Tchia can wield at any time, which developer Awaceb has recreated with startling accuracy. Eight chords can be plucked, and when played in the right progressions will create soothing melodies which can be easily recreated in real life should you feel the impulse. You can also learn four-chord Soul Melodies, which have a direct impact on the world around you – attracting specific animals for you to Soul Jump into, altering the time of day, or shifting the weather around you. Tchia is as awe-inspiring soaked in sun and it is when blanketed by rain; I can’t wait to go back to this world.
To me the ukulele is a strange reflection of Tchia as a concept. It’s easy to create dissonance with the instrument, but if you’re willing to put in the time to learn its intricacies then it’s capable of creating true beauty – it is harmonious when a chord pattern comes together. That’s true of Tchia too, where its disparate systems and open-ended gameplay should be in conflict with one another, but if you take the time to slow down, learn the lay of the land, and are willing to explore it, beauty is born out of its boundless opportunity.
Tchia is one of our most anticipated upcoming PS5 games, and it’s also set to launch on PC and PS4 in 2023.