Tchia is one of those games where I found myself loving so many things about it, but not always playing it. It’s a joyful and delightful games in many way. The heroine is fun, the Soul Jump mechanic is novel, and the cultural tributes to New Caledonia are wonderful. But the thing is that it often gets a bit obtuse or tedious. Not to mention there are moments when it isn’t good at telling you what to do.
Tchia stars a young woman living alone with her father on a small island. It’s just the two of them, though a friend named Tre stops by with supplies. All seems peaceful and well initially. However, it’s quickly answered why they are there, as a vicious man with otherworldly, fabric minions comes and abducts her father. Tre tells her he was taken by Meavora, and she needs to go and confront her. However, during the abduction, Tchia also discovered access to strange powers, ones that grant telekinetic and soul jumping abilities that let her go into animate and inanimate creatures and objects.
It’s so refreshing and lovely. Even when meetings are short between people and Tchia, you can feel these moments are meaningful. The quiet opening showing her life with her father. The brief times she spends with people on different islands. Her reactions to her surroundings range from joyful to amusing to sometimes even terrifying. There’s a sense of range and realism here. And it’s all surrounded by this beautiful language and fantastic music. Not to mention there is this Soul Jump mechanic that Tchia handles perfectly.
Tchia’s main problem is that it often isn’t very good at being a game. It will tell you to do things, but not explain how. You need Stamina Fruits to increase her stamina bar for things like climbing, gliding and swimming, and you can find one on the island where Tchia lives with her father, but there’s no introduction to it or encouragement to find it. You’ll be asked to get pearls for a quest, but not taught how to dive or told what the Pearl Clam looks like. Play a Soul Melody to change the time of day! Well, how do you get out the ukelele to do so? These are the earliest examples you’ll experience in the first 15-30 minutes, but it’s a recurring theme.
It also lacks many of the quality of life features we’ve come to expect from games beyond tutorials. To get your bearings, you’re supposed to treat the game like the real world, relying on maps and signposts to find where you are and should be going. Which could be novel. Except it often isn’t clear where exactly you should be going. That compounds the tedious nature. Especially if it turns out accomplishing a task, when it isn’t yielding a major bonus like a new Soul Melody, can honestly feel a bit unfulfilling.
Though the only time Tchia really disappointed me is when its many performance issues appeared. Since launch, and even before, a number of patches appeared. These took care of some of the more egregious issues on the PS5, such as everything being pitch black after a transition from a cutscene back to the game or when a loading screen ended. Once I finally started fighting Meavora’s minions, it become more of an annoyance to set them on fire than a challenge. Especially if they’d get stick on some rocks or other environmental items.
Tchia is undeniably charming, features an amazing Soul Jump concept, and is this loving tribute to New Caledonia and its culture. But at the same time, it can occasionally feel discouraging to play. Whether its actual bugs, which to be fair Awaceb seems like it is trying to make real progress to fix, or design decisions that keep things obtuse, it can be frustrating. It’s heartfelt to be sure and I’d say worth someone’s time, but it’s also a game you may want to watch for a while first before making any decision about it.
Tchia is available on the PS4, PS5, and PC.