The result of nine enthusiasts’ work, Tchia will offer an open-world tropical adventure in 2023, placing you in the shoes of a young adventurer unafraid to climb to the tops of trees and glide through the air.
Since the dreamlike platform game Fossil Echo (2016), Awaceb Studio, whose name is borrowed from a New Caledonian slang that roughly translates to “all is well” or “no worries,” has passionately been working on a more ambitious project.
The team has grown from two to nine motivated talents who are writing a love letter to New Caledonian culture, with 40% of them originating from there. This year, the open-world tropical adventure game Tchia will task us with rescuing the eponymous heroine’s father from the clutches of a horrible tyrant, promising an unprecedented journey near the blue lagoons of fictional islands.
The preview takes us a few hours into the young Tchia’s journey, the heroine of a world that seems relatively safe for the time being. Our first mission is to bring a tasty crab to the matriarch of a peaceful tribe living in a few huts. It’s challenging to elaborate on the plot, which is only sketched out in a handful of adorable, French-dubbed cutscenes featuring local talents with warm voices.
Our protagonist speaks in Drehu, the Kanak language of Lifou in the Loyalty Islands archipelago. The character gallery exudes charm, and we’re eager to meet all the faces that make up the journey.
Dropped into an open-world sandbox, we learn to master the subtleties of our lush environment and our charming makeshift raft by trial and error. It’s only after spending a long time reading the fortuitous instructions on directional signs and climbing mountains bare-handed to help Tchia get her bearings from the island’s highest summit that a compass will appear. This nuance makes sense in this exploration of wild nature, and we can’t help but appreciate the intention.
At first glance, Tchia does not excel in technical quality, suffering from clipping and animation glitches. However, the panoramas remain endearing, particularly when twilight lights stretch across the villages, accompanied by lovely flute melodies and soft percussion.
The adventure will also grant you musical breaks by the fire, offering unique tunes you’ve likely never heard elsewhere. While we haven’t yet explored the full extent of the map and thus have no real idea of its overall size, the few biomes we’ve visited stand out with subtle differences in fauna and flora, which even have their glossary.
We would have also appreciated the addition of collectibles or manuscripts to further flesh out the lore of this attractive universe. In this sense, it would have been nice to converse with the occasional passersby who generally stick to executing their assigned tasks or routes while uttering predefined phrases.
An Ocean of Ideas
Awaceb’s proposal is teeming with a plethora of lovely ideas. Tchia can learn incantation notes to play on her ukulele to change the time of day or even summon animals. This skill is beneficial since the prodigious child can control any animal she encounters, as well as a handful of objects like rocks that we’ll quickly ignore.
Flying and aquatic creatures will be preferred for quickly traversing currents and skies at the expense of less interesting animals. Unfortunately, this exceptional ability currently seems mainly limited to travel.
Creature possession consumes a stamina gauge that automatically recharges, which also appears when climbing steep heights or gliding above villages using a giant leaf as a parachute.
Tchia can climb almost any surface and even swing from tree tops to leap. All these parameters work well, making movement more enjoyable, although our young protagonist is certainly not the fastest on the island when it comes to running.
Among the small activities you can enjoy in Tchia, you’ll also find photography, which may remind you of the peaceful strolls in Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, stone stacking, racing challenges as a shark, and totem sculpting, which unlocks the doors to sacred temples housing various benefits.
Finally, cloth soldiers created by the game’s villain, Meavora, are prepared for battles that you can easily escape. Don’t count on Tchia for wild action sequences, as that’s not the essence of the adventure, which hasn’t yet revealed its main events.
As it stands, Tchia still has much to show us: its promising story is barely tangible, and its islands have yet to reveal all their landscapes. Technically decent, the game could benefit from further polishing to offer a truly immersive and warm experience. However, its plethora of good ideas and undeniable charm make it an absolutely endearing project that exudes a sense of benevolence.
It’s a beautiful love letter to the archipelagos of New Caledonia, and we genuinely can’t wait to explore all its expanses. Tchia is set to release early this year on PC, PS4, and PS5.