There’s something uniquely endearing about games set in remote parts of the world – areas that the developers, who are invariably locals, want to share with the rest of us. This was the case with Alba: A Wildlife Adventure (written in the heady days before last year’s intense heatwave), and it’s the case with Awaceb’s upcoming game, Tchia.
There’s a lot of things I loved in Alba that are similarly represented in Tchia. You get to explore a far-flung island, inspired by a real-world location — in this case, the Pacific island of New Caledonia, which lies between Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. You can run, jump, explore and take photos of the local wildlife, as you might expect — and you will want to because the world they have built is beautiful, and voiced in the native languages of French and Drehu by local talent, allowing for the highest level of immersion.
But in Tchia, you can also do so much more.
The key mechanic that you might have spotted from the game’s trailers is the ‘soul-jumping’. This is a bit of a misnomer, as you might think you can jump into anything with a soul. That is not really the case – it’s more a soul-projection mechanic where you can fling your own soul into anything smaller than a human. Each thing you can possess does something different. Want to possess a bird and poop on the head of an annoying NPC? You do you. Want to possess a stag and sprint around the island? Great idea, go for it! Want to possess a coconut and, well, do coconut things? That’s a little weird, but again, you can do just that!
There are proper reasons to do this other than to be annoying, though. Does an NPC want a crab for dinner? Rather than swimming around trying not to be pinched, you can possess the crab and make it come to you. Talking of crabs, if you need to break through some chains and there’s a nearby crab with a strong pincer attack just sitting there, well, you know what to do…
When I saw the soul-jumping mechanic in the trailer, I immediately had visions of throwing myself around the map like some sort of ethereal Spider-Man, but unfortunately, birds are thin in the air and things like deer are relatively thin on the ground. On top of this, you start the game with a fairly measly stamina bar until you find ways to upgrade it, meaning I found myself shlepping up the mountain and across the swamps by foot more often than I would like. It was a big comedown from seeing all the antics in Tchia’s gameplay trailer.
This is my biggest gripe with the game, other than textures being a little too grainy and the frame rate dropped way too frequently on a mid-level PC that really should not have struggled to run it. I don’t know how this will run on PS5 or PS4, but can only hope that it is more optimised because imagining that on a 4K TV is making me feel a little queasy – then again, I am currently a bit under the weather, so that isn’t helping. There’s still some development time to go, with Tchia due out sometime in the spring, so I’m really hoping this is all patched before release.
The preview build we got our hands on drops you into the game a few hours in, letting us explore the island and try to make sense of what’s going on. No context was given as to why you have a magical ukulele that can summon birds or give you infinite oxygen when diving, although we did enjoy going into free-play mode and smashing out an acoustic Master of Puppets cover. Likewise, no explanation was given why there were magical cloth demons that were terrorising the island.
There’s a lot to love about Tchia, and I’m very interested to see where the game is going. With all its inspirations from New Caledonian traditions, music, customs and folklore, there’s sure to be an interesting mythology that I’m excited to learn about.