A bit too repetetive and safe for its own good but its still easy to love and worth a completionist run.
Brimming with playfulness, exploration, and loving detail Tchia makes me want to book a flight to New Caledonia: the homeland of the studio’s co-founders that serves as the inspiration for this open-world, physics-driven, sandbox adventure. I loved Tchia to the point where I plan to platinum it. I want to collect all the funky and lovely costumes, learn each song to see what magic it possesses, and complete all these islands have to offer. But it’s a love that’s heavily based on my personal taste because while Tchia is a cute collectathon that invites players to have fun with its system its missions rarely call for much creativity or problem-solving.
This ultimately makes Tchia feel a bit like a missed opportunity and, by the time I hit credits 10 hours later, it was impossible for me to ignore how repetitive the experience was as a whole.
Narratively, Tchia is structured like a classic story being passed down to the next generation. It’s a charming construction that serves the story well given the fantastical, folklore-infused nature of the game.
Early on Tchia (the young girl and titular hero) unlocks a power: Soul Jumping. This ability allows her to take control of any animal and almost any object. Each animal has its own ability ranging from practical ones like sprinting up a mountain as a deer and pinching as a crab to sillier ones like pooping as a bird or laying eggs as a chicken.
Most of the main missions are about Tchia gathering offerings, aka fetch quests, that will have you sailing, swimming, climbing, and gliding all across these islands. There are a few late-game missions that involve taking down specific camps filled with Maano, brainless soldiers spawned by Meavora (the big bad) from pieces of cloth and sculpted totems. But that’s about it. This repetition speaks to the larger problem with Tchia; it’s a wonderful world with compelling mechanics but dull mission design.
While it’s easy to b-line Tchia’s campaign I took my time with it, compelled to visit every point of interest on my map. Tchia makes it easy to be a completionist as your map is heavily populated with icons for everything: campfires, chests, docks, food stands, Meavora statues to destroy, trinkets to collect, and more.
These icons get added to your map when you let out a shout at a Point of View (which is also marked on your map). These Points of View function the way you see map clearing in traditional open-world games (think towers in Far Cry, Tallnecks in Horizon, etc). But instead of clearing fog, it’s adding more icons on your map.
This makes for an efficient adventure at the cost of discovery. I rarely felt like I accomplished anything thanks to my own smarts, curiosity, ingenuity, or skill. Instead, I felt like I followed what Tchia laid out for me and while there’s a calm coziness to that it ends up feeling really prescriptive.
I love collecting braided trinkets because it’s checking a box but the location of the trinket is marked for me, with little effort, and getting there is just a matter of Soul Jumping into a bird and flying there. Tchia is a straightforward game that provides simple pleasures and there’s nothing wrong with that but it’s limiting.
When I step back from that basic satisfaction I realize achieving it was just an act of going through the motions. This is an adventure the way going to the grocery store with a meticulous list is but the lovely art direction, magic of the uke songs, and joy of jumping into a dog to dig into the sand makes you forget how mundane the tasks in front of you are.
Tchia is perfect example of a game I love despite the ways it falls short because I enjoy what I’m doing even though it’s rote. Why? Because I love launching myself from tree top to tree top. Because I grinded materials to buy the cutest boat cosmetics I could find. Because I can’t help but play the hell out of every claw machine video games have to offer.
To its credit, Tchia creates a strong floor of fun but its fault is that the ceiling is pretty low.
Music plays a big role in Tchia. Over time she unlocks more and more Soul Melodies to play. Each song has an impact on the world from simple shifts in time of day to summoning animals.
There are times when these systems work together in a way that really sings: conjuring up a bird with my uke, Soul Jumping into it to fly to a Maano camp, falling from the sky to Soul Jump into a lantern, and then throwing that lantern at your enemies is a lovely chain of events. There’s a real synergy there.
Songs are often used as a way to bookend a chapter too. There are plenty of festivals or intimate moments where songs break out and Tchia accompanies them on her uke. Mechanically these are fairly challenging rhythm games but you can opt-out by clicking autoplay if you’d rather sit back and enjoy the tunes. The only con to this structure is since the game is voiced in traditional languages (fittingly and rightfully so) and subtitled in a selected language I missed the lyrics because I was focused on playing the rhythm game. The songs are still a joy to hear but I felt like I missed out on some of the narrative flavorings as a result.
On top of all this Tchia adds a cool touch of allowing you to play your uke whenever you want in free jam mode. This is super detailed, allowing you to change the accidental, quality, strum direction, chord, and even letting you pick or bend notes.
All of this makes me feel welcomed and excited to be in this world. There’s a love and attention to detail in Tchia that really comes through to me and enhanced my enjoyment of the game.
There’s plenty to do in Tchia and the rewards are enticing even though missions are manageable without any upgrades. Aside from aesthetics you can increase your stamina, Soul Meter (aka the amount of time you can be inside of whatever you Soul Jumped into), and uncover new Soul Melodies to impact the world around you.
While most missions are structured around getting items like braided trinkets and pearls which are just a matter of picking them up from the spots marked on the map, there are other fun minigames scattered across the islands.
Rock balancing challenges have you stacking rock towers to uncover more Soul Melodies, Diving board challenges have you performing tricks after leaping from high places, shooting ranges will test your slingshot skills, races ask you to be speedy regardless of your form whether you’re on foot, your boat, or in the body of boar, and totem shrines increase your Soul Meter and offer harder challenges. I only did 2 out of 8 of these shrines and one was a mandatory stealth sequence which was fine but not super compelling or difficult.
Getting around the island is a smooth experience. Tchia’s jumping, climbing, and Soul Jumping ability works in a way that’s smooth an intuitive even when stringing together mechanics quickly. Many games explore ragdoll, wonky physics but few can maintain firm control when implementing those things. Tchia is one of them. Even when I’m flopping around as a frying pan I can get where I want to go easily.
Tchia is a cozy collectathon, it’s Zelda without the difficulty but the same things that may draw some players deeper into Tchia are the same things that hold it back for me.
The ability to Soul Jump into over 30 animals is a blast but ultimately the main use case was flying as a bird, running up landscapes as a decently sized four-legged animal (boars and deer were my go-to), or swimming underwater as any sea creature. These are enjoyable in their own right but there wasn’t much challenge when it came to traversal as a result.
Similarly, most tasks were just about getting X amount of items, all of which are marked on my map already. The most compelling moments were needing to get an egg which involved soul jumping into a chicken and laying an egg to then pick it up as a girl and one other I won’t spoil. Tchia is mostly just doing what you’re told to do with the option to do more of the same along the way. It’s not about overcoming obstacles.
This is not to be confused with difficulty. In fact, Tchia's approach to difficulty is great. There are ways to adjust gameplay by toggling off the stamina meter, for instance. There's a setting to make certain cutscenes more kid-friendly. There's even an option to "skip gameplay segment" which I'd love to see more games add.
My issue isn’t that Tchia is too easy, it’s that many of the tasks are mindless. These are still fun to do but they’re not interesting so the fun wears thin after a while. If you’ve gotten one braided trinket you’ve basically got them all.
The one exception is the races as these require some navigational skills and are pretty varied. Some are on foot as Tchia, others have you playing as a specific creature, and a few are on your boat. You can then use the trophies you earn to play at the claw machine which also offers some challenge when it comes to timing the claw drop.
Since I can appreciate the simple pleasures Tchia has to offer I will say the repetition didn’t bother me until about 2/3rds into my playthrough.
Tchia is a good game that’s easy to love but my recommendation of it comes with a few key caveats. After some initial novelties wear off it’s clear that Tchia is more about relishing in simple pleasures than being intrigued by the core questline.