I was fortunate enough to go hands-on with a preview build of the upcoming indie title Tchia, a game inspired by New Caledonia from developer/publisher Awaceb. My takeaways are immensely positive.

It’s going to be difficult to avoid comparing Tchia to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, since some of the traversal and exploration mechanics seem to be heavily influenced by Nintendo’s open-world action-adventure opus. But I will get this comparison over and done with so I can touch on why Tchia feels like something truly special.

A number of other recent games have also borrowed heavily from the Breath of the Wild toolkit; utilizing elements such as the glider or the ability to climb damn near every surface, or even the soft almost pastel art direction. But few of these games — if any, really — have managed to do much with these flourishes other than serve as emulations in style while lacking the sheer sense of wonder that made BotW the Switch’s first must-play title. Games like Craftopia immediately come to mind (although calling that a “game” as opposed to a “proof-of-concept demo” is generous in my book), which offered the visual style and traversal mechanic of BotW with almost literally nothing else to speak of.

But by and large, these games have mostly failed to capture what made those mechanics great to begin with, or simply failed to go one or even two steps beyond simply aping their inspiration and actually offering a great game around those same mechanics.


But Tchia seems to have cracked the code. And not only that — and I am sure this will sound a bit hyperbolic to some, and anathema to most others — I would say Tchia manages to do away with the elements of BotW that I found irritating and bothersome. It offers a game world rich with New Caledonian themes while also offering an endearing character in Tchia herself. This is a game I could sink dozens of hours into without lacking activities to keep me engaged. There is always something new to see or collect just around the bend.

Tchia is nothing short of incredible, and it offers a wide variety of tools for the player to have fun with, while also leaning heavily into New Caledonian art and music and folklore, aspects of a culture I am woefully unfamiliar with. And let me just say: The music is so very enjoyable and fits the mood and aesthetic perfectly. It has what I am assuming is an traditional delivery, but it vacillates between bouncy, almost funky grooves when in a village, to more sweeping and almost swashbuckling elements when out adventuring or sailing about.

Yes, you can sail in Tchia. And not only that, but it is a pretty darn fun and relaxing way to take in the sights while tooling around this breathtaking archipelago. You can also customize your boat to your heart’s content with various parts that you’ll unlock and collect, from the sail and flag to the wood the boat is made of to the paint job. Customization actually plays a bigger role in Tchia than I had expected. Not only can you customize your boat to the hilt, but you can also change the color of Tchia’s ukulele and her glider, as well as almost every aspect of her wardrobe. The amount of items at your disposal, once acquired, is pretty nuts.

Tchia - Clothing Menu

But getting back to the traversal mechanics, I should point out that, like in Breath of the Wild, you can use a glider to cover vast distances or to catch yourself after leaping from a mountainside cliff. And you can climb dang near every surface — you can also climb to the top of a tree and jump to the top of an adjacent tree, sort of like Crocodile Dundee hop-scotching on people’s heads in the subway.

Or you can use the analog stick to sway the tree back and forth, then launch yourself through the air like a huge slingshot before pulling out your glider to smoothly navigate to another tree, which you’ll use to launch yourself again. This feels like something out of a kid-friendly version of Just Cause. And crouching while running down an incline allows Tchia to slide on the ground. Being able to chain sliding and gliding and flinging and soaring is an amazing feeling that might never get old.

And this isn’t even factoring in the Soul Jumping mechanic. Using the left bumper to sort of slow down the world and trigger the Soul Jumping vision mode, Tchia can possess any number of items, from rocks to jerry cans, which she can then roll around as or fling at enemies or other items. It feels a lot like the possession mechanic from the 2017 Arkane Studios title Prey. It’s a nifty way to engage with the world and to even solve some puzzles.

For example, I came across a little pond that ended up being pretty deep, with a small clearing in the bottom leading to a secret chamber. The nearby dolphin was too big to fit through it, but this little fish that happened to be swimming about was just the ticket to gain access to the hidden chamber, even though I unfortunately didn’t have the key to unlock the chest inside.

But what would an open world be without numerous activities to keep you wandering around and engaging with the world? Well, fear not, because Tchia has a bevy of activities and side content to keep you tooling around for hours. Sure, there are collectible totems that can be used to buy cosmetic items, but there are also statues to blow up, camps full of sentient beings made of ribbons and cloth to burn, races to be won, stamina fruit to be eaten, and a whole assortment of animals to discover and pet.


You can change every aspect of your wardrobe, you can eat a whole assortment of various traditional food, you can play a frickin’ ukulele if you want, with a full chord system reminiscent of The Last of Us Part 2. You can craft totems and then use them as keys to unlock dungeons that require you to avoid detection while maneuvering through a sort of obstacle course. You can test your slingshot skills at a shooting gallery, or test your meddle at a UFO gacha machine. Yes, seriously.

And all of this is delivered in an incredibly charming and visually appealing package. The characters have an almost doll-like exaggeration to their facial and body features. You can come across random NPCs walking about or fishing on a dock, and although you can’t seem to hold much by way of a conversation or really interact with them in any meaningful way, they do spout their own little phrases, making them feel like part of this world.

And the world itself is flat-out gorgeous. The lighting effects for the day and night cycle creates a cornucopia of colors. The sunsets make the world seem like it is on fire. And the draw distance does marvels for making distant valleys seem almost a world apart from your high-up perch on a mountaintop. The swamps feel humid and muggy, the plains feel dry and arid. The rain effects — at least in the build I played — leave a little to be desired, which I think is mostly do to the art style. But it’s nowhere near as headache-inducing as the recent Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy.

I feel like I could go on and on about Tchia, which is a good sign that it’s shaping up to be a great game. I was looking forward to checking Tchia out before I played it, but now that I’ve gotten a taste, I’ve fully boarded the hype train. In fact, Tchia is currently the game to beat in 2023 for me, as far as open-world action-adventure games go.

Tchia - Petting the Pig

I don’t normally lose my mind over what might be considered a lighthearted, whimsical, kid-friendly game, but Tchia feels like its got the goods and then some. This is part spiritual successor to a game like Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, and another part cousin to a game like Breath of Wild. But really, it is also its own unique game that I hope catches the world by storm. What Awaceb has created might not be perfect, but it is its own slice of paradise.

Disclaimer: I was given a preview code for Tchia for Epic Games Store, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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