Tchia review – Breath of the Pacific

The Legend Of Zelda has a new challenger as an impressive new indie game attempts a more laidback approach to open world gaming.

Now, more than ever, there is a whole world of video games that don’t involve anything to do with violence or killing. However, there are still precious few adventure games that can generate the same amount of excitement without resorting to punching or shooting someone. Animal Crossing and Immortality are all well and good but it would be nice if you could have something like Grand Theft Auto where nobody got hurt.

As you can probably guess by looking at the screenshots, Tchia doesn’t have much in common with Grand Theft Auto but there are a lot of obvious similarities with Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. Tchia sets out to emulate many of the same sort of open world exploration elements but with only a very abstract sort of combat, that certainly doesn’t involve shooting or stabbing anyone.

Given the style of visuals, and the heavy use of a glider, the similarities with Breath Of The Wild are clearly not a coincidence. You’re not exactly saving the world but, as the titular heroine Tchia, you are trying to rescue your dad from the evil ruler of an island archipelago inspired by New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific. Just like Zelda, there’s not much detailed plot, but instead an awful lot of exploring and adventuring.

As well as a glider, Tchia starts her adventure armed with a slingshot, and her arsenal doesn’t really get much more formidable from there. As in Breath Of The Wild, you’re left to explore however and wherever you want and while there are ‘fabric soldiers’ to oppose you, you’re in far less immediate danger than any comparable game. Even though the main bad guy has a habit of eating small children.

Tchia soon gains access to a wider range of equipment, from a boat to a ukulele, and it’s all controlled in a surprisingly realistic fashion. The graphics may look cute but this is a proper sandbox adventure, with a convincing physics system. We don’t really know much about sailing boats but we’re pretty sure they work the way Tchia portrays them. We know even less about playing a ukulele but that also feels impressively realistic and nuanced.

(Although you can just play it for fun, or jam with other people, the ukulele also has a practical use in that it works very much like Link’s ocarina and can change the weather, the time of day, or call a specific animal.)

Parts of Tchia are very realistic but it’s certainly not a clinical simulation. The most interesting element of the game is the ability to ‘soul jump’ into any object or animal you see. That adds up to hundreds of different possibilities, although the number of uniquely useful ones are fairly limited, with various birds, fish, and insects coming in handy for movement, plus a dog to dig up treasure and a gecko that can climb up walls.

We’re not sure why the chickens lay explosive eggs though, which is one of a few elements that suggests that Canadian developer Awaceb did secretly want to make a more directly Zelda-influenced game, but decided to pull back from a straight action adventure. As it is, instead of dungeons and complex puzzle-solving the game is instead filled with much more simplistic mini-games, from various kinds of races to memory quizzes and rhythm games.

This internal conflict rears its head often, and the game never feels as if the most is made of the soul jumping mechanic. It ends up being used mostly for traversal and some very simple puzzling (finding ways to burn the fabric soldiers quickly gets old – even though it’s the closest thing to combat in the game). Inanimate objects can be used as projectiles, but it constantly feels like the game is holding itself back, and for no very good reason.

If this had been an actual Zelda game we can only imagine what imaginative puzzles and situations Nintendo would have come up with using the soul jumping ability, but the way it’s actually used almost feels like a sideshow; a fun ability that is never used for much more than its own novelty. Not only does it feel like Tchia could be more than it is but that it’s purposefully stopping itself from reaching its true potential.

That’s not to suggest that what’s here isn’t fun though, especially as many will be playing it for free via PS Plus Extra. The game is charming and the various mechanics and items, especially the boat, are a lot of fun to use. The graphics are great too, relatively low tech but bursting with life and colour.

The only real mechanical fault is that the game does go a bit overboard in trying to avoid a Ubisoft style UI, as it refuses to tell you where Tchia is on the map, and you have to press a specific button to get even a hint.

Tchia is charming and fascinating but despite all the Zelda influences it makes the purposeful decision not to follow it all the way. As refreshing as it is to play an adventure game with so little in the way of violence there’s also the sense that by holding themselves back Awaceb have prevented Tchia from becoming something even more magical.

Tchia review summary

In Short: One of the best post-Breath Of The Wild open world adventures, but while the game’s heavily influenced by Zelda it ultimately plumps for amiable exploration over more rugged adventure.

Pros: Great open world design and graphics. The boat and glider are a lot of fun and the soul jumping into animals and inanimate objects is even better. Musical elements feel very organic.

Cons: Multiple elements tiptoe around the idea of being a full Zelda clone but never commit. Soul jumping in particular seems underutilised. Unhelpful map can get tiresome.

Score: 7/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PlayStation 4, and PC
Price: £24.99*
Publisher: Kepler Interactive
Developer: Awaceb
Release Date: 21st March 2023
Age Rating: 12

*Free via PS Plus Extra

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