Chia is an open world 3D platformer based on New Caledonian culture, composed of natives who were granted French citizenship in 1953.
The game starts off with Tchia, the protagonist, living a relatively simple life in a small isolated island with her father.
During the game’s introduction we learn the basic mechanics like gliding and using our slingshot, but it also serves as a way to showcase some of New Caledonia’s culture, like their food and music.
Chia‘s characters are voiced in either Drehu or French, which shows that no efforts were spared to make the game more authentic to the culture, regardless of how hard it is to find people who speak the language.
Publisher: Awaceb, Kepler Interactive
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: March 21st, 2023
The protagonist Tchia and her father are visited by Tre, a merchant who brings them supplies from time to time, but the peaceful times don’t last long.
Tchia’s father ends up being kidnapped by an old acquaintance and two mysterious creatures who followed Tre by helicopter.
Tchia tries to reach the helicopter to save her father but ends up falling into the water, eventually being rescued by Tre.
You can watch me go through the game’s introduction below:
Tre brings Tchia to his raft house, which leads to the game’s second interactive song and a rock stacking mini-game.
It’s a this point that I started getting worried, wondering if this was all that Chia was, a series of intercalating mini-games and story content.
Thankfully, the game starts picking up in pace when Tchia is gifted a wooden raft and starts sailing towards Aemoon, hoping that the town’s leader can help her.
New Caledonia’s culture has an offering system, they are called Customs, and are composed of food and valuables, they are usually required when seeking audience with a leader.
Tchia is denied audience with Aemoon’s leader due to lacking a Custom, so she decides to start looking for a worthy offering to present.
The game’s opening requires a bit of patience from the player, as it slowly eases you into the experience and culture, but doesn’t give you a lot of gameplay.
Soon, I realized that my worries were unfounded, and my doubts melted away when the game’s main mechanic was revealed.
Tchia has the power to possess animals and objects, which brings an insane level of verticality and mobility to the game. She does have a time limit on her power usage, but it can be upgraded.
The game’s map is also revealed to us as soon as this happens, and we have the freedom to go pretty much anywhere.
The game reads like a love letter to the Legend of Zelda series in terms of gameplay, even having an ukulele serving as the ocarina’s replacement, alongside climbing and gliding mechanics like Breath of the Wild.
You can watch some of my exploration on the video below:
Despite that, the game never feels derivative or like a lesser product because of its influences. In fact, it feels a lot more rewarding in movement because of its less complicated nature.
Chia accommodates all playstyles, but if your brain has been ruined by games with tons of mechanical execution, like mine has, you can also enjoy the meta-game of chaining possessions and rapid fruit consumption.
You can quickly transfer through multiple animals you kidnapped and shoved in your pockets for maximum uptime and travel distance, but you can just as well travel by raft and glider to reach your destination, taking your time instead.
The game simply cares way more about being fun than limiting player freedom for the sake of balancing, which makes it a really engaging experience for any type of player.
Chia‘s soundtrack is also something that needs to be noted, as the melodies that play throughout the game are astonishing. The game manages to place them in the perfect moments for maximum effect, and it always works.
The game’s PC port performs really well and frame drops are pretty much nonexistent, but the game is somewhat prone to crashing. Thankfully, we have been assured by the developers that the issue is being worked on.
Chia has a lot to offer in terms of collectibles, but the game’s lack of a combat system means that you will mostly just go around collecting things and exploring. This is perfectly fine for the game that Chia is trying to be, but more varied activities would be welcomed.
The amount of love and soul that has been injected into Chia makes it a very unique title, showcasing your culture in such a fun and relaxed way is possibly the best method of teaching people about it.
Chia never feels preachy, as it takes an easy-going approach in giving the player a more fantastical look into New Caledonia’s culture, even for those completely unfamiliar with it.
The game reaches the perfect balance between casually telling a story and keeping the player mechanically engaged, while also rewarding the player for exploring and experimenting.
Chia‘s story actually takes some really interesting turns as well, being framed as an oral narrative that gets passed around through generations, but I’ll refrain from spoiling it, considering how most of Chia‘s content is story-based.
The attention to detail in Chia is amazing; music, food, traditions, the accurate language and landmarks, everything is represented really well. A lot of love has been put into Chiaand it clearly shows.
Chia is a beautiful tropical painting given interactive form, and is a fantastic way of getting lost and immersed in a new culture.
Tchia was reviewed on Microsoft Windows using a game code provided by Awaceb. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Tchia is set to release on the 21st of March, 2023, for the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows (through Steam and the Epic Games Store).