Tchia embraces the spirit of photography

By Mik Bromley, Contributor

There's a deep and rewarding pleasure to be found in traveling somewhere with a camera in-hand. Immersing yourself in unfamiliar surroundings, taking in the sights of a new location, and capturing the essence of a different culture through a lens. It’s an act that can preserve and share a moment, and can also deepen your involvement and help you create long-lasting memories.

In-game photography shares this experience to some extent. Each game offers a fantastical new world to get lost in, and built-in photo modes offer the tools you need to get creative and capture a slice of it. Tchia, the tropical open-world adventure from Acaweb, does this very well indeed.
Tchia The Spirit Of Photography The Act Of Photography
Actually, perhaps a better way to put it is that Tchia has an exceptional understanding of the very roots of photography as an art form, managing to capture its intangible spirit and offering something different from the typical video game photo mode.

No, I’m not just talking about the titular main character Tchia’s unique Soul Jump ability—although being able to fly as a bird, swim as a dolphin, or even possess a burning log to propagate fire is pretty special—nor is it due to a coming of age story that is definitely darker than the cartoonish visuals suggest.

What makes Tchia a special photographic experience is the traditional film camera, which makes the act of taking a picture as much a part of the fun as the image itself.
A film camera may not be the cutting edge of technology—far from it—but its inclusion manages to pull you in and connect you with Tchia's world. Rather than freezing the game and separating you from it, Tchia’s camera is an in-game item, intrinsic to the experience. If you see something interesting, you can pull out the camera and take a look from the character’s perspective as the world carries on moving and living around you. This is a chance to capture the world, not control it.
Tchia The Spirit Of Photography Getting The Camera
Before you can do that though, you’ll first need to get hold of the camera, as it is not available right from the start. It doesn’t take too long—just progress the story a little until you reach Chapter IV, "The Coutume" which isn't as far into the game as it sounds. A character named Louise will give Tchia one of her cameras along with some very welcome encouragement to take lots of pictures while on her adventure. From then on, the camera is available to use at any time alongside your trusty slingshot, flashlight, and compass.

The features are admittedly fairly basic and may even seem limited at first, but that’s part of the charm here. Behind the beautifully quaint 3:2 viewfinder, you get a selection of six different lenses that can take you from an 18mm wide angle to a 100mm telephoto zoom, and there is fully manual focus. A helpful focus visualization plane ensures that you can get sharp subjects every time, and depth of field is handled automatically with some nice defocused blur.
Tchia The Spirit Of Photography Film Stocks
There's also a short-range flash and a series of color filters, and this is where Tchia starts to show what this camera is really all about. You see, these filters actually come in the form of different film stocks for the old-school camera, and you won’t see their effect right away. There isn’t even a preview so, until you get some experience with each, all you have to go on are the descriptions. “Color Film,” ok, fine. “High Contrast Black & White Film,” could be good. “Red Wine Tinted Vintage Film,” yes please, let’s try that!

To actually see how each film type affects the shot, you’ll need to take a few snaps (there’s room for up to 50) and then head to any of the game’s four mini-darkrooms, known as Photo Kits. That’s where you can develop the film and finally get a look at what you managed to capture. You might think it all sounds annoying and inconvenient—but remember, that is precisely how photography used to be, and I think it’s a masterstroke.
Tchia The Spirit Of Photography 8
Much like how Tchia’s map foregoes any waypoint markers and asks you to pay attention to landmarks and objects to get your bearings, the camera here is a more analog process. It harks back to a time before satellite navigation or AI-powered smartphones and reminds us that not everything has to be immediate, instant, and disposable to have value.

And most importantly, the process of taking photos becomes all the more involving as a result. Without even realizing it, you find yourself thinking more about the setup of shots and making premeditated choices about which film styles might work best for a given scene. It’s great training for your artistic eye, and the fact that you won’t know whether you got the shot until after you've left and developed the film adds weight to every decision and makes it especially rewarding when you nail it.
Tchia The Spirit Of Photography Photo Kit Darkroom
Get into the groove and there is no shortage of things to photograph. Tchia's beautiful archipelago is inspired by the studio founders’ homeland of New Caledonia and is absolutely beautiful to behold. Varied biomes, dynamic weather, stunning blue lagoons, it all just says “Take a picture." The characterful inhabitants make fun subjects too, and will even stop and pose for you if they see the camera pointed their way.

Camera in-hand, Tchia becomes a visual playground, rich with opportunities to experiment—and there is even one last trick that adds to the fun. Set a timer on the camera and Tchia will place it on a tripod, giving you just enough time to jump into the frame and be part of the shot. It even works underwater!
Tchia The Spirit Of Photography Underwater
I’m not going to pretend that this works out right all of the time—that a character won’t blink at the wrong moment, or even that you’ll have the right film in the camera. I've taken plenty of "bad" shots that didn’t really turn out as intended. But that doesn’t mean it was any less fun trying.

Each trip around the island becomes more memorable because of Tchia's camera, and it's great fun to return to the Photo Kit and see what your latest roll of film has on it. Anyone who remembers taking camera film to be developed will know exactly what I mean here, and anyone who isn’t old enough to have experienced that particular delight should take this chance to try.
Tchia The Spirit Of Photography 9
I often say that just one shot makes any trip with a camera worthwhile, even if the rest are junk, and that feels like the case here. It’s not so much about the end result and more about being part of the process—and the way a camera makes you engage with the world on another level, just by making you observe it. With the simplest of tools, Tchia does just that.

If you'd like to make (and preserve) memories of your own, you can find Tchia on the Epic Games Store.