Revealed this weekend during the Future Games Show, Laika: Aged Through Blood caught our attention. It features a canine protagonist – an instant win – but it’s the unique game style that’s captivated us. Described as a “motorvania”, Laika combines motorcross-style 2D motorbiking exploits with gun-toting metroidvania exploration.
We’ve had our hands on a preview build of Laika: Aged Through Blood – and we were not quite prepared for how brutal the game is, both in its difficulty and the tone of its universe. Playing as the titular Laika, your pup back at home has just delivered you the news that their cousin has been brutally murdered by a gang known as the Crows. By brutally murdered, we mean it: guts-hanging-from-trees level of brutality. Grim. And so, to ensure your own puppy doesn’t meet the same fate, you take it upon yourself to hunt down the Crows yourself.
Getting to grips with navigating the world of Laika takes a little bit of adjusting to. Your movement on foot is limited: instead, you’ll spend most of the time on the back of your bike. And since you’ll need to be shooting at the same time, accelerating is done by holding L2. You’ll need to watch and control your speed: akin to something like Trials, you’ll need to tease the accelerator to get the right balance of power, all the while tilting the left stick to navigate bumps, jumps and inclines. The right trigger, then, fires your gun. But you don’t have unlimited bullets: to reload, you need to pull off a backflip on your bike.
It’s a lot to take in, particularly when you quickly realise that Laika: Aged Through Blood is a one-hit-kill affair. Get one stray bullet coming your way and you’re done for, going back to the last checkpoint. Thankfully, checkpoints are generous – but only if you’ve managed to push in the Y button as you’ve sped past it. They’re easy to miss if you’re focusing on controlling your bike.
The good news is that enemies – at least the ones we’ve met so far – can also be killed with one hit. A well-timed button press can ricochet their bullets back at them (again, a skill that needs to be recharged – this time with a forward flip of your bike). Or if you’re in the air, you can use your bike as a metal shield, stopping the bullet making contact with you.
When you’ve mastered Laika’s controls, then, getting everything right and successfully avoiding bullets while dealing out lethal damage of your own feels like a masterful motorbike ballet. But put one foot out of line by mis-timing a jump, forgetting to reload or failing to line up a shot, and that’s it.
Its level of challenge isn’t going to be for everyone, but those who can get to grips with Laika: Aged Through Blood’s fiendish gameplay will, we think, be rewarded with something special. We can’t wait to see more of its gritty world, meet its hardened characters and – hopefully – see Laika’s pup remain safe and well.
Laika: Aged Through Blood currently has no release date, but you can try a demo for yourself starting 19th June as part of Steam Next Fest.