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Laika: Aged Through Blood Review

Laika Aged Through Blood Review 2 (1)

I really like Laika: Aged Through Blood, but I can’t help but feel that it’s needlessly difficult.

A western-inspired Metroidvania, Laika: Aged Through Blood stands out in what is quickly becoming a crowded genre thanks to its coyote warrior protagonist being pretty inseparable from their bike. From exploring to engaging enemies in combat, you’re nearly always sat astride it, only occasionally getting off in order to engage in a bit of chit-chat or explore a settlement. Imagine Trials but with adventure elements and combat and you should have some idea of what to expect.

Opening with a pretty horrifying act of murder, Laika: Aged Through Blood has a story centred around revenge. It appears that an army of birds has been a nuisance to the pack that the titular Laika is a member of for some time, and the brutal killing of a pup is the last straw. War is on the cards, and being the most skilled fighter among your ranks, you’re at the spearhead. You quickly find yourself with a lot to deal with, then. You’ve got to take swift action to put yourself ahead of your enemies, but also find time to pay your respects to the dead. Unfortunately, the young pup isn’t the only member of your group to be recently deceased.

Needless to say, Laika: Aged Through Blood is pretty gritty. Its world is violent and gory, and many of its characters have grown hard and cold. Because of that, it perhaps stands to reason that its gameplay is so prickly. As mentioned previously, your bike is central to the action here. Hold the left trigger, and you accelerate, allowing you to explore the game’s world while also using the left analogue stick to control its orientation. You also have a button to quickly change direction by performing a drift, and another to put on the brakes.

Laika Aged Through Blood Review 1 (1)
Image: Brainwash Gang

What makes things infinitely more complicated is that you have to control your bike while also engaging in combat. Hold the right trigger and time will slow down for a short while as you aim your equipped weapon at an enemy. Release it and you’ll fire. You can also deflect enemy attacks if you can time a button press just right. Both of those things probably don’t sound too bad, but add in the fact that you’re required to perform backflips and frontflips on your bike to reload your weapons and replenish your ability to deflect incoming attacks respectively, and you have an idea of how quickly things can go south.

Related: The Best Metroidvania Games on PS5

Your default weapon, a pistol, can only be fired twice before you run out of ammo, for example. That means it’s all too easy to end up a sitting duck, unable to attack until you can perform a jump and pull off a backflip. You also need to be careful when performing tricks, or driving in general, as if you land on your head you’ll die, heading back to the last checkpoint. In the heat of the action, it’s not always easy to see your orientation either, which is also troublesome as you need to use your bike to defend yourself from some projectiles. Thankfully checkpoints are plentiful, so you never lose much progress.

Laika: Aged Through Blood preview
Image: Brainwash Gang

Needlessly punishing, however, is the Dark Souls-like element of dropping half of your current currency whenever you die. You can recover it if you can make it back to your place of death, but die too many times without collecting your dropped loot and it’s lost forever. And did I mention that it only takes one hit to be killed? That counts for yourself and your enemies. In every encounter you need to think fast, act fast, and make every bullet count.

Providing you have the skill – or patience – for it, there’s a hell of a lot to like about Laika: Aged Through Blood. It’s a great-looking title with a beautiful soundtrack, an interesting world, and gameplay that is refreshingly unique. Make it through a challenging encounter unscathed, pulling off backflips mid-air to reload your guns, block incoming projectiles and take out multiple enemies in one cunning stunt will make you feel like an absolute badass. It’s just a shame that at times it feels a little bit too demanding and punishing simply for the sake of it. Would it really have been all that bad to let you reload your guns out of combat, for example?

Laika: Aged Through Blood Review – GameSpew’s Score

This review of Laika: Aged Through Blood is based on the PS5 version, with a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC.
Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!