At first glance, you might expect Laika: Aged Through Blood to maybe have a bit more chill than it does. That is, until just minutes into it, when you find out its beautifully apocalyptic environments, somber soundtrack, and adorably anthropomorphic cast are actually just a backdrop for an adventure that’s filled with shockingly gratuitous violence, strong language, and a harrowing story of loss and grief. It’s kinda like that one episode of South Park where you find out that all the innocent looking Christmas critters worship Satan – and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s difficult to explain how the woodland cast blends so seamlessly with absolutely horrifying brutality, but at least in the opening chunk of content available in the demo, Laika manages to thread that needle with alarming ease – using a dirtbike.
Playing as a mother coyote who races to the scene of an adolescent dog’s brutal crucifixion, Laika: Aged Through Blood lived up to its name before the opening credits had even begun to roll. Inspired by western films and featuring a gun-toting lone wolf seeking justice, this adventure practically slapped me in the face with its appallingly adult tone, and that never let up in the opening hours available to me in the demo. Though riding around on a motorcycle and taking revenge against militaristic avians was undoubtedly a hilariously good time, Laika doesn’t shy away from repeatedly returning its focus to the struggle of its grief-stricken protagonist and the ruined world she occupies. Don’t be fooled by the charming animal characters and cartoon coat of paint – this game wants to make you cry in between all that satisfying vroom-vrooming about, so maybe consider keeping some Kleenex at the ready.
Laika: Aged Through Blood Screens
When I wasn’t sitting in slack-jawed surprise at just how mature the story was though, I felt right at home with Laika’s fantastic motorcycling exploration and combat. As someone who has played an absolute ton of the motorcycle-focused Trials series, Laika immediately feels familiar. As I popped wheelies to get my bike over obstacles and did flips through the air to keep myself square with the road beneath me, I realized just how much I’ve missed that challenging motorcycle gameplay which this seems to draw clear inspiration from.
But not content to stick to that formula, Laika adds extremely satisfying combat to the mix, allowing me to block incoming fire with the body of my motorbike, parry bullets back at the enemy, and even enter bullet time to return fire of my own. Making my way through each area as I simultaneously dealt with any hostile birds and kept my motorcycle under control is a mesmerizing balancing act where even one mistake resulted in my brutal death. Luckily, frequent checkpoints allowed me to quickly jump back into the action and try again until my skills improved, resulting in a perfect run that made me feel like a complete badass. I never knew that the thing Trials was missing was demanding and lethal gunplay, but so far Laika’s got me hooked.
I will say though, while pretty much every other part of the demo was nonstop fun, I was pretty disappointed in the early boss fight, which put me up against a motorized vehicle of war. Given how awesomely challenging and creative every other aspect of the game was, I would have expected to die a whole lot and be blown away by some interesting mechanics, but instead I basically just repeated the same simple loop over and over until the boss died without much of a fight. Seeing as that was just the tutorial area, I’m hopeful more interesting boss fights are in store later on, but this early one definitely disappointed when pretty much everything else blew me away.
Also, I feel the need to shout out just how stellar the music in Laika is. Seriously: the emotional, catchy jams you’re treated to (and later collect in the open world to play on demand) as you explore are truly next level stuff. It’s rare to see this much thought put into a game’s OST, and Laika deserves some major kudos in that regard.
Even in the very early part of this unique and disquieting motorvania, I’ve been pretty swept off my feet by its beauty, storytelling, gameplay, and soundtrack. I’ll definitely be lining up to play more as development progresses.