Laika: Aged Through Blood – PC Review

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Forget about your Spider-People, Italian plumbers, and various camouflage-clad soldiers because there’s a game that may have slipped under your radar this month. Laika: Aged Through Blood, developed by Brainwash Gang and published on PC by Headup Games, was released via Steam on October 19th. Billed as the very first motorvania, an alternative to the Metroidvania genre alluding to the transportation method of main character Laika, it certainly warrants a closer look.

Hunting Birds Laika Boss

I’m not sure how I didn’t have Laika on my list of games to keep an eye on this year, but the trailer sold me on giving it a go when it landed in the TC inbox. The hand-painted art style depicting a bleak, post-apocalyptic old-western-inspired world, being traversed by motorcycle, paired with a beautiful piece of music by Beícoli meant I couldn’t resist picking this title up.


We meet Laika, our heroine coyote, as she is praying at a grave site. She is interrupted by news that one of her clan has been brutally murdered. Worse still, the father of the murdered child has taken Laika’s revolver and left on a revenge mission. Not wanting to rile up this rival clan further into all-out war, Laika jumps on her dirt bike and heads deeper into enemy territory to find Jakob. Along her journey to find him, we are introduced to the basic mechanics.

Bike Mechanics

The combat and majority of exploration in Laika: Aged Through Blood is conducted via motorbike. Most of the time this is as fun and rad as it sounds, but it can sometimes also lead to frustration. I played Laika on PC using a DualShock 4 so I’ll be referring to the controller inputs during this review. The basic controls for the bike are as follows: accelerate with your left trigger, balance the bike with the left stick, change the direction of facing with the left button (Square), and brake with the right button (Circle). Nothing groundbreaking there, but the magic comes from the results of performing certain moves with the bike.

Laika ramps her motorbike into the air whilst travelling across a vast wasteland. The background is littered with graves. Further back a skeleton of some long-dead- giant animal can be seen.
Laika rampping her bike in the air whilst riding through Where All Was Lost.

Once you’ve got your trusty revolver, the combat mechanics quickly tie your bike and weapon together. For instance, reloading is performed by doing a backflip on your bike in mid-air. A parry, and sometimes a reflect, can be achieved by tapping the direction-switch button with good timing when an enemy bullet is near you. Reloading the reflect ability requires a mid-air front flip. Finally, Laika can block most incoming bullets using the bottom of the bike as a shield. That’s a lot to think about when travelling at high speeds through the wastelands and trying to stay alive. Thankfully, when you pull the trigger to shoot, ‘bullet-time’ activates, slowing everything down to a crawl for a short period – or until you fire your weapon earlier than its auto-fire timer.

Do A Flip!

Mechanics alone do not make a fun game. There has to be reason and opportunity to use them. This is where good level design is important. Luckily, Brainwash Gang has got you covered. The different areas of Laika are constructed in a way that allows for fun and engaging exploration. Oftentimes you’ll be required to perform jumps or loops to navigate the world, or wheelies to choose between 2 distinct paths. Scattered amongst all this you will discover various set pieces.

You’ll barrel down a corridor at full speed, launch off a ramp and suddenly find yourself surrounded by several enemies. It’s a heart-pounding moment as you quickly engage bullet-time and figure out the situation. Which target has to go first? Which way should the bike be oriented to block an incoming shot? Do you need to reload? It’s exhilarating to clear a group of 8 or so enemies and land your bike safely afterwards in a torrent of blood.

Laika flying through the air on her bike. 8 enemy birds wait to take their shots at her.
Think quick, shoot quicker.

Cursed To Many Deaths

It may take a couple of attempts to figure out the solution in these moments. Laika may have manoeuvres at her disposal, but hit-points she does not. One shot and you’ll be sent back to a checkpoint and enemies will respawn. Death will also greet you if you don’t land the bike with wheels on the ground.  For the most part, this trial-and-error, death-filled gameplay is not as frustrating as it may sound. I enjoyed figuring out the best approach to some of the combat moments and the earlier bosses were super fun.

There are certainly moments that don’t feel as good though. 2 bosses in particular began to grate on me after a couple dozen attempts and getting sent back to the beginning each time. Sometimes it can be difficult to see which way Laika is orientated in the air when there’s so much to keep an eye on and smoke, dust or scenery obscuring the view. At times the 2 boss fights that I had the most trouble with felt like extended sequences where all inputs and moves had to be one exact series and any freedom of approach was removed. I think that perhaps some kind of mid-fight checkpoint(s) would alleviate the frustration in these moments somewhat.

Laika waiting outside of an old building on her bike. Big wooden doors loom ominous, adorned with several large skulls on a chain along the top. A caution warning sign is hung on one door, with a keep out sign attached to the opposite side of the frame.
Maybe I should just turn around and leave.

A Harsh World

Laika: Aged Through Blood’s story deals with several heavy topics. From death and loss to generational trauma, the writing and presentation of these situations don’t shy away from much. I also felt like the world was alive and lived in from the very beginning. It doesn’t take long for Laika to set the scene and tone of the world whilst also delivering information and history. You’ll learn most information about Laika and her family curse as you undertake quests handed out by her mother, Maya, and from conversations with her daughter Puppy. The dynamics of the mother-daughter relationships in the family are explored as we see how Laika was raised by Maya and how she doesn’t want to raise her own child in the same way. I think this is something that a millennial audience will connect with a lot.

Away from the main character and her family, you’ll meet a varied cast of friends in the village, Where We Live. Not where you and I live, of course, this is just the naming convention of places in the world of Laika. I enjoyed how the names of places give an instant impression of what might be there but are not generic or lazy. Again, it’s something that really adds to the world-building. Your menagerie of comrades will grow as you progress the story and you’ll be able to complete side-quests for a lot of them, adding more depth to the world and story as you go. I would have liked some more variety in the quests. A lot of them felt like simple fetch quests. Thankfully, proceedings never feel overly tedious, owing a lot to how fun it is to navigate around on your bike.

Laika in conversation with Alfredo in Where We Live. Alfredo is shouting "We need a new sheriff to expose the traitor, and I know just the right person for it!". He is a small and wolf like. He has sharp teeth and big white eyes eyes with small red pupils. He talks with his head tilted upwards and his mouth making large, exaggerated movements.
Alfredo is adorable, if a little crazy.


Overall, I think Brainwash Gang have delivered a great adventure with some minor flaws that can be excused. There’s tonnes of character and emotion packed in, and I’ve really enjoyed the world that they’ve created for Laika. I died a fair few times whilst getting used to handling the bike and managing combat – 88 times in the first 90-ish minutes! – but I was soon speeding around and hitting targets like Arnie in Terminator 2. I found it to be a nice touch that a lot of the mechanics of the game have in-world explanations, mostly being part of Laika’s curse. It adds a nice cohesion to bring together the story and the gameplay.

Graphics & Audio

The hand-painted artwork in Laika is beautiful throughout. Often favouring muted colours, and leaning more towards oranges and reds, it radiates the feeling of a bleak, post-apocalyptic world perfectly. There are also fantastic animation clips that play at certain times, when you defeat a boss for example, and these really add oomph to those big moments. Seeing the killing blow rendered in all its gory detail up close enhances the satisfaction of finally emerging victorious after a tough battle.

The general enemies you’ll stumble across have good designs too. Their visual features – uniforms and weapons – indicate efficiently how they will attack. Early enemies will just be holding pistols, but as you advance you’ll find birds with rocket launchers, automatic rifles and even machinegun turrets. There’s a good variety in the design of friendly NPCs too. One of my favourites was Alfredo, a little guy in camp who looks absolutely insane every time he talks with his head tipped to the sky, eyes wild.

An in-game menu displaying an audio cassette for sale. The description text for the cassette says "I know everybody hates Beícoli these days, but... musically she was so very fucking brilliant! The best ever!"
She is brilliant!

Ignore the in-game text that says everyone hates Beícoli these days, it’s a lie. The soundtrack she has created for Laika is amazing. It’s full of emotional tracks that fit the setting and the gameplay so well. I remember seeing the trailer for the first time and wondering about the choice of song that went with it, given the gore and the action. Once I’d started playing the game however it quickly made sense. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on Spotify while working, cleaning, walking, etc., this week and I have no doubt it will continue for a while after I’ve finished the game too.


Laika: Aged Through Blood will give you a good 20 hours of content at least if you’re aiming to see and do everything. That feels like it’s a solid number, and will mean that you’ll get plenty to do without the game overstaying it’s welcome. There are various resources scattered throughout the world that can be collected to be used for upgrades both permanent (to weapons or storage capacity) and temporary (cooking meals giving a boost to some stats for a brief time). You can also collect cassette tapes containing the game’s soundtrack so you can listen to various songs whilst playing. The viscera you collect from enemies can also be spent in various shops or with various merchants who sell upgrade materials, quest items, cassettes and trinkets/toys for Puppy.

Final Thoughts

Whilst I’ve listed a few nit-picks during this review, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Laika. Within the first few hours, I was already telling fans of the genre that they had to check this out, and that’s still the case now. I feel like the lack of a general buzz around this game is only down to the fact that it has launched during such a busy period of big-budget titles. Don’t make the mistake of skipping this. It’s certainly one of the best indie titles of the year. If you’re looking for a fresh take on the Metroidvania formula with plenty of challenge, a rich story and a soundtrack to cry to, Laika: Aged Through Blood should be on your radar now. It’s already out on PC and is also launching on consoles ‘soon’. I’ll be picking up a copy for PS5 as soon as I can!

As one of the best indie releases in 2023, Laika: Aged Through Blood recieves a Thumb Culture Gold Award.


Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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