I Believe in Laika Believes
Some of you may remember Laika, the first dog that ever travelled to space. Originally a stray dog on the streets of Moscow, Laika was trained by the Soviets (along with two other dogs) and chosen to be the animal that would ride the Sputnik 2 into space. Although poor Laika died from excess heat within hours of leaving the Earth’s atmosphere, her sacrifice gave scientists the first real data on what happens to living creatures when experiencing space travel and paved the way for human space exploration.
Minicore Studios would like to propose to us an alternate view of that history, one where Laika did not die on her flight, but instead came back somehow changed by her travels. Instead of the macabre ending true life gives us, Laika Believes proposes that the dog was made into a cybernetic ‘canine war machine’ through (as of yet) unknown causes, and although the animal makes an overwhelmingly-deadly best friend, she isn’t hell-bent on destroying the world. The four-legged animal, and through her, the player, will have to worry just as much about conversation as you do about combat.
A demo build of Laika Believes was available at the Game Developer’s Conference this year, and featured two unique aspects of the game. The first was devoted to combat: Laika was dropped into a warzone-like area where she was immediately attacked by all kinds of ships, soldiers, and irritated birds. Using weapons mounted on the animal’s back (which are controlled with the right thumbstick) and an energy-absorbing shield, the player battles their way to freedom.
The second and altogether more interesting part of the demo found Laika taking refuge from the soviet attack in an underground resistance movement’s camp. This changes the game’s perspective from a shooter/platformer to a side-scroller RPG of sorts, where every NPC can be talked to and most miscellaneous items can be examined. Dialog options change depending on the amount of knowledge that Laika has already gained in the game, so certain conversational paths will only appear if you have heard of them from someone else already.
So far, Laika Believes is looking to be an interesting, new idea, and we haven’t seen near enough of those lately. In a world populated by similar first-person shooters and repetitive ideas (see my previous article on the overuse of Batman’s Detective Mode), Laika Believes looks to be the breath of fresh air that many gamers have been waiting for. Soviet soldiers, robotic versions of man’s best friend, and in-depth character and exploration? What’s not to like?
Laika Believes will be making its way to the PC in the Fall of 2013.