Ancestor: A retro-inspired endless runner that keeps you coming back for more!

Six months ago I downloaded a game that I was sure, like most other games I download on my iPhone, in a couple of months would become nothing more than an app taking up storage space; I couldn't have been more wrong. Ancestor has broken the pattern and is a game I return to play time and time again.


Simplicity reigns supreme

Ancestor is best described as a puzzle action runner — although technically you're floating. The controls are simple enough; the hero moves forward automatically and where ever you tap the screen is where your power orb shoots its laser.

The simple gameplay becomes a necessary asset to you as you quickly realize you need your brain to solve the game's puzzles to make any real progress.

Excellent blend of fast-paced action and quick-thinking puzzle solving

Ancestor manages to combine brain teasing puzzles with fast-paced side-scrolling gameplay rather effectively. The game slows down as you encounter puzzles and obstacles in the game, but even with the added time, they come at you fast and frequently, making all nine different types of obstacles a real challenge each time you encounter them. I can't tell you how many times I have died to a simple wall — one of the first obstacles you face — because the more complex puzzles that came right before it take some serious thinking power. It's the powerful combination of memory focused puzzles and simple shoot-and-destroy obstacles that come in quick succession that make Ancestor a thrill ride each time you play.

The challenge stays fresh

Each time you die, you have to start back from the very beginning. Normally this is what makes endless runners so frustrating, but the procedurally generated obstacles and puzzles change each time you start playing, meaning no two runs are the same. Plus, the puzzles are the fun kind of challenge that makes repeat runs both entertaining and difficult.


Retro-looking pixel art is stunning.

The retro look of Ancestor is what drew me to the side-scroller in the first place. Every pixel in this pixel-art masterpiece combines to create a unique look, all while maintaining an aesthetic that takes you back to when 8-bit graphics were the norm. The hero's sprite — along with their trust orb companion — looks like it was taken right out of an old Super Nintendo RPG, and the explosions and puzzles follow suit beautifully.

My only real complaint about the way the game looks is I wish there were more of it. Every couple of runs you make the backgrounds will switch up, giving you something different to look at and each new puzzle or obstacle you encounter stands out as a unique piece.

Soundtrack is spot on

If you harken back to the era that Ancestor's art hails from, you can problem think of one or two tunes from those classic games that you still know how to whistle or hum. Ancestor's soundtrack will probably also get stuck in your head and is a small but pleasant addition to the overall enjoyment of the game.

There's something almost poetic about a game that makes you solve memory puzzles while simultaneously looking and sounding like a piece of history.

A few minor problems

Slight lag causes death, but only happen once in a blue moon

With all the puzzles, obstacles, and explosions happening on the screen at once, I have notice that roughly one in thirty runs through the game will experience some minor lag. It usually only lasts a few seconds, and most of the time you can power through it no problem; however, if you're going through a series of rather quick obstacles and puzzles the lag has caused me to die on a couple of occasions.

Ads are present but tolerable

Ancestor is free-to-play, and because of that there are ads that pop up on occasion; however, they only appear between runs and are very simple to close, so they don't affect gameplay at all.

The game also features in-app purchases that you can either buy with real money (which will kill advertisements) or with the in-game currency known as chips that you collect as you play. Each IAP is only 99 cents and is purely cosmetic, which is a breath of fresh air in an App Store cluttered with pay-to-win model games.

Overall assessment

Download Ancestor this minute

At its heart, Ancestor is an endless runner, so if you know you hate that genre of mobile game stay clear. That said, if you enjoy a game that gives you a real challenge, Ancestor will deliver in spades by forcing you to think fast and tap swiftly through cool little puzzles and obstacles that will keep you on your feet. Ancestor will keep you occupied in a retro-inspired gaming trance for hours on end.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.