Review: On The Shoulders Of Ancestors – Cute, Morbid Or Both?

Review: On The Shoulders Of Ancestors – Cute, Morbid Or Both?

Platforms: Windows PC, Linux

Game Name: On The Shoulders Of Ancestors

Developer: Jarník

Genre: Platformer, Puzzle

Release Date: March 8, 2012

Developer Summary

As a young scientist, it’s your job to train Lemonites – a genetically engineered race of creatures with a unique life cycle. But who knows what adventures await them aboard the interstellar probe…

Aim upwards to reach the exit and progress to next level. And if you can’t get any higher, just leave it to your successors – your dead carcass will serve as a stepping stone to get to the upper platforms.

What We Think

On The Shoulders Of Ancestors is a vertically scrolling platformer with a few unique twists to its gameplay and a charming retro artistic theme. Developed by Jaroslav Meloun (aka Jarnik), the game is based on the Flash platform and has minimal system requirements. With three chapters made up of a total of twenty three levels, On The Shoulders Of Ancestors is based on an interesting and dynamic new take on platformer gameplay.

Eschewing the minimalist narratives of some modern platformers, On The Shoulders Of Ancestors introduces itself with a humorous little story about a research laboratory that produces cute little quick-breeding critters called Lemonites. Asked to provide a robot for an interstellar probe, the scientists instead decide to put their faith in the Lemonites. This is where the player comes in.

The unique lifecycle of Lemonites is at the core of the gameplay in On The Shoulders Of Ancestors. You’ll take control of a Lemonite and attempt to reach the goal at the top of the area, the problem being that there are many obstacles along the way and at times the next ledge up is completely out of reach. This difficulty can be overcome through the short lifespan of the Lemonite; after a timer expires your Lemonite will lay an egg and soon after this it will die. With the death of your Lemonite the egg will hatch and you will take control of the next generation; moreover, the carcass of your new Lemonite’s dead parent can be used to climb higher up the level. In fact, several generations of dead Lemonite can be piled up to reach great heights.

On The Shoulders Of Ancestors - screenshot 1

Grim as this may sound, the game is actually rather cute (in a morbid sort of way). The gameplay is intensified by the fact that the gene pool of your Lemonite is decaying and only so many generations of eggs can be produced. Run out of generations and you’ll end up watching your last Lemonite turning into a crusty carcass. This puts a lot of pressure on the player to work fast and inventively, positioning their dying Lemonite cleverly so it can help its offspring climb to the next ledge.

Impressively, On The Shoulders Of Ancestors doesn’t rely exclusively on this unique gameplay mechanic to succeed. Rather than resting on its laurels, the game continues to serve up new challenges and new ways of using the lifecycle system to your benefit. For example, later in the game you’ll find Lemonites laying eggs a few seconds before they die and so you can lay an egg and then throw the dying body of your current Lemonite into an obstacle to clear the way. There’s something sweet about watching generation after generation of Lemonite hurl themselves to their doom so that their offspring can proceed.

This gameplay is well designed and innovative, providing new challenges and new ways of overcoming them as the game progresses. It can be frustrating at times but only in the same way that Super Meat Boy is; you can instantly restart a level when you fail and the fast pace keeps you fighting to get to the goal.

On The Shoulders Of Ancestors - screenshot 2

The music and graphics of the game aspire to a retro style and in almost every way this is a success. It’s a shame that there is only one music track but in fairness it’s a catchy tune and, at least for me, it’s more endearing than irritating. The artwork is basic but it carries the narrative across effectively while maintaining an aesthetic that is reminiscent of classic platformers. For me it evoked imagery from the Amiga 600, but this may be subjective.

In terms of longevity On The Shoulders Of Ancestors isn’t the biggest game out there. With twenty three stages it is a neat little package with rapidly scaling gameplay mechanics and a well paced difficulty curve. You’ll likely have completed it within a couple hours but the game does come with a stage randomiser that can throw out new level layouts. Sadly this doesn’t do much to lengthen the game as these levels are sometimes impossible to complete and the game’s unique appeal begins to wear off after you’ve completed it once.

On The Shoulders Of Ancestors is a genuinely fun platformer that offers a very unique set of gameplay mechanics to the genre. With twenty three levels it isn’t the biggest game out there but you’ll enjoy the time you do spend ushering your Lemonites to their destination. If you’d like to check for yourself there is a generous demo available and it’s certainly worth trying it out.

On The Shoulders of Ancestors – Official Site

On the Shoulders of Ancestors on Desura

[xrr rating=”3.5″]