Strata is a minimalistic puzzler. You’re presented with a grid, from 3×3 to 6×6, with various coloured squares. Each colour is represented by a selection of coloured ribbons at the bottom of the screen. The objective is to cover every square so that the topmost ribbon colour matches the square. All rows and columns must be used.
Each level has 4 stages of hints so you can reveal them one by one if you’re struggling. The 4th hint more or less reveals the solution. To get a ‘perfect’ solution you have to do it without hints.
Visuals: each of the 7 areas has its own colour palette and the completed puzzle lattices are very pleasing on the eye. If you enjoy mulling over colour swatches for your home decor then this will be right up your street. The screen background even looks like textured wallpaper.
Music: there is no constant tune. Instead, your moves are accompanied by soothing piano chords. If you get it right you’re rewarded with a satisfying tune. If you get it wrong the jarring off-key notes will tell you in no uncertain terms. It’s rather ingenious and for me it endured longer than the average ambient sounds you get with most puzzlers before the novelty wore thin and I finally switched it off.
Menu system is nicely integrated with the visual theme. A ribbon extends to the next/previous (named) area. Within each of the 7 areas are 4 groups of puzzles with varying grid sizes and number of ribbons. Perfected groups/levels are marked with a crown. In total there are several hundred puzzles.
All in all the whole experience is classy and tasteful.
On a couple of occasions I had a strange glitch where moving between areas resulted in text being overwritten but restarting fixed it, no biggie. Otherwise this is a low-demand game that should run smoothly on any hardware and offers all screen resolution options. It gets extra brownie points for being fully cross-platform.
For the first hour or so it gets a bit tricky but here’s the thing. It didn’t take long for me to work out a method which could be applied to any puzzle and from then on there was no challenge at all.
I won’t give away the method but after I discovered it myself I found it described in the Community Guides if you’re interested. In a nutshell, if you can build a sequence of up to 12 numbers in your head (or use a pen and paper if you don’t consider that cheating) and then repeat them backwards then you have the aptitude to beat every puzzle easily.
Even if you don’t manage to work out the method, you can use the hints system to reveal the solution, reset the level and then copy the solution for a perfect score. It kind of makes a mockery of the Steam achievements for this game. You’ll notice a relatively high completion rate on the global achievements chart and this is the reason why.
The only differences between the first puzzle and the last are the size of grid and number of ribbons. The gameplay is identical. No new mechanics are ever introduced.
If you judge value by the length of play time then, with hundreds of levels, this is undoubtedly a bargain even at full asking price.
Some might argue that repeating exactly the same puzzle hundreds of times without any variation would result in the player stopping out of boredom long before the full content of the game has been explored and therefore it should be a $1 game. Whatever your opinion is on the matter, if you wait for a sale you can’t go far wrong.
24 achievements, all progress-related. If you complete the game you get all achievements. I found that a few of them dropped before they were supposed to. In any case, I consider this an easy game to get 100% – even if you don’t cheat (see above).
No trading cards. It does have Steam Cloud which is useful with this type of game as you’re likely to want to carry it around with you on multiple devices.
Strata is beautifully presented and for a while the puzzles are engaging, but it’s like being served the same delicious meal over and over again on various size/colour plates. It won’t be long before you get sick of it and hanker for something else.