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Two thoughts will probably consecutively enter your mind upon first booting up Strata: first that its visual design is beautifully, almost sinfully elegant, and second that you have no idea what’s actually going on. Don’t panic. Like many of the artfully abstract-chic brainteasers that often pop up in the App Store, Strata is conceptually pretty simple, even if its confusing layers of colored lines might have you initially thinking otherwise.
The easiest way to describe Strata is to say that it’s essentially a visual logic puzzle. Maybe you became acquainted with these gridded conundrums in middle school – looking at an X and Y axis, you have to determine, say, who sat next to who using process of elimination to decipher a set of indirect narrative clues. Strata uses a grid too – albeit one that’s angled for maximum aesthetic pop – and there are only a few rules that govern gameplay.
To break it down, each puzzle is made up of an assortment of colored tiles over which a set number of lines must be placed. The goal is to activate each tile by placing two overlapping lines on top of it, at a limit of one each from the X and Y axes. Here’s the rub: activating a tile means that both it and the last line you lay down need to be the same color. Since you’re limited to placing lines on a fixed grid, suddenly Strata’s logic and inherent strategy emerges from the order you lay down your lines so that every tile is activated. Miss even one and you have to run the challenge again.
Strangely, skill in Strata almost feels like an abstract concept – just like logic puzzles, it’s up to you to decide which tiles to activate first, a freedom that isn’t always easy. Thankfully the UI is wonderfully intuitive, organically complementing Strata’s spare audio design and visual minimalism. Still, once the complexity increases, you’ll be contending with at least four different line colors on grids as large as 5x5. Hope you’re a visual thinker.
The bottom line. Elegant and taxing, Strata is a great choice for aesthetes and thinkers alike.
iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Absolutely gorgeous minimalist aesthetics. Intuitive user interface. Interesting visual take on logic puzzlers.
Freedom to start anywhere can be a little taxing. Complexity of puzzles feels samey. Spare sound design can get repetitive.