If you are like me, you could not put down Skee-Ball. It is one of the simplest, most recongizable games for iOS and it's still on my phone. You don't make it into state fairs and old-school arcades across the country for nothing. But developer Graveck did a great job with Skee-Ball and I was intrigued to see what they would have to offer with their decidedly non-traditional and minimal approach to the puzzle genre. So let's take a look at Strata.
You certainly won't be able to tell from the pictures in the article what kind of game Strata is. But they do happen to get across the feel. Strata is a stylish game, with lots of effort put in to making it appear sleek and modern looking. This coming from the gentlemen that put this out as a trailer. I do have to give a tip of my cap to any reference to Power Thirst and Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator (look 'em up, geez). But seriously, just look at those angles!
Strata features puzzles that are made up of expanding grids that contain different squares. Every row of the grid can have a band of color draped over it and these color bands can stack on each other. Basically, what you're trying to do is cover up each square in order to complete the level.
While that may sound easy at face value, it can get pretty tricky pretty fast. Because you are essentially weaving when you're criss-crossing your color bands, you have to think in levels, and make sure that you will end up with the right color band crossing over the right color square. You can have as much layered on top as you want, so long as the top band is the correct color.
In terms of the design, Strata feels like something that would work well as a physical game. Despite the modern, non-skeumorphic look to things, there remains a tactile sensation to it. I'm not sure how the dudes at Graveck pulled this off, but I found it pretty impressive. To go along with the spare visuals is an elegant soundscape, comprised of piano chords and strings. My only criticism of that is I feel like there should be more of them! But getting used to these sounds does not render them annoying in the least.
After you've got the hang of things and are solving a puzzle at a good clip, it kind of feels like you are playing an instrument. Even when the levels got pretty difficult, I found it quite calming overall. Added to this are the breezy controls that give to the ability to easily swipe across rows, with great interplay between the puzzle and your fingers. There's no lagging to be found, even when played on an older iOS device. You can also tap out solutions via controls at the bottom.
When it comes down to it, Strata is a wonderful surprise and not something you'd expect from the Skee-Ball dudes. The minimalist, elegant design unites all aspects of gameplay and experience in a way that sets it apart from a lot of puzzle games out there. It's definitely worth more than the dollar it will cost you to put it on your iPhone. If you're looking for a chilled out puzzle experience that has plenty of replay value, look no further than Strata.