Sunday, 15 September 2013

Review: Strata for iPhone and iPad

Strata by Graveck is enjoying good success on the App Store, having reached the #1 place in the US and other countries. That's well deserved since it looks and sounds great, and it plays well. But is it a good logic puzzle?
Unfortunately, I'm afraid it's not. There is a completely mechanical way to solve all the puzzle. But let's see the rules first.

You play on a square grid. On the grid there are some colored squares.
By tapping on the empty squares along the side, you make ribbons slide over the grid. Every ribbon is placed on top of the ones already on the grid. Eventually, every cell of the grid will be covered by two orthogonal ribbons. Your goal is to make every colored square match the color of the top ribbon covering it. So one solution for the above puzzle would be this one:
Playing has a relaxing feeling, which I guess could be similar to actual weaving.

The puzzles are split across 5 sets; the first 3 are free, the other two must be unlocked using two separate in-app purchases. You can play up to 5x5 for free; one of the premium sets also has some 6x6 puzzles.


Estethically, the game is gorgeous. The graphics, the animations, the subtle sound cues, all conjure to provide an enjoyable experience. There's a very interesting article on Gamesauce about the design, which I encourage everyone to read.

The only problem is that, as said at the beginning of this review, as a logic puzzle it isn't worth much, because it can be solved mechanically.

SPOILER ALERT don't read past this line if you want to solve the puzzles yourself.


The obvious approach to the puzzles is to use the game engine to solve them backwards. That is, instead of placing the ribbons so that the squares match the color of the top ribbon, make them match the bottom one.
This is trivial to do because at every step you just have to place a ribbon over a row or column where all the uncovered squares are the same color. This is always possible, otherwise the puzzle would be unsolvable. So let's try this puzzle:
The first move would be this one...
then this...
then this...
and finally this:
There are two more ribbons to place; you can put them in any order and color since they are irrelevant to the solution.

After doing this, all you have to do is restart the puzzle, and simply repeat the moves you made, backwards. The order of the ribbons will be reversed, so what was at the bottom will be at the top, and the puzzle will be solved. No sweat.

The bottom line is that even if I knew how to solve the puzzles, I still enjoyed playing this game. This says much about how well done it is, so it might be worth a buy just for that. I wouldn't spend more money to unlock the extra sets, however.


Summary

Nontrivialness★☆☆☆☆
Logical Reasoning★☆☆☆☆
User Interface★★★★☆
Presentation★★★★★
Loading Time★★★☆☆
Saves Partial Progress
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©2013 Nicola Salmoria. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Salmoria and nontrivialgames.blogspot.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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