Strata follows closely a recent trend of musically and aesthetically inclined simplistic indie puzzlers, such as Lyne, Kami, Hexcells and Circuits (the latter two to a lesser degree). Each of these titles offers a deceptively simplistic puzzler that hides a significant layer of complexity beneath. Strata is no exception, and of the lot, it is a strong contender for being my favorite of the bunch.
The premise for Strata's puzzles are simple; you begin each puzzle with a squared grid, with most squares representing a specific color. For each row and column, you must assign a single thread of any specific color of your choosing, with the goal of covering each colored square with its respective shade. The rub here is that many threads will overlap, and the only way to succeed in Strata is to ensure that each respective colored thread remains the top most thread on each of the same colored squares. It sounds simple enough, and in the beginning, it is. You start with a simple 2x2 grid, just to learn the basics, but quickly move on to the more common 3x3 and 4x4 grids, with far more challenging 5x5 and 6x6 grids ending each respective segment.
There are 7 sections, each containing 4 separate groups of puzzles, with each group varying between the aforementioned 3, 4, 5 and 6x grid types. Each of the 7 sections contains a slightly different music pattern from the rest, with the latter several carrying wildly different tones than its predecessors. The pleasant piano notes that accompany each click of the mouse and the movements of the threads standout to me as one of the driving forces behind my continued playing of Strata; the relaxing tones urge me to attempt one last puzzle, as does the enjoyment of the miniature sonata that accompanies each victory.
The visual aesthetic that accompanies the lovely music could not have been more perfectly placed, as there is nary a single unnecessary graphic or flashy fixture to interfere with the mood already set by the already relaxing musical performance. The movement of the colored threads in-game and in the menus remain smooth throughout, lending to the elegance of the piano with each movement.
For the simplicity that Strata provides, it's impressive the level of challenge that presents itself upon reaching the higher numbered grid sets. While challenging, I've yet to come across a single puzzle that instilled anything other than a relaxed state of mind while I slowly piece together where each thread should end up. and with only a few "perfect" segments under my belt, I enjoy the thought that my time with Strata is far from over, as I have several segments I've yet to even attempt. Ignoring this title on the notion that simplicity may accompany inadequacy would be a crime, and with the low price, I wholeheartedly recommend Strata to anyone in need of a relaxing time waster between responsibilities, and especially for anyone who enjoys a pleasant puzzle now and again.