Type : twisty puzzle equivalent to a 2x2x2 Rubik's cube
Estimated solving time :
Beginner - Challenge 1 : 1 hour.
Beginner - Challenge 2 : no way !
Casual or expert cubist : trivial !
The + : a beautiful object.
The - : the challenges miss their goal. There is nearly nothing else to do than to solve it as a 2x2x2 cube.
My rating : 2/5
The commercial presentation of the Topola is a bit mysterious. It is clear that it is a kind of spherical twisty puzzle. Fourier Idea, the manifacturer, tried to avoid as most as possible the association with a classical 2x2x2 cube. But this is nonetheless exactly what it is.
The designer came with brillant ideas : to replace the colours of the classical version with drawings from which several challenges are proposed to the player. They include the drawings of a ship (in 2 parts) and its anchor (in 2 parts), two whales (in 2 parts each), a compass (in 4 parts), and some figures that come with association rules : a wolf must not come close to a goat, a goat must not come close to a plant, a snake must not come close to a bird, and a bird must not come close to a butterfly.
Another innovation is the drawing of lands and seas. Any way you twist the puzzle, all delimitations form a continuous line. It is the size and shape of the lands that change. For example, the whales and the boat can be enclosed into a lake, or be in open sea. The fact that the lands can be separated in two, three or four parts gave its name to the puzzle, because these configurations are not topologically equivalent.
The manual of the puzzle describes all the possible topological configurations for the lands, and gives the configuration tree that allows to switch from one to another.
It also gives some kind of progressive challenges : get the whale under the boat, then release the whale, repair the compass, restore the figure association rules, and get the boat back in the lake.
Unfortunately, it seems that the designer had not a clear understanding of the workings of a 2x2x2 twisty puzzle.
To begin with, the boat, the anchor and the compass define nearly completely the final state of the puzzle. Just turn the upper side until the whales match, and that's all. The most interesting idea, that was to match properly the plants and animals, plays no role in the solving of the puzzle ! They can't be mismatched as long as the boat and its anchor are together and in one piece each !
The topological arrangements of the land don't play any role either in the proposed challenges. Anyway, it is difficult to figure out what the challenges actually are. The only one to be clear and very different than to completely solve the puzzle is to capture the whale. This is equivalent to building one layer of the 2x2x2 cube, and might prove an interesting challenge for people who don't know the solution to the Rubik's cube.
The rest is unclear. For example, to release the whale... where ? What about the other whale ? Should it be complete also ? Must the compass be repaired at the same time ? The manual doesn't tell, and if we neglect these points, it is no more difficult than to put two cubes of the same colour side to side. On the other hand, if we take into account all the recommandations, all we have to do is to solve the puzzle completely using the boat, the anchor and the compass as milestones. The plants and animals match by themselves.
The manufacturing quality is good, though the mechanism doesn't allow for speed cubing. The prints are beautiful. The lands are slightly golden, and the coasts are metallized blue.
The drawings themselves are very beautiful too. They mimic a primitive graphic style of ancient times.
In short, the main interest of this puzzle lies in its aestethics. That's why I only rate it 2 out of 5.
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