RGB Recommends: TOPOLON (JPN cellphone: 2004, Switch: 2020)

Original release on cellphone: 2004 (Japan), 2005 (global?)
Archive release on Switch: December 2020 (Japan), January 2021 (global)

Official game website.

Thought this one was worth a writeup.

In the 2000s G-Mode created a bunch of games for Japanese cellphones, including Data East adaptations like Magical Drop. Fast forward to today and the whole library has practically been lost to time - until recently. Select titles are being brought back under the G-Mode Archives banner.

Topolon is the latest release, and it’s a pretty unique action puzzle game, and a good reminder of a time when it was perfectly fine for portable games to be small slices of immensely replayable action (anyone remember Bit Generations?).

I’ll try my best to explain the rules:

Basically, there’s a network of axons (the blue wires) with neurons (the pink or red blobs) on top of them. The aim of the game is to eliminate all red and pink blobs from the network.

You interact with the network by selecting node points between adjacent wires and pressing ‘A’:

  • If the node point is empty: Draw pink blobs toward the node. If there are two or more pink blobs, on neighbouring nodes, they vanish - great! If there’s just one pink blob, it gets shifted to the node you selected.
  • If the node point has a pink blob on it: Expand its influence to neighbouring nodes. This is the only way to defeat red blobs, which are stuck on a node until a pink blob is shifted on to it.
  • If the node point has a red blob on it: Nothing.
  • Combos: Awarded for eliminating groups of pink blobs in consecutive turns.

Clear all the blobs and you move on to the next level. Run out of time in a level and it’s game over.

I found myself hopelessly addicted to Endless mode, which appears to be the main attraction of the game. Here you advance through levels that grow in network complexity while facing stricter and stricter time limits. There’s a balance to be had, since your score bonus between levels is determined both by your combo and how much time you have left.

Since rounds don’t go on forever and the network layouts are procedurally generated, every new attempt begins engaging and ends engaging. Later levels simply don’t give you enough time to do your best in, so you know it’s going to end at some point, urging you to optimise your scoring from the get-go.

At 500 yen you can’t go wrong with this - it honestly seems like the sort of puzzle game Skip would have released for the Bit Generations lineup on Game Boy Advance.