There’s a lot of fun to be had with Disco Zoo. If you’re not chin-rubbing your way through a Battleship-style guess-the-tile game when capturing new and exotic animals for your zoo then you’re gently nudging the ones you already have in your possession so that they stay awake long enough to dance for the paying punters who occasionally drop money for you to collect.
It’s not as exploitative as a finger-wagging representative from PETVA (the V stands for virtual) would have you believe however: Disco Zoo’s style is built around cuteness and colour; the Battleship-style tile game that forms the basis of the capture mechanic is more love than war; even the animal enclosures are conducive to flat-out dancing fun. This free-to-play puzzle-and-tap fest is, in all, pleasantly inoffensive and at its worst a rather moreish treat at beast, and with less progress-throttling at the hands of its premium currency than you might expect from a free-to-play game.
If you’re familiar with any other Nimblebit games – Tiny Tower in particular – then the Disco Zoo interface and general gameplay really shouldn’t phase you one little bit. In fact, this game has you taking care of a zoo that looks a bit like the tower from Tiny Tower. Your zoo is initially quite empty, and it’s your job to fill it up with as many animals as you possibly can. Furthermore, you need to have the animals in your zoo awake and dancing to the music for as long as possible in order to earn you the most money, which is in turn spent on upgrading your means of transport. A better means of transport (i.e. better planes) equals a more efficient way of transporting animals to your zoo to stay awake and dance. Remember: a dancing animal is an earning animal.
Where the game diversifies itself (and indeed makes itself reminiscent of classic board-based game Battleship) is in the mechanics by which you collect your animals. Once you’ve scouted a location, the gameplay changes to a Battleship-style tile game where you have a limited number of guesses to try and hunt out the location of the hidden animal behind the tiles. The 5x5 grid is much simple than its water-based wartime cousin, but it’s the same concept: there’s an animal hidden behind some of these tiles, and you spend your guesses trying to uncover it, tile by tile. When successful, you bring the animal back to your zoo, which eventually increases its size category, which then allows you to earn more money, and the cycle continues.
Graphics, Interface, and the Rest
The gameplay is certainly enjoyable, but it wouldn’t quite be the same without the aesthetically pleasing artwork and general design of the thing, It’s got a very clean and professional interface with graphics that are reminiscent of other Nimblebit games (Tiny Death Star being just one example). The colourful and pixel-laden aesthetic is one that’s quite trendy at the minute, and it deserves to be because it is eye-catching and expands the game’s audience even further than the casual gaming market would usually allow. Games similar to Nimblebit’s other retro-style creation Tiny Tower (such as this flash-based Tiny Tower game) don’t quite have the same impact without that particular look.
One of the few drawbacks of the game is the premium currency – in this case it’s called Disco Bux – which lets you hold so-called Disco Parties where you earn double coins and don’t need to constantly keep the animals awake for them to be earning money. The freemium aspect really doesn’t throttle your progress too severely however, making this quite a refreshing change from the usual money-grabbing freemium game.