Developer: Milkbag Games
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5, iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime: Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

NimbleBit teams up with Milkbag Games – featuring Matt Rix of Trainyard fame, and Owen Goss – for Disco Zoo, a simulation game about building a zoo where disco parties can be triggered. It’s one of those “exactly what it says on the tin” games, and it should amuse fans of NimbleBit’s simulations even as it takes a slightly different approach.

DiscoZoo-12DiscoZoo-6The crux of the game is to rescue animals from the wild to bring in to the zoo, which helps attract people, thus making money for the player, until they fall asleep and must be awoken. The player can use bux to start disco parties, which awaken all the animals and get them dancing and raising double money for the disco’s timeframe.

It’s the animal rescuing that will challenge players. They’ll take to a five-by-five grid and uncover tiles one by one to find new animals. They only get ten flips, unless they get more by spending bux or watching a video ad. These excursions to rescue animals cost money, and at increasing amounts, with new environments costing more as time goes on. However, this part of the game has a skill-based component: each animal in this matching game has a consistent shape, so players have an idea of where to look once they know which shapes to keep an eye out for.

Interestingly, it’s easy to assume without any knowledge of the situation that this is a NimbleBit-developed game. There’s the blocky pixel art with goofy humor and pop culture references that pop up. There’s bux, the hard currency which can be collected in the game itself as well as purchased. And biggest of all, there’s the way the game operates in which there’s not too much of a punishment for not playing. Eventually the animals will stop making money if they’re not re-awoken, but they won’t escape or offer some other kind of punishment for not playing other than they won’t make any money. This does have the drawback of making the game easy to just give up on and leave, but that’s another NimbleBit hallmark. This definitely feels like a game that they’ve had an influence on.

DiscoZoo-1DiscoZoo-3But what is different is the way the currencies are used and spent. Coins, the soft currency, are used quite often to buy things, which is normal, but getting down to zero feels like it happens more often. Spending bux is very important here, as opposed to being just a helpful feature. Because they can help uncover more animals and save coins in the long run by getting more animals from particular excursions, it’s quite possible to be constantly low on bux. This stands in opposition to other NimbleBit games where I could get a nice stockpile. I am tempted to spend money a lot sooner in Disco Zoo, but it still feels like a game that’s quite playable without buying bux. It’s a nice balance.

Really, Disco Zoo is a nice and charming game, and one that provides more mental stimulation while playing than most simulation games – and it features dancing hippos. But that feeling that it’s possible to just quit at any time does ultimately drag it down.


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