First impressions: Disco Zoo.

I cannot express enough my love for NimbleBit.

I go through apps and games like Lindsay goes through rehab but, years after their release, I still play Pocket Trains daily (if only just to complete the daily quest) and occasionally check Tiny Tower, Pocket Planes and Tiny Death Star. So, when I heard that the company had a new game coming, I downloaded it the moment it became available.

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Their new offering, Disco Zoo, is a collaboration between the company and Milkbag Games, who were behind the massively popular Trainyard. I haven’t actually played Trainyard before so I can’t comment on that but Disco Zoo is remarkably reminiscent of previous Nimblebit offerings (and other games).

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The concept of Disco Zoo is simple. You rescue animals from different environments and build habitats for them in your zoo. The more types of animals you have in your zoo, the more money you make per minute. With that money, you can then go on more rescue missions and obtain more animals. The disco part…we’ll talk about that later.

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Like Tiny Tower (and its followups and clones), the game is cyclical – you use in-game currency to buy something that produces more of that currency and then use it to buy more currency-churners. There isn’t a particular goal in mind other than just making the biggest zoo and getting the most money you can but NimbleBit has proven repeatedly that that is more than sufficient to be insanely addictive.

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Instead of having to choose goods to load and refill (as in Tiny Tower), each animal exhibit produces a fixed amount of money per minute but only continues for a certain amount of time (“staying awake”). Once that time ends, you need to wake them up to get them to start producing money again, much like in Pixel People. While this means that you don’t have to wreck your brains strategizing how you want to go about it (like in Tiny Tower), it is perhaps an even more evilly effective way to keep players coming back repeatedly.

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The Disco mode is similar to the Fever mode in Pixel Story (a Tiny Tower clone that I actually love more than the original – in part due to this feature), where money production is doubled for a limited amount of time. Unlike Pixel Story, sadly, this mode isn’t activated by time (and collecting smileys) but by paying Discobux, this game’s in-app purchase currency.

Disco Zoo has also drawn several other elements from other games. The standard “wait while big things are loading” activity (last seen in…all other Nimblebit games) manifests here as picking up money that zoo visitors have paid while the “here’s a not-that-frequent way of getting IAP currency in-game” has you looking for runaway animals in other exhibits.

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Heck, even the animal rescuing bit (the gotta-get-em’-all concept itself already veering closer to Pokemon than any other previous NimbleBit game) plays like a one-sided Battleship, where you poke at tiles in a grid to try to uncover the animals hidden beneath.

Although Disco Zoo might not win any points for creativity, it somehow all works together to create something pretty unique. After all, if it ain’t broke, then combine it with other not-broke things and make em’ even better, right? The game is incredibly addictive and I find myself going back to it over and over again, just as I have for the other timesinks that NimbleBit has thrown at us.

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The graphics, while deviating from the trend of half-realistic gorgeousness exemplified by the lush backgrounds of Pocket Trains, are suitably adorable and fun. The music is whimsical and cute too, this being one of the very few games I don’t mind leaving the volume on for.

Like all the previous NimbleBit games, Disco Zoo has IAP but doesn’t shove it down the gamers’ throats. Disco Bux can be used to expedite several things but they never feel essential – one can get by without them fine. There is also a Zoopedia, which lists the patterns to rescue specific animals. While this does make for easier referencing, it also takes some of the fun away from the experience. Lastly, even though it’s part of the title, the Disco mode isn’t actually all that necessary to play the game and, again, one can get by without spending bux activating them at all.

Of course, the game has its problems. Scrolling goes exhibit by exhibit (unless the smooth scroll of Tiny Tower), which will possibly get tedious when the zoo gets really large. There’s a master list you can cycle through but that doesn’t show you the other habitats in between. These little issues don’t detract too much from the overall experience though. Yet.

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All in all, Disco Zoo is a pretty valiant new entry, even if some of its components feel a tad familiar. As with other similar games, I’m sure my excitement about the game will peter out once wait times start to number in days. But, for now, Imma’ keep boogieing in this little menagerie of mine.

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