Disco Zoo has been brought to you by the collective brains behind such gentle treats as Tiny Tower and Trainyard. It's a free-to-play game about collecting cutesy disco-dancing animals, no less.

So it's surprising to learn that it plays like one of the most militaristic and intensely competitive boardgames of your youth.

It's basically Battleship, albeit a version of Battleship that's been hacked by an anti-war protester.

Battlezoo

Rather than torpedoing nautical warcraft, Disco Zoo has you locating animals in a grid-like approximation of their natural habitat.

Initially, it's as random as picking a blank square. Then, once you've 'hit' a part of the animal, you must work to uncover the whole beast. The strategy here is mostly reserved for the first time you encounter an animal, as you must figure out its unique size and shape.

Most of these adhere to the basic characteristics of the animal - so a kangaroo is a long diagonal, while a pig is a squat square of four blocks. Not all them work this way, though.

You only get a limited number of attempts to uncover all of the animals in a grid, but Disco Zoo isn't about to punish you for 'failing.' There's always a way to extend your run, which some of you will find rather irritating.

Disco Zoo don't advertise

Initially, it's possible to earn yourself five extra tries by watching an ad video.

This will either seem like an excellent idea or a hideous affront to classic concepts of gameplay, according to which side of the hardcore line you sit on. Eventually, the option disappears.

It's also possible to purchase extra tries with the game's premium Disco Bux currency, but of course that's in short supply for those unwilling to open their wallets.

And that's precisely how Disco Zoo has been constructed. It might look like a classic casual puzzler, and it even feels like one in places. But really it's another free-to-play time-waster that's been engineered to keep you coming back for more screen-tapping, ad-watching, and money-spending.

Animal house

It keeps you coming back through the whole zoo premise. Once captured, your animals will be shipped off to your ever-expanding zoo.

While there, they earn you money from paying punters (who occasionally spill coins for you to hoover up), which can be used to purchase better aircraft, which allow you to fly to new territories and find more new types of animals.

The thing is, these animals only earn good money whilst awake. They don't stay awake for long, prompting you to return and jab them into action. This is where the disco comes in.

Pay the price, and said rave-up will keep the animals awake for a protracted period, earning double the money into the bargain.

Free and easy

Disco Zoo is an artfully constructed free-to-play time and money spinner. It's not as cynical as that might make it sound, though.

There's undoubted fun to be had collecting animals and growing your zoo. If you've grown accustomed to being at your iPhone or iPad's beck and call, popping into games to 'clean house,' then this won't be remotely strange or grating to you.

And there's undoubted joy to be had when you encounter a rare animal, such as a unicorn, and bring it back to your zoo to wow the adorably rendered crowds.

But it just feels like Disco Zoo is missing that extra layer of gameplay spark and sophistication that might have made it a true cross-over hit.