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Daily iPhone App: Spellcraft School of Magic

I'll be honest: I have come down with a pretty bad case of freemium ADD. Pocket Frogs was my first real freemium hookup on the iPhone (and it's still pretty great), but since then, I've made my way through a train of freemium games, including We Rule, Tiny Tower, Battle Nations, We Farm, more Tiny Tower, DragonVale, and now all the way over to Spellcraft School of Magic. If you've played any of these before, you probably know how it goes: The game is completely free to download, and free to play, though you can spend money on in-app convenience items if you want to save time or level yourself up more quickly.

But Spellcraft has caught my attention for quite a while this time, because it's a little more "game"-y than some of the other games. Instead of just managing a farm or building a city, you're actually delving through a dungeon, casting spells against bad guys and uncovering various treasures. The idea is that you're a magical student who needs to delve the dungeons to find your professors, and you can cast spells to fight bad guys from scrolls that you can carry and make.

Scrolls are created from spell ingredients that at first you just find, but you can also grow them in the greenhouse, which is where the "freemium" cycle comes in: plants can be planted, and then you need to wait real time to let them grow. The gameplay itself is actually pretty well done -- the graphics are nice and polished, and there's a fun arcade-y element to casting spells that allows you to do better or worse depending on how you time your casts.

Unfortunately, the in-app purchases aren't quite as "nice" as, say Tiny Tower -- your plants can die on the vine, losing you lots of money, and later in the game, you can also get pets that won't necessarily die, but will get very pitifully sad if you don't feed them (shame on Appy Entertainment for tying the sadness of a hungry animal to an in-app purchase -- that's a little below the belt if you ask me). But the game is definitely playable even without the in-app purchases, and the fact that you can lose plants does at least provide a little encouragement to log in to the game and play it.

If freemium isn't your thing, you won't find much new here. This game runs about like a Facebook game, and while there is some nice polish, especially on the iPad, there's not a lot here that you won't find in, say, DragonVale or We Rule. But as is always the case with freemium, the price is right, and it's at least a game that will hold your attention and scratch that freemium obsession itch -- at least until the next fun candidate comes along.

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