The world has been plunged into darkness, and sadly all of the senior spell casters are away at the annual wizarding conference. So, it falls to an inexperienced novice to save the day.

That's the basic storyline which underpins the action in this freemium RPG, in which, unsurprisingly, you assume the role of the aforementioned newbie.

Taking up your trusty wand, you can lift the shadows which have infected the landscape and uncover special ingredients to create your potions and spells. Along the way, you encounter some stiff resistance from the monsters which have brought about the choking darkness. Thankfully, you can dispatch these fiends using powerful magic, which becomes more potent as the game progresses.

Moving through each gorgeous hand-drawn level is a real pleasure, and the mechanic of hitting ground tiles with your wand to uncover a variety of different items is initially appealing. Rather unfortunately, the spell begins to break when Wizardlings's free-to-play elements heave into view.

It's a kinda magic

All activities in the game eat away at your blue energy bar, which slowly replenishes over time, but not at anywhere near a fast enough rate. This means you'll have to get used to a stop/start gameplay mechanic, constantly going back to the game when your energy has topped-up.

Creating spells is another issue. When you're in a situation where you don't have the right items in your inventory to make a spell which is required to complete a level, you have to use your stock of rare and precious emeralds - more of which you can naturally acquire using an in-app purchase.

Even if Wizardlings wasn't blighted by such shameless money-chasing tactics, the fact remains that it's not actually that interesting a game to play. Once the novelty of the scenario has worn off, all you're left with is an endless trudge around each stage relentlessly tapping tiles and collecting items - and occasionally fighting a monster. There's just precious little here to get the blood pumping.

Speak and spell

Combat is all about having the right spells and rarely tests your skill, while the developer seems to believe that players will be more interested in picking the clothing of their character than actually saving the realm of Skywind from the encroaching darkness.

That such design problems exist is bad enough, but Wizardlings also suffers from some unpredictable bugs. Several times during our review, we were dropped back to the title screen without any warning whatsoever, causing us to lose progress.

It's a shame that Wizardlings offers such a poor show because it looks amazing, with lush 2D visuals and an irresistibly cute aesthetic. Sadly, the game just isn't captivating enough to encourage you to play beyond the first few levels, and the irritating reliance on in-app purchases creates a negative vibe. Look past the dazzling presentation and you'll find a strangely empty RPG experience.