Another day, another batch of birds from Rovio. This time, we’re introduced to the pastel-feathered crew of Angry Birds Stella, a menagerie that’s obviously meant to appeal to female players. Though segregating audiences always raises a justifiable question or two, it can thankfully be confirmed this new flock of slingshot-riding birds is, if nothing else, every bit as cheesed off at pigs as the better-known, mostly male menagerie.

In fact, Angry Birds Stella plays closely like the rest of Angry Birds’ main releases. The general premise remains unchanged: Pigs are mean, so the birds need to throw themselves at them. Doing so involves pulling a bird backwards on its slingshot launchpad, then letting go to propel it through wood, glass, concrete, and, hopefully, into the soft, salty flesh of a pig.

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There is one major difference between Angry Birds Stella and regular flavor Angry Birds. The Stella gals have their own set of moves, which changes up your attack plan a bit. Stella herself can ricochet off objects to deliver a brutal second attack. Willow can tear through barriers and pigs alike – provided you learn how to control her wild spin. Poppy turns into a tornado and drills through objects, and Luca (my favorite, and the only boy in the group) is a baby blue bird that literally shatters glass with his shriek.

Playing around with the new birds is a blast, mainly because so many of their powers revolve around really ripping into the pigs’ defenses. There’s no doubt the Angry Birds formula, though well-used at this point, still delivers satisfaction.

Unfortunately, Angry Birds Stella has free-to-play trappings that kill the game’s momentum like a strip of tire spikes. Once you hit level 23, you’re suddenly forced to deal with “smoke bombs.” These bombs go off every ten levels or so and prevent you from moving on unless you pay a large sum of coins (which are earned in-game, albeit very slowly), or wait for hours until the smoke clear.

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Yes, hours. The first waiting period is a single hour, which is bad enough. By the third waiting period, you’re asked to hang around for five hours, or pay more coins than you could possibly earn in-game within that time. Of course, the ideal solution is your credit card.

That’s not all. When on the battlefield, you can buy extra birds for coins, making it quite possible to power through levels without bothering to check your physics. Don’t worry about missing the opportunity to buy: When all your birds are gone, you’re offered the chance to make a saving purchase.

People are becoming less tolerant of being blatantly ripped off by free-to-play games, so it’s curious that Rovio would erect the infuriating smoke screens in Angry Birds Stella. Yes, the franchise is popular, and yes, Rovio believes its birds carry the same weight as Super Mario. But in this age of endless entertainment, it’s one heck of a gamble to pull your game from players’ hands just as they’re getting warmed up.

Sure, players might come back in five hours, or they might spend money to keep playing (or beg their parents for money). Or they might go and do something else and forget the game entirely. Angry Birds Stella is fun and its cast is charming, but it’s not as if it delivers a wildly innovative experience. What’s here has been done before. And again.

Need help?  Check out our Angry Birds Stella: Tips, Cheats, and Strategy Guide.