Stella's Stocking was the 2007 AtariAge Holiday Cart and now it's available again in case you missed it the first time around! Stella's Stocking isn't one, but FIVE different games! A large team of programmers, artists and designers worked hard to create a very unique offering on the 2600. From the moment you fire up Stella's Stocking you'll realize you have something special. To cram five different games into this cartridge, along with a menu that features quite possibly the best music ever heard in a 2600 game, we created a new 64K board just for this release! This is the first (and presently only) 64K Atari 2600 game that we've published.
Each game included in Stella's Stocking is briefly described below:
- Stay Frosty -- You were just chilling out at the North Pole, when a short-circuiting string of Christmas lights on Santa's barn set the reindeer dust on fire. Now magic fireballs are threatening to melt everything. It's up to you to put them out so you can keep your cool, however that's not an easy task for someone made of frozen water!
- Elf Dash -- Holly the elf sighed. Santa is on his flight, the warehouse is locked up, and the big year-end party starts in 10 minutes. What a year! The elf magic to make toys load themselves in the sleigh went haywire sending toys flying around knocking elves down. The elevators went nuts too, and won't stop running. Holly grimaced as a loud crash came from warehouse. "I'll deal with that tomorrow.", she promised herself. Ben elf burst in shouting, "Ms. Claus is on a rampage!". "Oh no!" whimpered Holly, "What now?". Ms Claus has an inferiority complex. She hates being relegated to baking cookies and smiling in a grandmotherly way. "She says the party decorations aren't good enough. Here is what she wants.", piped Ben. Holly eyed the list, "Oh great! This stuff is all over the warehouse, and I just finished locking up.". Help Holly collect the items demanded by Ms. Claus in time, or be demoted to cleaning out the stables.
- Cold War -- It's war and you're on the front lines! Take control of two snowmen, pack some fresh snow into a frozen ball of destruction, take aim, and...throw! Watch for return fire, as you don't want to be the next snowman to fall in this battle! Blast through fortifications to reach the snowmen across the battlefield! Survive this battle and you won't be turned into a snow cone!
- Grandma's Revenge -- You've probably heard about the incident where Grandma had a run-in with a reindeer many a Christmas ago. Well, it's not a legend, and now that Gramdma's out of the hospital she wants her revenge! No sooner than she was able to rise out of her wheelchair, she made her way to the parking lot, stole the fastest vehicle she laid her eyes on, and as she sped off was heard muttering, "I'll have my revenge you red-nosed varmit!"
- Tossing Cookies -- 'Twas the night before Christmas, and Santa's reindeer have flown off without him! What's worse is it's a dark and stormy night, so there's lightning-filled clouds to contend with! Help Santa get back his reindeer! You must pilot your sleigh through the dangerous skies, dodging lightning while collecting the magical cookies that help the reindeer fly! Then you must use the cookies to lure the reindeer back to the North Pole! Can you collect all the reindeer in time for Santa's globe-trotting journey?
Stella's Stocking was a collaboration between several homebrew authors and artists, including John Payson, Darrell Spice Jr., Fred Quimby, David Weavil, Robert Mundschau, Chris Read, Nathan Strum, David Vazquez, Dave Exton, and others. Stella's Stocking features in-game artwork by Nathan Strum and David Vazquez (both of whom have contributed to various homebrew projects), and includes a beautifully illustrated label and eight-page manual by Dave Exton, whose brush graces many homebrew games in our store.
Includes cartridge and eight-page, full-color manual.
|Authors||John Payson, Darrell Spice Jr., Fred Quimby,
David Weavil, Robert Mundschau, Chris Read
|In-Game Art||Nathan Strum and David Vazquez|
|Label, Manual Design||Dave Exton|
|Number of Players||1 - 2|
|Controllers||Joysticks, Driving Controllers|
Recently I received the Atari Age homebrew game Stella’s Stocking, which is actually a 5 games in 1 cart. This cartridge I always wanted to purchase from the Atari Age game store, but as luck would have it, this game turned up on ebay.de, eliminating the US to DE postage costs.
Not that this would make any difference, if I want a title from the USofA, I buy it, no matter what postage and customs charges occur.
My cartridge is one of the limited editions, it being number 69 out of, I presume, 100, which is in itself cool already.
First off, my Stella’s Stocking cartridge is PAL, meaning it was developed for the European Television format. Basically insert the cart into the old VCS, it works straight out of the box, no TV line adjustment needed.
Stella’s Stocking comes with a well-printed colourful 8-page manual made with sturdy paper and it is of very high quality indeed. The title “Stella’s Stocking” is not printed on the instruction title page, instead it says “Happy Holidays”, which, personally, I find kinda weird, but why not. We also have a great picture of Stella putting gifts into stockings.
Open the page you’ll find an explanation of the Stella cart, for example that it utilizes 64K, a first for Atari Age (this game cartridge is from 2007), that there’s 5 video games on the cart, and that the menu selection screen has some great music, and I quote: Quite possible the best music ever heard in a 2600 game”.
I always like little back info like that.
Onwards, the next pages are devoted to the games, every game instruction is one page long, which also includes some excellent game art. Game 1 is called COLD WAR, controls and gameplay is explained within the instructions. Game number 2 is TOSSING COOKIES, number 3 is STAY FROSTY, number 4 is called ELF DASH, and last but not least, we’ll find GRANDMA’S REVENGE as the fifth game.
Humorous headlines accompany all the games, that gives a nice touch.
A box for the cartridge is not available, that is a bit of a shame, as I like my video games in boxes, but nevermind.
The cartridge label is also of high quality, and it shows the same girl, Stella, she herself wearing stockings, putting gifts into stockings hanging on the chimney wall. The name of the game is printed on the label, and down on the bottom of the cart, the number 69 is written within a small, white square. Underneath is says, “AtariAge Holiday Greetings 2007”. An end label is provided as well.
Now let’s fire up this little beauty and see what’s the games are all about in a quick overview:
This 2-player game is a great snowball fight, select small snowballs or big snowballs and let your opponent have it. Level 2 onwards has obstacles like ice walls and other nasty elements. Great fun for two players.
You are Santa in this game but all your raindeer have flown away and it’s your job to catch the deer and then to get on your way for whatever a Santa has to do on the night before Christmas. Basically in the first level you have to collect all the magic cookies within a time limit of 30 seconds. Beware of the lightning bolt, this will, of course, kill you. If you don’t manage to collect any cookies within 30 seconds you will lose a life. On the second level you have to catch the raindeer by tossing the cookies towards them. The raindeer will slow down once eaten a cookie, and you’ll have 15 seconds to catch the deer.
Original game and very challenging.
Here’s AAs most famous snowman, who made a return in Stay Frosty 2 just recently.
Put out all the fires on each level, but watch out, the Snowman’s melting in the process. Collect ice blocks to replenish your energy. This game is great fun and a classic.
Holly the elf has to collect 40 items. Manic toys are her enemy as they are trying to kill her. Basically a platform and ladders game, collect the items, collect the key for the next level, avoid enemies at all costs. I like this game a lot.
Kill all raindeer by running over them with your car? How nasty for Christmas, I like it. I’m gonna keep this for playing in Dec 2016.
All in all, a super great cartridge well worth the money.
I guess I better get Stay Frosty 2 next.
By far my favorite is Grandma's Revenge. I think this game makes the cart and I think I would have bought it separately.
I love the easter egg in Grandma's Revenge. It is just a great extra into an already good package.
While I'm not as sure it is as a whole better than Toyshop Trouble this is a great deal with some variety on it. Definately worth picking up.
The music is pretty remarkable. It has to be some of the best music to come out of an Atari 2600 to date. You can even select from a variety of different holiday songs from the title screen just by pushing your fire button.
As an added bonus, you can just have the cart in attract mode around the holidays for background music complete with the warm glowing fireplace on the screen.
The menu system for selecting games is also pretty awesome. Just move the joystick left or right and up comes a new game start screen.
The production of the entire package is stellar. The label is very clean, colorful and comes complete with a sexy Stella in stockings on the front. How can you go wrong with that? Even the manual is top notch.
I like all the games on the cartridge, but I have to say that Grandma's Revenge is my favorite. It's nice having another game to use my driving controllers with.
If you have the means, I highly recommend this cartridge. Getting so much on one cartridge for the price is a great deal.
Stay Frosty is a platformer where your goal is to keep your snowman from melting by collecting ice and finishing each level before the sun melts you. Complicating things is that in order to complete each level, you must use your snowman to extinguish roaming fireballs. Each fireball will melt you more, requiring you to collect more ice. Can you collect enough ice to stay frosty and move onto the next level?
It seems a little weird reviewing Stay Frosty, since I came up with the concept for it while Stella's Stocking was being developed. Darrell Spice did a great job of programming the game, and it was really exciting seeing Frosty come to life. The main thing I wish we could have spent more time on were the level designs. While there are 32 levels in the game, most of them are too easy to solve on the first or second try. A more puzzle-like approach, where certain paths must be followed, or ice must be collected in a certain pattern to keep from melting, would have added more challenge, especially to the earlier levels. The beginnings of those elements are there - like having to intentionally melt Frosty to fit through certain gaps, or removing an enemy from a platform so it can float upwards to help you reach another area - but I would have liked to have seen more of it. That said, the game is fun to play with appropriately slippery physics, melting effects and a good variety of level layouts. Visually, there's quite a lot of animation in the game: Frosty's face changes expression as he melts, he bounces and leans as he moves, and the sun and fireballs will watch him as he moves around the screen. I'm a little biased since I designed the graphics, but for what it's worth - I think they look pretty cool. It's hard to classify Stay Frosty as a mini-game, since with just a few more tweaks, it could easily be a full-fledged cartridge on its own.
In Tossing Cookies you control Santa's sleigh on a stormy night. His reindeer have gotten loose and you must round them up by tossing Mrs. Claus' Christmas cookies at them. As they're blissfully snacking on them, they slow down enough for you to capture them. Each level has two rounds - the first where you collect cookies, and the second where you toss them at the reindeer. The layouts vary from level to level, with different cloud formations that will impede your progress.
Based on an earlier homebrew - GoSub - Tossing Cookies has the potential to be a really fun game, but the main knock I have against it is that it's just too slow. It feels like you're slogging through thick mud instead of flying, and running into the clouds only slows you down more. This kind of game really cries out for responsive controls and zippy gameplay. Also detracting from it, is that there is no score or progress indicator. You have no idea how far you are in the game, or how well you're doing, so there's little incentive to try to collect more cookies, or capture the reindeer faster.
Elf Dash is a platformer where you must control Holly the elf, and help her collect various objects while avoiding rampaging toys which have run amok. Holly must use elevators to move between the floors of each warehouse and pick up all of the objects and a key before moving on. She can sprint for a limited time - which is extended when picking up the key.
You have unlimited lives in Elf Dash, but limited time. The goal is to complete all warehouses before you run out of time. This takes a little practice, but the real challenge of the game becomes in beating your previous times, and figuring out the quickest way through each level. The graphics are fun, with a nice variety of objects and toys to deal with. Some move erratically, some will fire at you, and figuring them all out will keep you on your toes. The sound effects are sparse, but work well enough. What matters though, is that the game is a lot of fun. The controls are spot-on, and the levels are well-thought-out. It's simple gameplay at its best, and an expanded version of this game could easily stand on its own. It reminds me of some of the better third-party platformers for the 2600.
Grandma's Revenge is loosely based on the novelty song about a certain holiday hit-and-run incident involving hoofed mammals. Now it's payback time, and you have a variety of vehicles at your disposal to exact your homicidal revenge. The game is half Indy 500 and half Death Race. The goal is simple - run over as many reindeer as possible, before running out of fuel or wrecking all of your cars. You have different cars to choose from, various power-ups to help you in your hunt for revenge, and the environment will change to include ice, barriers, and other challenges. There are also a few Easter Eggs - including one that gives you a different way to "Strike Back".
Although the graphics are a little sparse, the sprites are are nicely rendered with multiple vehicles - including an F-1 racer, a VW bug and a snowmobile - and reindeer fleeing for their lives. There are a several game variations to choose from: a two-player competitive mode, where one player is Grandma, and the other is the reindeer; and the option to use Indy 500's driving controllers - which makes the game controls super-responsive. Grandma's Revenge has a certain sadistic charm, makes for a fun mini-game, and it has plenty of options to keep you thoroughly entertained as you mow down entire herds of Santa's flying fodder.
Cold War is a two-player only game, where you control snowmen engaged in a snowball fight. Each player has two snowmen, and the first player to knock out both of the other player's snowmen wins the round. You move a cursor to select which of your snowmen you control (similar to many sports games), and then fire away! The longer you hold the fire button down, the farther your snowman will throw. As the game progresses, you'll have to knock down snow forts that are in your way. First player to win three rounds, wins the game.
Cold War surprised me by being one of those (almost) perfect little two-player games, that doesn't seem like much on the surface, but when you get into it, it ends up being a lot of fun. Since the game is so simple to play, it takes almost no time for someone to learn the game and get good enough at it to have some fun. As you progress into the game, there are snow barriers that add an element of strategy to the game, and you can even use the hats of your dead snow-comrades as shields. My one gripe about it is that once you get into playing the game, it ends too quickly. An option to choose the number of rounds per game (with more snow wall layouts) would have made this fun little game a real gem indeed. Maybe someday we'll get to see an expanded version with more snowmen on each side and more levels.
Stella's Stocking gives you a lot for your money. Even though a couple of the games may have limited appeal, there's a lot of variety here and some really solid game play to be found. The menus are almost worth having on their own cart, the manual (with a pin-up worthy Stella on the cover) is wonderfully illustrated by Dave Exton, and the whole package makes for a great holiday treat.