What can I say? I am in heaven. Why, you ask? Because the stars have aligned and given us one of the best, retro multiplayer games in history. And it’s free! Yes, Free! What game could I be talking about? What game could be considered one of the best multiplayer games of all time? Mario Bros? Double Dragon? Goldeneye? Are you kidding?
Four words, “Multiple Use Labor Equipment”. Or what is better known as M.U.L.E. Now if you are of the younger generation of gamers these initials probably don’t mean squat to you. But if you happen to have grown up at the dawn of gaming, then you will more than likely know MULE as one of the best, if not the best, multiplayer video games of all freakin’ time.
MULE was created in 1983 by Ozark Softscape and published through EA. Ya, that EA. MULE was an epic adventure where you and three of your friends each chose a competing alien race. The alien races ranged from Pac Man like creatures, to a long necked E.T. looking creature and everything in between. Once everyone chose their alien race you were then dropped on a new, barren undeveloped Martian landscape with the goal of out producing your alien “friends” while at the same time contributing to the “whole” of your new society and surviving. Games take place over twelve “turns” and usually took two to three hours to complete.
Once the game starts a swift moving land marker moves across the alien landscape, which is a randomly generated screen with flatlands, rivers & mountains. Players would “click” on the land square they want to inhabit and develop. Once all players picked their land plot the real fun begins. Now each player, while timed, has to pick a MULE, outfit it for one of three duties: farming, mining or energy and quickly lead their MULE to their plot of land where they let it go so it can start producing. After the MULE is placed in the plot a quick return to the pub is needed to score some cool cash. Generally the faster you outfit and place your MULE on your plot and return to the pub, the more money you will win.
Generally, to be successful at MULE you need to diversify your MULES and produce equal amounts of energy & food, while also amassing some mining wealth. If you neglect any of these you will pay for it in the end. After all four players take their “turn” by outfitting and placing their MULES the game takes over and randomly generates crops (needed to fuel the MULES), energy (needed to fuel the MULES), and either Smithore and/or Crystite. Food and Energy are required to keep your MULES top producers. Fall short of either of these and you plots stop producing and you fall behind in the game. Smithore and Crystite can be sold to the “store” for big money. After this “development” stage is over there is yet another new aspect to this game – a live “auction”.
The auction is where you get the chance to buy or sell food, energy, Smithore and Crystite from your competitors. The auction is handled ingeniously by each player choosing if they want to buy or sell each of the individual commodities. If you choose to sell, you simple move your player to the top of the screen. Players that want to buy stay at the bottom of the screen. Once the auction starts a timer starts and then players move up or down trying to set a price for said commodities. This is now a game of supply and demand at its essence. If you need energy and two of the other players have a surplus of energy they will compete to sell to you. They can drive the price up or sell to you for less. If there is more than one seller you can expect to buy cheaper than if there is one seller asking enormous prices for the valuable energy or food. Players go back and forth through the four auctions (food, energy, smithore & crystite). After the auction phase is over the screen goes to a tabulation screen and the four players emerge in order of their wealth, one x one to the top of the screen. Then the cycle starts over again by players choosing another plot of land. Choosing plots of land adjacent to each other is recommended. The games sees this as better than dividing your attention among scattered plots. Rivers are better for farming. Flatlands are good for energy and mountains obviously good for mining. So picking correct plots is important to exceeding in MULE.
To mix things up even more the developers throw in random events prior to each players “turn” that can either add to your wealth (your MULE won first place in the colonies talent contest and you won $200) or take from your wealth (your MULES require fixing and will cost you $100/MULE). The randomness of each game insures that no two games will ever be the same.
So where can you find this great game? And should you play it if you have never heard of it or played it before? To answer the second part of this question, “Yes!”. You need to play this game at least once to appreciate one of the best multiplayer games of all time. And thanks to the team at http://www.planetmule.com you can now play this game free of charge. And best of all there are always people in the lobby so you can experience this game as it was intended, with others.
MULE originated on the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit computers but was later released for the Nitnendo NES. Whether you hunt down an original game or play it through the newly released version so graciously served up on PlanetMule, do yourself a favor and log some time with one of the greatest multiplayer games of all freakin’ time.
Will your race win out and will your colony survive? Play and find out now.
- GameGavel.com Writer – So Cal Mike