Ozark Softscape created a landmark multiplayer game which established computer gaming as a social event way ahead of its time. Turn-based strategy elements are mixed smartly with action elements, embedded in an intricate economics simulation. Up to four human players, huddled around one C64, compete and collude in the colonisation of the distant planet Irata.
A plethora of well-balanced random events badger the colonists during their twelve-month journey and make each tournament unique. It takes a whole life to learn all strategies so you can emerge as First Founder from each furious colonisation battle against your friends. This constitutes the everlasting magic of M.U.L.E.
The legacy of the game lives on in an active fan community (whose meeting hub is the World of M.U.L.E.) who regularly meet up for face-to-face or emulator-supported online C64 M.U.L.E. tournaments. Planet M.U.L.E. (2009) and M.U.L.E. Returns (2013) are reincarnations of the classic game for PC and mobile platforms which carry on the game’s legacy for modern audiences.
M.U.L.E. stands for “Multiple Use Labor Element”. And hard labor is what you have to expect when you start your journey in mastering this game. Instead of a regular game review, this one time I have decided to write the review in form of a short story. I have written this short story after an exceptionally dramatic online Atari 800 M.U.L.E. tournament with a guy named “numbnuts” on May 26th 2006, without which this story would not have come to life, or at least would have come to life far later. (Note: Some aspects of this dramatic tournament have been slightly altered in order to create even more drama.)
Enjoy! Irata – Here I Come!
|3Y+||X – 1983, 'nuff, said|
|2H+||X – A typical M.U.L.E. single- or multi-player tournament takes about 90 (one human player) to 120 (four human players) minutes|
|-25H||(X) – Well, well… It is true that a M.U.L.E. tournament usually only takes about 1 to 1,5 hours… But I certainly can't promise you that you won't play more than 25-38 tournaments in your lifetime! 😉|
|Presentation||O – Well, you've seen the screens above. M.U.L.E. really is no beauty, however the comic-like graphics do have their own charme. And of course the title theme is very catchy – thanks for this, Roy Glover!|
|Story||O – Not really a story to tell (or told) here – just enough to write a small short story (see above!), but unfortunately not enough material to write a novel.|
|Immersion||X – During a four human player M.U.L.E. tournament, nothing else matters than becoming First Founder. It's like a World Cup Final.|
|Social||X – Definitely one of the best social gaming experiences you can have with four humans huddled around one old computer. Only a few games can compare with the fun and bickering during a M.U.L.E. tournament; maybe only the fabulous ten-human-players Sega Saturn Bomberman is on par with this.|
|FOAK||O – Nothing first of a kind to be found here – just many already-known gameplay elements very intelligently combined.|
|Metacritic||O – Released in 1983, there was not really game journalism – and the very few reviews of the game from that time give it more an okay-ish reception, with the exception of the CGW (Computer Gaming World) review who recognised it as an instant classic. More broadly, the magic of M.U.L.E. was discovered much later.|
|Longevity||X – M.U.L.E. has spawned some okay-ish clones (such as Traders and Subtrade in the 1990'ies) and real sequels (such as Planet M.U.L.E. and M.U.L.E. Returns in the 2000's/2010's). Furthermore, there is an active fanbase over at World of M.U.L.E. with around a 1000 fans, some of whom regularily meet up for real-life or online tournaments.|