Written by World of M.U.L.E. Guest Author: Karawane
To discuss this game inspired by M.U.L.E., please use this topic in the WoM forum.
Subtrade is a rather faithful clone of M.U.L.E. for 16-bit home-computers. It was published in Europe by Boeder Software in 1993 for the Commodore Amiga and in 1994 for MS-DOS. It has never been officially released overseas. Though, the DOS version was available at certain stores in the U.S. as a direct import.
The game makes thorough use of the advanced graphical and sound capabilities of the Amiga and DOS system while still retaining much of M.U.L.E.‘s original look and feel. In this manner, Subtrade is different to the other contemporary clone Traders, as it more closely captures the spirit of the original.
Insights from the development team
There is not much known to me about the development. It is said that the developers were late to acquire the license for the original M.U.L.E., so they had to release Subtrade as an unlicensed clone. Rumor has it that the American launch was withheld due to anticipated legal issues as Subtrade is quite similar to M.U.L.E.
How to play this game today
The game has no longer been sold for a very long time. The original boxes can sporadically be found on eBay. Binary images are avilable as abandonware on the internet. If you buy an original box, make sure you can still use the media (e.g. 3.5“ disks or CD-ROM). There is an Amiga and an MS-DOS version available. Either one can be played through emulators on modern computers.
For the Amiga version, you best use the Ubiquitous Amiga Emulator (UAE) in original Amiga 500 mode with 512k RAM. You can connect 4 gamepads/joysticks simultaneously to the system, providing all 4 human players with their own game controller. This is actually the nicest way to play the game when everybody sits on a sofa in front of a TV. It is also possible to play this version via the internet by using the Kaillera client.
For the MS-DOS version, you most easily use DOSBox. The DOS version has a slightly smoother colour palette making it a tiny bit nicer to look at. It also has a very subtle addition in gameplay by featuring a second fish (Subtrade‘s equivalent to the mountain wampus) which cost you a fine if you capture it instead of the correct fish (called Wanda in the game). Regrettably, you can only connect 2 gamespads/joysticks simulaneously. So, the third and the forth player have to use the keyboard, just like in M.U.L.E. on the C64.
Gameplay & gameplay comparison with Atari/Commodore M.U.L.E.
Subtrade‘s setting is set to an underwater world but the gameplay is almost the same as in M.U.L.E. The most notably difference is a fifth choice of how to outfit the labour element. You can directly produce Turtles for yourself (Subtrade‘s equivalent to M.U.L.Es). This is a very interesting twist in gameplay as it provides the colonists with the option to hold back ore while still being able to crop their claims with new labour elements. They can even sell the turtles for a good price to the store.
For the rest of the game, you only have to get used to a few other names of items. Food is now fish and crystite is pearls. For anybody knowing M.U.L.E., it is very easy to get a grip on that.
Subtrade was fairly well received by the German press but did not perform too well at sales. Interest in Amiga games was already waning in 1993, and I suppose the DOS version came too late for a typical retrogame to perform.
The fish to be caught in Subtrade (instead of the mountain wampus) is called Wanda in reminiscence of the movie of the same name.
Downloads, Galleries and Hyperlinks
- PC version: https://www.abandonwaredos.com/
- Amiga version: https://www.planetemu.net/roms/commodore-amiga-games-adf
Box art gallery: