Once in a great while, a game comes along that manages to be both entertaining and educational. To attain such lofty goals, a game must be so captivating and addicting that the education is invisible to the player. The player must experience "painless learning". This level of software engineering is rare, requiring more ingenuity than most software developers are willing to expend.
Years ago, a game called M.U.L.E. was released for Atari computer systems, and it was one of a handful of games that attained those aforementioned lofty goals. Now M.U.L.E. is available for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and if you like strategy games, and don't mind a little education (it doesn't hurt much, honest), this is one game worthy of your hard-earned greenbacks.
M.U.LE. is really more a simulation than a game. You and three other colonists (there are always four players, but they may be any combination of human and computer) are dumped on a barren planet named Irata (that's "Atari" backwards). You must work together to create a viable colony, one that will not only support its citizens, but also attract other people to the planet.
Although you and the other colonists must work together to ensure the survival of the colony, there are plenty of opportunities to turn a profit, and that, of course, leads to competition. This balancing act between cooperation and competition is one of the things that gives M.U.LE. its depth. M.U.LE. is a space-colonization simulation that concentrates on economics. All the rules of supply and demand are in effect. While the winner is the person with the highest assets at the end of the game, nobody wins if the colony fails.
In the following pages, all you interplanetary entrepreneurs will get a quick lesson in galactic economics. Don't be surprised if you learn something about earthly economics too.
Imagine a Nintendo game in which you don't have to shoot an alien, punch an enemy, defeat a stage boss, find a power-up, explore a warp zone, solve a puzzle, complete a quest, or rescue a princess. Sounds pretty dull, huh? Welcome to M.U.L.E., a different kind of Nintendo game. Not only is it refreshingly nonviolent, but it also demands sharp thinking and is surprisingly fun to play.
M.U.L.E. is a close translation of a 1984 computer game. It's similar to the board game Monopoly in that each player tries to finish with the most money and property. Like Monopoly, it's more fun with more players - up to four people can enjoy M.U.L.E. if you have a four-player adapter. If you play with fewer than four, the computer controls the remaining players, but they aren't very challenging opponents.
The game starts when a spaceship drops you and three other colonists on an undeveloped planet.. You take turns acquiring plots of land and figuring out the best way to develop them. You can plant food, generate energy, mine a metal called smithore, or (in tournament mode only) dig for a valuable mineral known as crystite.
All these operations are performed by four-legged robots called M.U.L.E.'s (Multiple Use Labor Elements). Each M.U.L.E. must be bought and equipped at the colony store, then led to your plot of land. But a M.U.L.E. is a cranky beast, and sometimes it breaks down, goes loco, or runs away.
After each round of turns, the auctions begin. If you have surpluses of goods, you can sell them to the store or fellow colonists. If you have shortages, you can buy them from the store or other colonists. Prices are determined by a clever system in which buyers and sellers approach each other on the screen until they reach a mutually agreeable sum.
M.U.L.E. isn't the kind of game that emphasizes fast reflexes and special effects - which happens to be a good thing, because the graphics, action, and sound are straight out of 1984. But despite its disappointing appearance, M.U.L.E. is very engaging, great fun for foursomes, and (dare we say it?) even a little educational.
Published by Electronic Arts, Inc. and developed by Ozark Softscape, this seminal multiplayer video game released in 1983.
The game is a kind of an exercise in supply and demand economics. It involves competition among the four players. Players can choose a race of their colonist, providing unlike advantages and disadvantages, which can be paired to their individual strategies. In order to win, players have not only to compete against each other, but must also cooperate for the survival of the colony. They will have to deal also with periodic random events like a run-away M.U.L.E.s, solar flares, and theft by space pirates. M.U.L.E. features a balancing system for random events that impact the only one player. It means that favorable events never happen to the player now in first place, and poor events never befall the player in last place. This is applied at any time a difficult situation takes place in the game. The player in the losing position wins the tie automatically.