Planet M.U.L.E.


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Rating: 4.8/5 (70 votes)
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Planet M.U.L.E.

DoraHow people found the time back in 1983 to create a game between fending off dinosaurs and foraging for fruits and berries I'll never know, but the game of M.U.L.E. not only wound up being very good, it also wound up being a very influential multiplayer video game. M.U.L.E. is a turn-based strategy game of economics where 4 players compete to colonize an alien world for profit and the good of all human-and-alien-kind. Of course, these days, very few people still possess Atari 400/800 systems, let alone enough people willing to be seen with them to play a game on it. Planet M.U.L.E.Luckily, thanks to the dedication of Turborilla and Blue Systems, a great gift has been bestowed upon us in the form of Planet M.U.L.E., a free and faithful remake of the original classic, eager to show you the wonders of crystite and the hazards of cat-lizards. Ain't space grand?

The premise of the game is thus; you and three other players are dropped onto the alien world of Irata to begin building a colony. But not with teamwork. Oh no. It's not only a race against the clock, but a battle for land and resources against your fellow gamers. The M.U.L.E. is, incidentally, a Multiple Use Labor Element, and you'll come to rely on them almost as much as you could wind up hating them. M.U.L.E.s are needed to build the facilities you'll use to grow or mine the resources to use and to sell, and they can occasionally turn on you. As will, you'll find, the economy; the prices your resources fetch change each round, according to supply and demand. If you find yourself short on essential resources, your means of production may be hampered or the duration of your next turn may be reduced. And if you don't sell enough smithore back to the store, for example, there may not be enough to make new M.U.L.E.s for you to work with.

Planet M.U.L.E.While the basic Planet M.U.L.E. gameplay and controls are very simple to grasp, relying on the [arrow] keys for movement and the [space] bar to perform actions, the game itself is quickly revealed to be surprisingly tricky to win. At the beginning of the game, each player is given a single plot of land to work with, and a limited amount of time to work each round. At the end of each round, you'll get a chance to sell off what you've managed to make, but this, too, proves difficult. Do you sell off all your crystite now? Or do you hold on to it for another round, risking theft or other downfall, and hope that the price is better next time? And what about food and energy? Are you making enough to keep your fledgling colony up and running, or are you going to have to resort to buying supplies from other players and hope they don't gouge you too badly over it?

Although M.U.L.E. is intended to be a multiplayer game, if you're ashamed of your smithore capabilities, or just think other people are weird, you can start a "training" game and fill the remaining player slots with computer A.I. However, M.U.L.E. is at its best when shared with friends (or rivals) who can rejoice in the discovery of a rich deposit of crystite, and hoot at your misfortune when a meteorite destroys your mining facility. Since a full game will take around an hour-and-a-half to complete, you may as well spend it with people you like instead of cold, unfeeling circuitry. Although, hey. If you can describe your friends that way, who are we to judge?

If you can't find enough people to play a game with you, the official website offers a forum for players to meet and make arrangements to get together and play. Don't be shy. Even if you've never met your competitors before, we think you'll find space pirates to be an excellent source of bonding. Yes, you'll need to create an account to play, but the process is swift, painless, and non-invasive. If, of course, the idea of turning your tender, nubile e-mail address over the the wilds of the internets is an unsavory one, you're out of luck. Don't worry, we'll be sure to have extra fun for you, friend.

Original M.U.L.E. box artAnalysis: I'm not usually a big fan of remakes. Either they wind up completely missing the point of the original title, or they're so faithful I find myself wondering, "Well, okay, why don't I just play the original instead then? What's the point?" While the point here is obviously "You can't play the original, Dora. DUH.", Planet M.U.L.E. is a success not only because it captures the spirit of the original, but because it looks and plays so well.

If you don't make good use of your time and cash early on, it can be difficult to catch up to other players later in the game. Since turns are so short, you can find yourself doing a lot of sitting around, watching other players take their turns. The game actually does a fairly good job of injecting new events and balancing the market so that the game keeps feeling competitive rather than routine. Racing to outbid your fellow players for a new plot of land, or to claim one known to be rich in crystite, is not only fun, it's a good way to make new enemies. Hurray!

At the time of this writing, M.U.L.E. has only been released for about a week, and the initial offering is a little buggy. The servers occasionally lag, connections can be unstable, and the game can hang from time to time on the shop or auction screens. Players having trouble connecting to each other to play should have a look at this section on troubleshooting, especially if they're behind a router. However, the team behind Planet M.U.L.E. has already shown themselves to be extremely dedicated to polishing it, as though reviving a decades-old game wasn't proof enough, and are hard at work already on a patch to solve the problems.

Easy to pick up but difficult to master, M.U.L.E. winds up being a very rewarding experience for players with the patience to put their time into it. Best played with friends and a healthy competitive spirit, it's a faithful remake of an old classic that just may become a new one. Just make sure you have your evening free before you start, and always remember to keep one eye out for the Mountain Wampus.

Update: Version 1.1 is now available. It addresses many bugs and complaints found with the initial version.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Download the free full version

26 Comments

Wow, it's interesting to see that while "Jay is games", apparently "Dora are games". Dora are plural? Should I prepare to be assimilated? ;)

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Looks like fun. And the best part is that it's FREE FOR ALL OPERATING SYSTEMS!!!!! I'll have to download it some time next week. I'll have A LOT more free time then.

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I just want to say that you did an excellent job on the review, Dora. It's not an easy game to describe, but you did a fine job of it.

For anyone wanting to give it a go, I recommend reading through the "How to Play" instructions first on the Planet M.U.L.E. website, and then go through a short Training mission using AI bots to get a feel for the gameplay.

That said, you haven't really experienced the game fully until you play with 3 other human players. There really isn't another game that I can think of that blends the variety of multiplayer gameplay found in M.U.L.E.

M.U.L.E. is a very important game in our video game history time line, and anyone who hasn't had the chance to experience this game before should play it.

A HUGE thank you to the developers at Turborilla for bringing this game back to life! It's fantastic. ^-^

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I guess I'm showing my (lack of) age here, but it seems to me that everything Mule does, Catan does better, if with less charm.

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Catan is an awesome game in and of itself, and I love to play that game as well.

But the two games are vastly different from each other.

Have you actually played M.U.L.E.?

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Admittedly, I've only played against the crappy AI, so I might not be qualified to judge.

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Definitely play a game against 3 other humans for the 'full effect'.

I love all sorts of board games, and each one I feel offers a unique experience, and M.U.L.E. is definitely a unique experience.

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Can anyone explain the production and the using up of resources? I don't quite understand.

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Oh gosh, not another download.
Where are all the in-browser games?!

[Edit: Welcome to JIG, Cassandra! :D It's the weekend, and that means Weekend Download time. We feature download games on the weekend, and browser games during the week. That's been our format for years now. If you are interested in browser games only, you might want to bookmark this page: http://jayisgames.com/tag/browser There you will find all of our in-browser games, and there's quite a lot! -Jay]

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About Production and Resources

There are 4 types of resources: food, energy, smithore and crystite.

Food and energy are essential for each round. You need enough food to move around during your turn, buying and placing MULEs, assaying the land for crystite, and hunting the wampus for some extra cash. If you don't have sufficient food, then your allotted time will be reduced.

You need enough energy for your MULEs during the production phase of each round. If you don't have sufficient energy, one or more of your MULEs will not be able to produce resources for that round.

Smithore and crystite are non-essential, but you can reap great rewards by producing them and selling them at auction. The price of smithore tends to follow supply and demand, while the price of crystite is more random. You will see prices for crystite range from about $50 to $150.

Since food and energy are essential for each round, you probably want to concentrate on getting a MULE set up for producing each one early on in the game.

Where you place your MULE is important to the type of resource you plan to grow/mine there. When you place a MULE for a certain type of resource, you will see any number of symbols from 0 to 4 representing low to high yield. For example, the river bed is the best type of land to grow food. Placing a MULE in the river bed will produce a HIGH yield of food each production cycle, represented by 4 bales of hay. Anywhere else will produce less food per production cycle, and will be represented by fewer bales of hay.

Desert (crackled ground) is best for energy (from solar panels); mountains are best for smithore; and crystite can be found anywhere, but you'll have to assay the land to find the best sources each game. The assay tool is in the bottom left of the main store area.

I hope that helps. :)

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That helped a lot...

...but I'm not seeing what's really supposed to happen, or what I'm supposed to be doing. I've tried a few games against some AI, but I'm just not sure I'm doing anything, but going through the motions.

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Wow, Jay is really into this game. I never see him comment this much on other games. That makes me want to try this game even though I am terrible at strategy games. There goes the rest of my weekend and all of next week.

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Yeah, I really do love this game.

Dean - The objective of the game is to be the wealthiest at the end of 12 rounds. You do that by maximizing your resources the best you are able to, and there are a variety of strategies you can use.

You know that it takes food and energy to compete each round, so make sure you have a MULE for each. You can then sell your surplus back to the store, or to other players, if you wish; or you can hold on to it in hopes of cutting one of the other players short, which will negatively impact their ability to compete, thus giving you an edge.

You know that mountains are best for smithore, so try to grab one or more of the largest clusters of mountains and then mine for it.

Use the assay tool to find rich deposits of crystite, then grab that land (if you can) and mine for it. Wait for a good price and sell it to the store for profit.

There are a variety of strategies to use when playing this game, which is why it's so good, and why some people may not immediately "get it" at first.

Perhaps the most confusing aspect will be the auction phase for each resource, but it's really very simple.

  • Buyers must move to the highest market price to buy from the store (IF the store has any surplus--sometimes it doesn't), or be met at a lower price by another player willing to sell their surplus instead.

  • Sellers must move to the lowest market price to sell their surplus to the store, or be met at a higher price by another player willing (or forced) to buy at a higher price.

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What are the system requirements for the mac game? I can't get to the website now to look it up. Thanks.

[Edit: I couldn't find the platform requirements anywhere, just that there's is a Mac OS X version. My best advice is to just download it and try running it. -Jay]

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^^ My name trumps all!

Second off...
When do we learn to hate the M.U.L.E? The orignal case states we'll hate him, but his only negatives is not being available to buy a M.U.L.E, or having him run off, there acctually very useful for everything!

Third off...
Ive also always imagined a food farm, owning every river and the deserts, maybe a few plains, and making a food farm, then, once thats up and running, pubbing* as much cash as you can grab to win!

Fourth off...
Who else has had an AI become a smithehorde?
From the very start he made like, 6 mines and started ROLLING in cash!

* = Pubbing: Instantly entering pub and banking cash.

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I've kept my commodore64 up and running my entire life (at least since I knew how to use it) because of games like M.U.L.E. So glad to see such a classic being remade without losing the feel of the original game.

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chasmotron December 14, 2009 8:03 PM

Has anyone gotten the game to work on a mac?

I have an older g5 and an intel laptop, and in both cases my game screen is black. (I'm trying to play a local game without registering a user account at all.)

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I use a Mac (10.5.8) and the game works very well.

The black screen issue is a known problem, and there is a work around for it: press F5 to toggle full screen on and then off again. That will cause a redraw of the window removing the black screen.

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Classic game, glad to have the chance to play it.

My main complaint is the timewasting - auction timeouts ticking down when no-one has anything to sell, drawn-out summary screens, production taking 20 seconds... no wonder it takes an hour for a game.

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I agree there are areas of the game that could be tightened up, thereby reducing the overall duration of a game, and that would be a good thing. That was my only complaint as well.

Still, all things considered and as it is now, it's no where near painfully slow.

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Wow, after a few rounds with AI, I finally wins for the first time! But still, I kinda wish I can improve my score or skills a bit better, so any good tips or strategy for this game?

My plan usually involves getting my energy running first, and then go start the crystite industry. I also will try to grab some mountains for the first few rounds, although AIs are always faster than me when it comes to landgrab. :( I don't really worry about food: I get those from others AIs, and they're usually stupid enough to sell me at very low prize.

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I've downloaded the game on my Mac OS X 10.5.8, but it just bounces in the dock then quits. Any other people experiencing this?

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I loved this game so much! So great!! X3!!

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Virsteinn Author Profile Page March 7, 2010 1:28 AM

Mine crashes every time I try to play. The error: "MuleException, Failed to initialize LWJGL display". Anyone ever found a way to fix this?

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