Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Midweek Music Box: M.U.L.E for Atari 800

This beast takes the idea of "cobbled together" to a whole new level.

Four little words ruled your game.  Gave you hope.  Gave you frustration.  Gave you a headache dragging it across screen hoping it wouldn't run away as you planted it:  The Multiple Use Labor Element or M.U.L.E. for was your key to mining, farming, and harvesting on the distant planet of Irata.

Yes, it's time to go back in time before the days of Nintendo, at time when a group of programmers decided to set out and give programmers like themselves the recognition they were due in the world of video games.  Decades have passed since, and before E.A. became the sometime villain that they are today, they were creating video game perfection.  (Yep, E.A. used to make things that weren't broken from the get go.)  

A particular part of the perfection?  The soundtrack of course!  Well, the intro music really.  I mean, the game wasn't particularly heavy on music.  In fact, I think the only music came in the form of the music that played as the eponymous M.U.L.E. plodded across the screen.  But by golly was it a memorable little melody.  Nice crescendos, a rhythm that matches the slow march of the M.U.L.E., and a tune that you can whistle with ease.  Not that "whistle-bility" is the bar by which we should judge video game music, but it certainly helps the song to stick with you days (or in this case years) later.

My family and I would play this together on the weekends. Most times I was just on someone's lap or sitting to the side as I was about 5 or 6 at the time, but those times I did play I was so confused by the mechanics of the game that I would basically just enjoy the intro music and that was it.  Funny thing though, it was worth it to me for just that little loop.  I remember there were times when we delayed starting the game just so I could hear the full loop.  Sure the planet Irata needed to be colonized and farmed and such, but I had a great tune to listen to:

No, it isn't that long of a track, and I realize that most people won't download this for writing, cleaning, or even background noise, but this song has style.  It has the feel of an Atari game, but one that's pushing the system for all it's worth to pump out the sounds you are hearing.  Regularly noted on top ten lists for it's unique gameplay, the game deserve note for its notes--so to speak--as well.  I whistle the theme or hear it on my Dad's phone--yup, that's one of his ring tones--and I'm taken back to the days of album cover-like video game disk holders and boot times.  Listen to this loop a few times and you'll probably be whistling days later and wonder why it's still there, stuck in your head.

*The days of the game on Atari may be gone, but some where, the planet Irata lives on.  If you want a charming soundtrack that plods along but has a nice melody, give a listen to the original version on Atari.

*I found a M.U.L.E. tribute and memory site set up by one of the original programmer's kids.  The long and short of it?  M.U.L.E. shirts!

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