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Bus Simulator Review – Harsh But Fare

Today’s gamers seem to be spoilt for choice when it comes to simulator titles. You have the hardcore ones for the driving fans of course, they have been around for decades, but more recently there has been a surge in more off the wall, or unexpected simulators.

Goat Simulator, PC Building simulator are a couple of the odder games. Now we have Bus Simulator to add to the collection of games you’d never thought you would want to play.

So, Bus Simulator then. I mean it does exactly what it says.  This public transport sim from StillAlive studios allows you to experience the highs and lows of being a bus driver. Drive around a fictional European city, collecting passengers, taking fares, operating pretty much every aspect of the bus, rinse and repeat until you win at bus driving.

Bus Simulator_20190914214424

Ok that’s a little simplistic as there is much more to this game than that, and there is actually a story to help push things forward. For some reason the mayor of this pristine Euro-city has cancelled all public transport and so as a new start up it’s up to you to create a new transportation system, namely bus routes around the city and help expand the business so you eventually have a fully operational transport system up and running. After the lengthy tutorial you’ll find yourself at the helm of an officially licensed bus, the Mercedes-Benz Citaro K which, credit to the developers have made it out to sound like a brand-new super car.

Once you are in your bus you you can’t just drive off and start picking up fares, have to do everything properly. Things like turn on exterior and interior lights, power up the ticket machine, close the doors release handbrake, turn ignition and a whole bunch of other stuff. With such attention to detail given to the operation of the bus, its definitely best to use the first-person view mode. There is a third person view too but that seems to take you away from the ‘action’. Once you have your bus up and running it’s off to pick up some passengers.

This is the main crux of the game of course but it’s not as easy as it sounds. When driving around town you have to follow the laws of the road, that means adhere to traffic lights and signal when turning. You also have to protect you bus from fender benders and avoid curbs else you’ll face a financial penalty. Once you see a bus stop, it’s time to indicate, pull over, open the doors and let the passengers on, all of which have different needs. Here you must operate the fiddly ticket machine and make sure you issue the right ticket and the correct change to the right person. Then, close the doors, indicate to pull out and it’s on to the next stop. All of this is done to an ever-decreasing time limit just to add to the tension. Although it sounds dull on paper, when you are driving around in your bus it’s quite the cathartic experience, but the busier you get the more tense it gets and ultimately is what lets the game down slightly.

To mix things up a bit and keep things interesting there are even more challenges for you to overcome, disabled passengers will need a ramp raised and lowered, you will need to tell some passengers to turn music down and even at the end of the route, you have to clean up the litter left behind. All of these tasks can be customised in the menus so you can tailor the game to your liking. Thankfully this counts to the ticketing system, which is arguably the worst part of the game. The awkward operation of the machine and the endless line of passengers all wanting different things which really starts to grate after a while.

The idea of the game as you can guess is to make enough money so you can recruit more drivers and buy more officially licensed buses. The drivers you recruit, will go about their business on routes that you assign them and will earn a percentage of your best performance which encourages get a perfect run on your own routes. A Nice touch is seeing your fellow drivers on the road, even though you have no control over them. It’s good to see them hard at work.

The concept of the game is one that’s quite grand in scale, you have this open world city at your disposal and within this city it’s up to you and your company to design bus routes. In my time with the game there didn’t seem to be much in the way of rules for the routes you design, it all seemed a bit haphazard. What could be one of the more interesting aspects of the game is let down somewhat thanks to some shocking menus and user interface. They are so clumsy and awkward and at times make no sense. But once you get to grips with them. Riding a bus route, you’ve just designed brings with it a sense of pride. The issue with the user interface isn’t reserved for the main menus though. The in-game menus and bus controls are just as fiddly too. This can become problematic when time is pressing and you need to carry out some of the extra tasks, or please the needs of the passengers. Nothing worse than a clock ticking down and having to pull up a radial menu and try to decipher what each of the icons mean. Something as simple as ignition took a lot longer than it should to find.

Graphically it’s not great either looking like a PS3 title. Which is surprising conceding that it’s made with Unreal Engine. The animation of the on-foot sections is clumsy and the characters look ugly, but the stars of the show, the buses all look tip top and shiny. The only other thing that lets the game down is the simple nature of the beast. Repetition. I mean driving a bus is driving a bus, and as mentioned earlier, it’s actually quite an enjoyable calming experience. But after a few routes down you get a little bored of the grind. But to be honest, Bus Simulator is a lot more fun that it has any right to be. I never thought I would enjoy my time with Bus Simulator, when offered the game to review I kind took it as a joke but was pleasantly surprised but what I found. I guess you could describe this game as a calm and sedate Crazy Taxi. If Crazy Taxi is Fast and Furious, Bus simulator is Driving Miss Daisy to give it some film analogy.

Clearly this type of game is targeted at a certain type of gamer, it’s definitely not for the main stream, perhaps a VR mode would have helped that, a strange omission to be fair but don’t be put off giving Bus Simulator a go if you fancy something completely different to what you’re used to. 

Bus Simulator is available on PS4 (reviewed) Xbox One and PC

Developer: Stillalive Studios
Publisher: Astragon

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.

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