Load up those passengers and take them to their destinations in the PC hit, Bus Simulator from stillalive Studios. You’ll take the role as a bus company owner starting from scratch and working to being the number one transportation company in the area. You’ll transport all sorts of passengers across a vast city map with varying road surfaces and hazards abroad. Do you have what it takes to run a successful bus company? Well, read on and see if this is your opportunity to find out.
Bus Simulator is a pure simulation that will enlist you with various tasks from buying vehicles, hiring employees, setting up new routes and trying to get complete coverage across the region of Seaside Valley. You’ll have various styles of bus models to choose from and more will unlock as you progress in levels. Hiring good help is always a must and you’ll have to manage your drivers and assign them to routes. But you’ll also be driving the routes yourself completing tasks set up by an advisor and city government officials.
Visually, the game is simple yet effective. It’s not going to blow your socks off with any sort of realistic panoramas but it will be enough to satisfy even the pickiest of people these days. The vehicles you are driving are modeled perfectly from what I can tell and you’ll even be able to customize them with colors, logos, and even ads. All of which you will unlock as you progress through your career. They are licensed models as well from makers like Mercedes-Benz, Sentra, MAN and IVECO BUS. I definitely thought the variety of buses was a bonus and they each drive differently due to their size and type.
I have to give a huge thumbs up to the game in the audio department. I love listening to the NPC chatter of passengers talking amongst themselves or even talking to themselves. You’ll learn all sorts of things about these people living in this city and some things you might just not want to know. I had to chuckle when someone actually was asking what that smell was on the bus and I think I heard someone else say “It wasn’t me” or something to that effect. The stop announcements as well as the general engine running and the little bells and whistles seem to fit in perfectly with what you would expect.
The game basically starts you out with one bus and a few stops to create a route which generates revenue. As you complete runs, you’ll earn more money, generate more buzz and unlock new areas and stops. Running routes is fairly straight forward. You have to make sur to obey traffic laws, avoid hazards, don’t run over pedestrians (they cost a lot of money), use your turning signals, make the stops on time, etc. As people get on the bus you have to sell tickets, and at times you should go back through the bus and look for fare dodgers. Oh, you’ll find those sneaky little crooks. Pick up trash, tell people to turn music down, inform people to stop blocking the door and more. Yeah, the life of a bus driver isn’t just stopping, opening and closing the doors and driving. It’s so much more.
Completing all of the driver tasks is pretty straight forward with the controller. Left d-pad brings up a radials menu that gives you pretty much everything you need to operate the bus and do your job. But there are also a lot of things tied to the buttons such as turn signals, opening the doors, honking the horn, etc. Things like lowering the handicap ramp must be done through the radial wheel though. It will take some getting used to at first, but after a bit you’ll be operating your bus with ease. I did notice that an update must have made the change buttons on your fare machine a little brighter as now I can see which button is highlighted a bit better. Oh yeah, you better rush up on your math skills because you will have to give change to customers buying tickets at times.
The main UI for the game is a bit clunky in my opinion. Again, it takes a while to figure out how to navigate around the menu whether it’s pushing the B button or using the right and left stick or when to use the bumpers. I made quite a few mistakes like accidentally creating routes, firing drivers, etc. before I really got a knack for the controls. It also isn’t very clear as to what exactly you are supposed to always be doing even though there is a task list which can be brought up by clicking the thumbstick. Honestly, I really think the navigation could be a bit more cut and dry than it is to make things just a bit more accessible. It works, but it definitely could be better.
Now before I go any further, the game has had a bit of a rocky start and this review is actually being posted written later than I had anticipated due to the game needing some massive updates. Prior to launch the game ran great. Sure, I ran into a few bugs like hidden obstacles blocking my doors or complete game crashes but they were few and far between. Once the game went live though to the world it seems these issues became more and more abundant making the game almost unplayable for some. Well, here we are with a few updates released to fix server issues as well as some internal game issues causing these anomalies. Today, as I was finishing up this review while playing the game things seem to be running so much smoother although the online still seems to be a bit clunky. My daughter and I started an online company and she kept crashing out of the game unfortunately. So, there is still work to be done. I do love the fact that you can have up to 3 of your friends help you out as drivers and running your company with you. It really makes for a lot of fun. But it’s got to work to be fun. So, stay tuned as the developers say they are working on the issues. Some folks will be turned off by the issues and quirky things that happen in the game, but I think all of this can be fixed and made better with a few updates. The game is not going to blow your socks off, but you should still give it a look.
Overall, the game is a lot of fun and I always enjoy myself when playing it. The interest I’ve seen while streaming the game has been truly enormous and a lot more than I expected. It’s a good laid-back game to play and relax while trying to build your bus line empire. I have always enjoyed games that task you with building a company and this reminds me a lot of an old game called Aerobiz where you had to start and airline company, create flights, hubs and more. If you like that sort of thing then you will absolutely love this game. Again, it’s truly sim and while not perfect in any way it does still deliver a solid experience. I can’t wait to see where this franchise goes from here. You may have to brush up on some European driving laws though is you are in North America because I really never knew who had a right-of-way and who didn’t. Drivers just seemed to do what they want sometimes so I used that horn plenty. Which made it all the more fun.
Score: 77 out of 100
** A copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes