Bus Simulator is ugly, its menus are confusing to navigate and the buses handle like, well buses. It has absolutely no right to be good but somehow it has captivated my attention for many hours over the last few days and I find myself really wanting to give my passengers the perfect experience. I looked into whether or not there was a special name for people who are into buses, e.g. like bird watchers are known as twitchers, and it seems that I am a ‘bus enthusiast’, who knew!?
As the name suggests, Bus Simulator is a game all about running a bus company and more importantly driving the buses themselves. You start off with just one modestly-sized bus but as you progress you earn money and as you level up you can unlock more buses to buy and ways of decorating them. You start off with one pre-made bus route as you learn the ropes but pretty quickly you’ll be able to plan your own routes and assign new buses and drivers to them.
View the Bus Simulator launch trailer below:
There are lots of options regarding the level of simulation giving you the choice of making it as realistic as possible. For example, you can choose to manually issue tickets or automate the process, you can have your drive start at the first stop or drive the bus from the garage plus you can also simplify some of the driving aspects. I tried the game on various settings and found that some of the more realistic options got in the way of the experience for me, I found it hard to have fun issuing tickets and chasing down customers who had left something on my bus although these events did add a bit of variety. The point here is you can turn these options on or off before each journey so if you want to mix things up you can.
Graphically, the city looks pretty average, clearly, the detail of the buses is where the development time has been spent, the scenery isn’t awful but it’s not great either. The buses that I’ve unlocked all feel different from each other and all handle differently. As you progress you can unlock bigger and bigger buses making them much harder to manoeuvre around the roads.
The driving of the buses is where the fun is at in Bus Simulator and it’s here that the game shines although the NPC traffic doesn’t always seem to follow the rules of the road making some aspects a bit unpredictable. You are judged on the smoothness of the journey. If you mount the pavement you get a penalty, if you speed you get a penalty plus a fine and if you happen to run someone over (this will 100% happen!) then you will pay a massive fine but worryingly you can still get behind the wheel of a bus! After each journey, you get a score and I became somewhat obsessed with trying to get the perfect score.
In terms of pacing the game is rather slow. I’ve managed to get level 10 so far and was hoping that by now I’d have opened up more of the map which appears to cover a large area and different environments but I am still restricted to the starting area. I might be missing something in the menus as they are hell to navigate, but from what I can see there is currently no way to open up these new areas, I can only presume that as I continue to progress these areas will become available.
You can check out my first experience with Bus Simulator in the video below:
For those of you who just want to race around the town in a bus causing mayhem, you can do that too. There is a free roam mode where you can choose any bus from your garage and blast around the streets without consequence. Sadly there’s no damage model so crashing has zero consequence at all but it can be fun to simply mess around. Some of the hints on the loading screen also hint that there are secrets to discover in the game and free roam seems like the place to find them.
To sum up, I should have hated Bus Simulator. It’s slow, tedious at times and it’s far from the prettiest game out there. Yet, despite all of this I find myself wanting to play it. The developers have clearly focused on what makes the game great, the detail of the buses, how they drive and delivering a great customer experience. This certainly won’t be for everyone but if you do try it I think you’ll be surprised at just how addictive it can be.
Bus Simulator will be released on Xbox One and PS4 on 17th September 2019.
Bus Simulator was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: Astragon Entertainment Developer: StillAlive Studios Release Date: 17th September 2019 Reviewed On: Xbox One Also Available On: PS4