You know when you get bored of breaking the law in games, so you decide to follow the laws for a bit? Well now you have a whole game that you can do that in. Bring on Bus Simulator developed by Still Alive Studios and published by Astragon Entertainment. This game joins the ever growing list of simulator games out there.
You take on the role of building a public transport network in a made up city of 12 districts that for some reason got rid of all their buses but kept all their bus stops. This starts with a simple bus drive on a test route and builds up to something a lot bigger. There is a slight story in there to follow back up by tasks to complete such as connecting certain bus stops and assigning drivers to them. As you complete these tasks more city officials get on board with public transport and open up their district to you.
You will spend most of your time behind the wheel of the licensed buses in this game. Now this is a simulator, so there is more to do then just drive. You need to indicate in and out of your bus stop, open the doors for customers, drop the accessible ramp and sell tickets for starters. This is before you deal with the cars parked in bus stops, people blocking doors and rubbish being left on seats.
Here is a little spoiler, driving buses isn’t as easy as you would think. You don’t have to worry about a turning circle in a sports car, but trying to swing one of these buses round a corner can cause issues. Add in the cost of damaging a bus, and you really don’t want to be hitting too many curbs.
However, the driving experience is well put together. First person view while in the drivers seat feels great, you really get an idea of what it takes to swing a bus wide round a bend to make it. Switching out to third person view helps if you want to have a better idea of where all the bus is. Once you get used to your starter bus, it will all change when you start to buy bigger buses making manoeuvres more challenging.
Luckily enough, the game has plenty of short cuts to make managing a bus journey easier and feel more interactive. Square to open the doors, right on the D-Pad to access the ticket machine and L1/R1 for your indicators are just an example of some. Get used to these and you really do get into a relaxed flow of being a bus driver.
Now driving the bus isn’t your only responsibility in this game. You are actually running this public transport empire and need to ensure it grows and remains profitable, bankruptcy is always a risk. This is where the game jumps more into a management mode then a driving simulator, but it is also where a lot of the content is.
You need to design routes to ensure bus stops are connected and get the service they need and hire new drivers based off some very amusing bios. Not sure if these have any impact on them as a driver, but I stayed away from the ‘rally guy’. Then you need to buy new buses for these drivers and assign them all to routes, each of the routes then starts to generate money for you to help you expand.
What is interesting though is the routes make money based off your best run on that route, so it motivates you to go out there and perform well. You want to get that perfect stopping position at a bus stop, make it to each stop within the time limit and ensure you are a careful driver. Once you get that 5 star rating and a good income on that route then it is time to move on to the next.
You will be happy to know that yes, there is customisation in the game so you can brighten up your buses, I went with a nice purple. There is a reason to do this as well, you can actually see your buses out on their routes. I thought that was a nice touch, so you know your drivers are working hard to bring you some cash in.
I never got a chance to experience multiplayer, but it is in there. From what I can tell, you will be able to have friends drive your routes to earn cash for you or be a ticket inspector to stop any fare dodgers on the bus.
The only real negative I had with this game is how the graphics looked at times. I was playing on a PS4 Pro, but the Unreal engine just never really gave me what I wanted. The world looks good but never really went past that. The people in the game have little variation between them and just looked scary at times. Cars always looked like they were still loading into the game and once again limited variation. The rain and the driving cabs were probably the highlight of the graphics on display, which is a shame as a slow paced game like this should look fantastic.
Let’s be honest, this game will not be for everyone. However, I found genuine enjoyment from Bus Simulator. It is slow paced, but full of activities to keep you busy. Managing your routes, completing tasks and expanding your garage and drivers was easy and fun. This game does exactly what it says on the cover, it offers you the experience of being a bus driver so jump into the game ready to be the best bus driver you can be.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*