Some kids want to be astronauts. Others stunt bike riders. Or perhaps pilots. Of course, there are those who grow up with an ardent desire to become bus drivers. Well, there must be. The allure of endless city centre traffic jams is, after all, a powerful one. As is the smell of a freshly clipped ticket, mixed with thick traffic fumes and the faint hint of urine from somewhere on the top deck.
A bus simulation might seem like an odd idea, but hey, if trains can be simulated then why not buses? It’s nothing if not original. And unfortunately, that’s the plain truth: the only positive thing we can say about Bus Simulator is that it’s original. By every other measuring stick, it’s truly dire.
The wheels on the bus are supposed to go round and round, but in Bus Simulator, the vehicles are more like bricks floating down the road. The graphics are terrible: other cars will turn in the road ahead and there’s no animation rendered for the actual turning part. They’ll be on one road and suddenly they’ll teleport ninety degrees around the corner.
As for the controls, naturally we were expecting a solid feel to them, given that this is a huge great bus being simulated. However, the developer has instead plumped for a rather skittish steering system. It’s over-sensitive and the bus sort of slides about on the road. The whole driving experience just feels horribly unrealistic. Touch a kerb and the bus bounces off it like a dodgem. It’s laughable.
The game itself involves travelling to a number of bus stops, obeying traffic lights and steering clear of other vehicles along the way. There’s a time schedule you have to adhere to and at every stop you get to open the doors and watch the people get on. Opening and closing the doors is, in all honesty, the most fun part of the game.
There are various routes to sample, with 34 missions in total and upgrades to bigger buses, plus a management aspect tacked on that allows you to run promotions and adverts on the side of your vehicle. These economic facets are superficial, however, and the interface is dotted with spelling mistakes (with one section still written in German, belying the game’s origins).
The final insult is that Bus Simulator doesn’t actually run very smoothly. Even on a decent mid-spec PC it’s mysteriously jerky at times. We wouldn’t dare mention the words steer and clear at this point, mainly because you don’t so much steer as slide around in your bus. So, erm, slide well clear of this one.