Bus Simulator recently arrived on consoles much to the delight of fans that enjoy the “Simulator” titles. I was excited to try it out and see what it had to offer as I have a bit of experience with these types of games. Unfortunately, as it stands right now, Bus Simulator is a mixed bag. It has some great gameplay ideas and it does a great job of putting you in the role of a bus driver that needs to make sure people get to their destination in a timely manner, but there are some technical hiccups and design decisions that really hold this back from being a great title.
In Bus Simulator you are in charge of building up your public transport empire. As far as you are concerned this means building up your bus empire, however, once you get to a specific part in the campaign you start seeing trains becoming more active as well (although you have no control over them). You start in a small section of the overall map as you go through the tutorial and come to grips with what it is like to be a bus driver. You drive your bus from stop to stop to try and get your passengers to their destination in a timely manner. If you want to get the highest possible rating (and make the most money) on your route you are going to have to obey the traffic laws as much as possible. After all, this is a game that is simulating the role of a bus driver, not Grand Theft Auto V. This includes signaling when you are about to turn, stopping for a red light, helping a handicapped customer by extending the ramp so his wheelchair can get on the bus, and more. These types of things aren’t an absolute requirement to do, however, if you run a red light or collide into a car or even leave passengers behind by leaving a bus station too early, you will get penalized. If you do enough things wrong you will wind up losing money on that route and potentially not passing the current mission that you are on.
The gameplay for Bus Simulator can be a lot of fun, for those who enjoy these types of titles. It is unfortunate that the rest of the title isn’t really up to par and prevents the overall game from reaching its potential. For starters, the game is overly obtuse. There are instances where it is far too confusing to figure out what you need to do next. If they make another Bus Simulator title it is my hope that things are written out in a more concise manner and you are told exactly what must be done and the requirements that must be met. Additionally, pick colors that complement what is going on. What I mean by that is that in this game all of the bus stops level up. The more you drop off and/or pick up passengers at Bus Stop A, the more it levels up. The level of the bus stop is located to the left of the name. This is all well and good but the colors they choose to represent this are horrible. The background is a light blue and as you progress you see a dark blue “meter” going up to until it is at the top and you are leveled up. The problem is that when the black number is covered by this dark blue, it is really hard to see unless you sit really close to the television. If you can’t determine what level your bus stop is, then that introduces a number of different problems, especially if you need a particular stop to be a particular number.
The design of the UI isn’t terrible but it isn’t great either. More than that though is the functionality and how glitchy everything is. When I am on my route management screen (a screen you will spend a good amount of time on) the buttons don’t always work the way they should. You need to press in the left analog stick to bring up your mission objectives. The problem is that doesn’t always work. So I’m left having to keep pressing it until it comes up. Sometimes I have to press the “Y” button to edit my route. Then once I exit that all of a sudden the toggle mission objective window is working like it should. This is a decent workaround but there is no rhyme or reason why this is so glitchy and there shouldn’t have to be a workaround for the game to work properly. When I am trying to edit my route it can be hard to do because they picked the wrong color for the cursor and it can blend into the map at times, making it hard to find. Worse than that there have been times where I could barely move the cursor at all. I would be pushing left on my analog stick to try and move it and it wouldn’t budge. It is very frustrating when all you want to do is add or drop locations on your route and the game fights you trying to do that. Then, of course, there is the name for every bus stop. The issue here is that some of the bus stops are so close together that you might be on Bus Stop B but the name for Bus Stop A is the one showing and you can’t get it to disappear so that you can pick Bus Stop B. Even if I try to zoom in to try and put some distance between these stops on the map, it takes a few moments for the map to recalibrate itself and put all of the stops in the correct locations on the map. All of it is simply baffling and adds to the frustration level of this portion of the game.
There are times when it seems like the missions themselves might be glitched as well. As I got to the later stages of the game there were some missions with very specific requirements. I would go through these missions and meet the requirements but then the blue box (signifying I completed a route correctly) wouldn’t appear. So then I’m left to wonder what I did wrong and how I can fix it before attempting the route again.
If you want to play with some friends and build an empire together you can do so with the multiplayer in Bus Simulator. There is four-player online cooperative bus driving that should be a lot of fun for a group of friends to play while they are kicking back and taking in the sights. The problem that I was having is that I kept getting booted off of the server when trying to do this. I tried for a while because I really wanted to try it out but it just wouldn’t happen. I’m sure there will probably be a patch to address but for the purposes of this review, I wasn’t able to try it out.
Up above I mentioned that you are trying to build up your empire. This includes hiring employees and buying new buses as the need arises. You will need to pick which drivers to hire and then create routes for them. Once the route is created you can assign a driver to a bus and they will be almost good to go. It seems like you have to drive the route you created first and then after that your other employees can do it as well. There were many times where while I was on my route I would come across one of my other buses across the street picking up passengers or I might even pull up behind one of my buses if we shared a bus stop on our respective route. In that case I would wait for them to get everything squared away and then once that bus departed I pulled mine into that same stop and picked up (or dropped off) the passengers that needed to be on my route. There is a certain level of satisfaction that I would receive by doing everything cleanly and having my route go off without a hitch. That doesn’t always happen as there are annoying potholes everywhere, traffic lights you might not see until it is too late (especially if you are in a new area that just opened up), pedestrians crossing traffic when they should, and much more. Still though, those environmental challenges to add to the satisfaction factor if you can successfully avoid all of them and drop your passengers off at their destination without any issues.
As you are driving these routes there are a number of different options to tailor the game to how you like it. You can choose the time of day it is, as well as what bus from your fleet you will use. You can choose if you want to drive just a standard route or if you want or if you want to drive in a loop, or perhaps do a round trip so you finish right where you started. You can select whether you want a quick start which will place your bus right by your first stop or do it the way real bus drivers do and go to your bus, get everything ready to start up, and then be on your way. You can select the traffic density, how your customers behave, and more. If you want the full experience you’ll have to leave everything on but that means that customers will sometimes leave trash for you to pick up and other times a customer might leave something behind which you will have to grab off the bus and chase them down to give them back their item. You will also have customers coming on the bus to buy tickets. You’ll have to print up their tickets and them their change and then they’ll take their seat. If you have no interest in doing that, you can turn off the cashier option as well and that part will just be automatic.
Bus Simulator is a mixed bag. The core gameplay can be a lot of fun if you enjoy these simulator titles. Driving from stop to stop, engaging your customers as you print them a ticket and make change, seeing the sights of the city and surrounding countryside, and trying to meet all of your requirements and do that perfect route. Unfortunately, everything else about the game is a complete mess. The gameplay is probably the most important thing here which is why this fairly low score is as high as it is. It is frustrating because if the other half of the game worked like it was supposed to, this would be an easy recommendation to people. As it stands right now, you will probably still enjoy yourself if you a fan of these types of games. You might want to wait a little bit though until some more patches are released or you can get it at a reduced price.
Originally posted on Gaming Target