Do you want to drive a bus and live the life of an up and coming Bus Company manager? The answer to that is probably yes, because well, who doesn’t? Well luckily for you, Bus Simulator has now been released. Bus Simulator has been developed by Still Alive Studios and published by Astrogen Entertainment. Oddly enough, it is only titled Bus Simulator in the stores, it is basically a console port of Bus Simulator 18 and not a brand new “definitive version” of Bus Simulator, so keep that in mind considering that you can pick the game up on Steam for 35$ rather than the 40$ it requires you to pay for this version on console.
So the game starts and you learn that the city of Seaside Valley has an almost nonexistent public transit system, that’s where you come in, it is time to get this city some buses so people can be transported. You start with one bus as you would expect and you’re put through the tutorial. Immediately I noticed than the controls are wonky. There are so many buttons to remember and I don’t think it fits a controller as well as it does a keyboard. You have to go into first person then look around and find the right button to press, it takes a bit to learn.
Half of the time when a customer gets on the bus you will have to give them their ticket, and this process takes an incredibly long time on a controller. You must pick what kind of ticket, how long, and then give them their change back. Maybe I just did this more slowly than most people, but I would often find myself getting prolonged and stuck at a stop longer than I needed to be because of this whole ticket system. However, once you learn where everything is and learn where it is mapped, it is “suitable” even if I don’t think it was optimized as well as it could’ve been for the controller.
The good thing about this however, is doing all your routes are very customizable, so if you don’t feel like doing tickets as I didn’t, since they take so much time, then you can simply turn them off. The other list of things you can change is the time of day and the weather, do the route in reverse, change the driving from realistic to a more simplified version, change if it is a loop or a round trip, or free roam. So thankfully you can customize many areas of driving the routes in the game.
Driving in the game itself is pretty great, along with the sound of the vehicles. Although it is a bus, so I would often turn and hit the corners, so just account for the fact that it is a bus. You have both rearview mirrors that work, which is pretty darn cool. However they’re a bit “choppy” and it’s like they’re 25 frames per second instead of 30, but have rearview mirrors is still the coolest thing. You also have to use your blinkers and follow the laws of traffic, which includes stopping at red lights, as it is a simulation game. You get rewards and penalties for not doing this, or hitting someone. At the end of every route it shows you a “5 Star Screen” and tells you what you did right and wrong and it will affect the score you get, so follow the laws of traffic to get higher ratings. The passengers will organically comment on things you’re doing, so if you get a ticket they might say “What was that flash?!”
The game has a very RPG-like leveling system, which I certainly didn’t expect. You do routes and gain money along with experience to level up. You also have missions like “Hire drivers” “Drive x amount of passengers”, and the more you complete this the more you level up, get more money, and unlock things such as customization options for your buses (colors, patterns and such) and also unlock more areas in the city to drive in The city is also pretty small, but the rate at which you unlock makes it feel bigger than it really is. The more you stop at a certain stop the more you can level up those individual stops so more passengers can board from there, so it rewards you for playing more and grinding the stops. You can even design your own routes and pick what stops you want on the route.
The game is also a bit tycoon like as well, as I mentioned earlier you can hire more drivers and assign them to bus routes to pick up passengers and make money simultaneously while you do it, which makes sense since you aspire to be this cities entire public transit system and that’s something a one-man company cannot accomplish. However, to make these drivers you hire drive, you have to purchase more buses for them. The sad part is that there are only eight buses in the game for you to choose from, and they are quite expensive. But you can earn lots of money by completing missions and hiring more people, and you can take loans if you spend more than you have. The game has a pretty good statistics menu which you’re able to see where are your money is going, and you can see what routes are the most profitable and which ones suck. So you can min-max that to earn a good amount of money.
The buses themselves are pretty customizable. You can change the colors, add patterns, add decals, skins, and even add advertisements to the buses to earn you more money. Since there are eight buses, they are each different from each other as well, as they will have different turn radiuses, different amounts of seats and doors, etc. And as I briefly mentioned before, you unlock more colors, decals, and skins and such as you level up so you can keep evolving your buses.
A few gripes I have with the game is that the graphics aren’t the best, they’re just okay and look somewhat last generation, the interiors are decorated nicely though, more so talking about the actual environment itself. They are what you would expect from a game of this budget. The game also does take a pretty long time to load, even on my Xbox One X. The gameplay loop, while fun can also feel very repetitive after a while and I wouldn’t recommend not playing it constantly because you will get bored.