We’re all about hard hitting, high octane video games here at TheSixthAxis. Pulse pounders, heart stoppers, ground breakers. That’s why we immediately leapt at the chance to review Bus Simulator the moment it appeared on consoles.
Jokes aside, simulation games are a fascinating breed of game and they’re pretty damn popular too, especially when it comes to flight, train, and farming sims, the latter having recently spawned its very own esports league.
The best simulators need to pull off a very delicate balancing act by creating a fun, rewarding loop through typically mundane and time intensive busywork. Developer Astragon Entertainment manages to walk this line with a stereotypical German efficiency. Bus Simulator’s minute to minute gameplay is about as far from exciting as you could possibly imagine, yet players may find themselves helplessly engrossed all the same.
This isn’t the studio’s first poke at the genre, nor is this the first game in the Bus Simulator series. This new console version is a port of Bus Simulator 18 – pretty much identical in terms of content, it’s been adapted for those wannabe PlayStation and Xbox bus drivers using a gamepad.
Building a public transport empire is your main goal here, starting with a single bus. The first hour or so will be spent behind the wheel, learning the ins and outs as you complete several routes and start to save some cash.
From there you’ll expand by hiring other drivers, buying additional buses, and unlocking routes that go beyond your small starting area. It’s a simple progression arc to follow and you’re free to go at your own pace, a series of objectives acting as a helpful handrail that continues to refresh as you go from one milestone to the next.
Unlike games such as SimCity or Transport Tycoon, you’ll need to actually do the boots on the ground busywork yourself. It’s dull and time consuming, but the prospect of earning money and experience points can be enticing enough for you to get your head down.
Obeying traffic laws, avoiding collisions, and completing routes in a timely fashion will boost your rewards. Bus Simulator will also keep track of your form in other ways, such as monitoring your use of indicators, noting speed violations, and if you keep your passengers satisfied. It’s far from a thrill ride yet there’s an unmistakable satisfaction in ticking all the boxes and finishing the day with a perfect five star rating.
Bus Simulator feels pretty natural when playing with a gamepad, too. Driving controls are easy to grasp and you’ll quickly learn which buttons are used to perform actions like opening doors, toggling the speed limiter, and engaging the parking brake. At each stop you’ll also transition into first person to operate the ticket machine, occasionally leaving your driver’s seat to deal with small tasks like cleaning litter, checking valid bus passes, or returning lost items to passengers. These gameplay segments are tiny and infrequent, yet they help break up the constant hauling of humans between checkpoints.
Bus Simulator boasts a broad landmass you eventually get to explore and pepper with your own custom routes. Although impressive in size and without loading times between areas, it’s not exactly bursting with beauty spots.