It’s too bad the moniker ”simulator” is associated with so many low quality titles. It seems as though a lot of “simulator” games are low effort, or made as a sort of joke. Bus Simulator is an earnest effort at making a simulator game, and while I can’t speak to the developer’s efforts, the results are extremely disappointing.
Now, I wasn’t the keenest on driving a lumbering mass transit vehicle around crowded streets. I have plenty of experience driving large vehicles in crowded public spaces, and I don’t envy the job of a city bus driver. But video games allow us to live—in short snippets—professions that would otherwise be unbearable for some. It’s too bad that Bus Driver Simulator doesn’t do much to make having to drive a bus any more bearable, and it ends up being a pretty miserable experience.
Bus Driver Simulator is an ugly game. It fails in art style and graphics. I suppose it’s appropriate that the buses are the best looking things in the game—but that isn’t saying too much. City streets are cluttered with low poly cars, and sidelined with ugly low poly people. The close-up views look like the generic towns you can crash into in Microsoft Flight Simulator—blocky and unpleasant once you get your face next to them. Or maybe they’re closer to PS2 era graphics. Either way—the game is ugly, and runs like garbage on the Nintendo Switch, the system I played it on.
You’re not just thrown into a bus to wander the streets—there are several different ways to play. There are scenarios that challenge you with specific tasks, and the career mode which is the meat of the game. In career mode, you drive and pick up passengers along a predesignated route. If you drive too fast, you’ll get ahead of schedule, and will have to physically wait for minutes until you get back on schedule otherwise you’ll be penalized. Drive down the wrong street? That’s not even possible– instead, it’ll say you’re driving off road as you drive into an invisible barrier. There is nothing open world about these cities, and you can’t even wander streets you’re not supposed to be on.
There are fifteen or so buses you can drive. Your first bus is free, but the rest you have to spend hard-earned money on. Buses are expensive, too, and would take a lot more time to earn than I’m willing to put into this game. But like I said before, the buses are surprisingly detailed. Each bus has different characteristics. They do feel slightly different to drive, especially when you choose a larger versus a smaller bus. When in the garage, you can even use your money to upgrade parts. You can also choose your route, though most of them seem to only go down streets parallel to the other routes. In other words: the options don’t change much.
The best part of Bus Driver Simulator is driving and operating the bus. Stopping at bus stops, opening the doors, and letting on passengers is strangely satisfying. The actual driving mechanics are decent, but the game runs poorly on the Switch, so it’s just overall a crummy experience. Bus Driver Simulator feels bargain bin worthy—which is too bad, because with extensive polish it might have been something fun.
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