Generally, when I play simulation games, they are more casual than serious. Tycoon games with more emphasis on enjoyability than reality, like Rollercoaster Tycoon or Theme Hospital. Games where I don’t really need to pay too much attention to things, with the idea that they’ll tick over and complain when I need to look at them. I did, however, fancy a change. I’ve become a little bored with my games lately, so I wanted a challenge, and the challenge manifested itself in the form of Still Alive Studios’ Bus Simulator 2016.
First Class Bus Company
When it comes to buses, I don’t have the greatest role models where I live. Buses here are constantly late, manned by incompetent staff and like to take breaks whenever they’re at a stop, even when they have a full bus. So the notion that a bus company doesn’t have to run like this was quite a surprise to me. On my first trip round, I tried to short-change people, not stop at stops and even refuse to let some people on for no other reason than they looked too happy. The instructor who was sat with me didn’t particularly like this plan, and chastised me at every opportunity, but I thought this was what a bus drivers job was! After a few trips out though, I learned that this wasn’t the way of the bus driver. Buses are able to run on time, and allow everyone on board. I am allowed to give people the correct change as well. It’s this level of realism that really shocked me, but definitely was appealing. All jokes aside though, the game does have a load of options to make it a fairly realistic representation of running a small bus company. You’ve got to be aware of everything around you – cars, lights and pedestrians, and it really hits home how difficult it can be to run a good bus company.
Other than the decent level of realism, what struck me was how wonderful the town you’re servicing is. I wasn’t running it on the highest settings, but even then the game looked pretty great. Driving around each of the five city districts was a nice, relaxing experience, and taking in all the wonderful scenery is a lovely experience. Driving through tree-lined streets and dealing with (mostly) happy people was a true delight. Happy people, pretty town, what more could you want? Oh, well, I suppose there is one more thing. Acting like a complete lunatic while you drive around is also pretty fun. Doing things badly – like seriously badly – is also tremendous fun. Terrifying your passengers by driving into lamp posts, running people over and blasting through red lights is actually really fun. Seeing all the red messages pop up to tell you that you’re a terrible human being is genuinely funny, and one of the reasons I kept playing.
Occasionally, it drops to being like my local bus service
Bus Simulator 2016 isn’t perfect. There are a few tweaks that could make it from a good game to a better game, but nothing too offputting really. The bit that irked me most is actually a tiny little defect – the fact that everyone carries around notes. Yes, I know, it’s a very minor thing, but it gets a bit tiresome after a while. Seeing everyone ask for the same ticket, and presenting the same money, means that there’s very little mental maths to be done. You work it out once, then remember it because it’ll be the same for everyone. It just makes the interactions you have with people very dull, because you’re almost on auto-pilot during it.
Another small issue I found was right at the start, it is very overwhelming. The tutorial is decent, but if you miss a message, it’s difficult to find out what you need to do. Right at the start, I had to leave a man in a wheelchair behind, because I couldn’t figure out how to stand up. It did tell me, but it disappeared almost as fast as it appeared, so I had no clue what button to press. There are also a number of small things that you have to do in order to park up correctly, and while you do get used to it, at the start it is a bit full on.
The Final Word
A few small flaws doesn’t detract from the fun that could be had in Bus Simulator 2016. It couldn’t be used to properly train a bus driver, but it is fun to drive around and deliver people from where they want to go. Exploring the wonderful districts is also fantastic fun, and if you fancy going all Grand Theft Auto on it, that’s also pretty enjoyable! There’s plenty to do, a good number of buses to obtain to improve your fleet, and thousands of citizens to deliver. A decent game all around.