Bus Simulator 16

There seems to be a sim game for pretty much everything these days: American Truck Simulator, Goat Simulator, Farming Simulator, Job Simulator, and now… Bus Simulator. Can Bus Simulator 2016, the debut sim from StayAlive Games, really stand out in a genre that’s already bursting at the seams with content?

Sim games, although they offer serious simulation gameplay, there’s a particular level of novelty attached to some of the titles, so much so that we’ve seen the likes of Surgeon Simulator successfully parody the genre. And while some of us play these games ironically, there are those out there who do want a cutting-edge sim to experience the trade they are looking for.

I’ll admit it. I actually accepted the task of reviewing Bus Simulator 2016 just so I could say, “I reviewed Bus Simulator 2016.” I honestly didn’t expect too much from the game other than to drive around a city, picking up people and dropping them off. I figured it wasn’t actually going to resemble any real life experience on a bus other than that of the most perfect suburb in the USA. And for the most part, this was accurate. But underneath the chuckle-inducing theme of Bus Simulator, there is actually a pretty deep management sim.

So, let’s just get right into the meat of it all. Bus Simulator 2016 puts you in control of your very own bus company. As you begin with a number of tutorial missions, you are introduced to the many mechanics of the game from learning to drive, kneel, signal dispensing tickets, to the more finer details of managing a growing bus company, like creating new routes, assigning drivers, and much more.

At first, I was a little careless. I immersed myself into the game expecting to have things handed to me on a platter, but that’s not the way it went as I arrived at my very first stop and I didn’t even know how to open the doors. Talk about egg on your face. So I reset.

Bus Simulator is a downright simulation game, and it doesn’t hold your hand either. Upon stepping onto your first bus, you’re required to learn what the multitude of buttons are for, preferably by memory as it’ll help you to keep your route schedule. Fortunately, a simple right click of the trusty mouse allows you to freely examine the buttons, with a brief explanation of the function as you hover over each one.

Upon your first foray into the world of bus driving, you’re required to learn the basics, including how to operate the doors. As you progress, things a little more tricky, such as doling out tickets and handling cash. There’s also the occasional maintenance issue where doors get jammed, which you have to actually un-jam by hand. Luckily, if you can nail these basics, it’s pretty smooth sailing.

Once you’ve completed the first few missions, the true sim begins. By this point you’ve purchased you company, and it’s now up to you to make things happen. You need to build your routes, purchase buses, and create your own business plan, including advertisements and other things for your fleet. All which earns you cash each time you complete a route.

As for the game itself, it plays pretty well. It’s relatively responsive to controls, and once you’ve got a handle on all the key bindings, you can be well on your way to being bus driver of the year. However, as with every public facing job, and to my surprise, you do have to deal with really a-holes. And boy is Bus Simulator 2016 full of them. StayAlive did a good job at including an assortment of clowns in the game, including miserable old people and drunks. There’s also a ton of people who are incredibly dishonest when it comes to getting the wrong change. So you better hope your math skills are up to par.

Visually, Bus Simulator 2016 is pretty basic. While it serves all of the fundamentals needed for a sim game, it’s not the most appealing visually. I also experienced some pretty serious performance issues, even on a fairly beefy system; something which you can see mirrored in the Steam reviews. This is a pretty hard blow to my final rating of this game.

Probably the most frustrating aspect of Bus Simulator 2016 is the navigation system. Rather than offering some sort of compass-based system displaying the direction you are traveling in, the game offers a static map in which an arrow moves around. I often found this slightly disorienting and took many a wrong turn.

Overall, Bus Simulator 2016 is a robust and deep simulation game. This bustling city you operate in is somewhat conscious, though at times there are some real faults (side note: pedestrians, at times, stand too close to the road and corners and hitting one cancels your current route with a huge loss). The traffic seems to be pretty responsive as well, which is great. Getting a handle on the basics is pretty easy, making Bus Simulator pretty accessible to those put off by more intense, and in-depth, sim games.

3 stars out of 5