REVIEW: Bus Driver Simulator

REVIEW: Bus Driver Simulator

Simulators are an odd concept, huh? We pay a premium fee to play a game that emulates the experience of working in a mundane job. Or at least, they intend to emulate the experience, that is if they’re not a shameless cash grab. That being said, I’ve put my fair share of time into a few simulators in the past such as Euro Truck Simulator 2, American Truck Simulator, Train Simulator and Train Sim World to name a few. At this point, I feel I’m more than qualified to review a simulator now. The first on the chopping block: Bus Driver Simulator for the Nintendo Switch from developers, KishMish Games.

So, what is Bus Driver Simulator? It’s a simulator wherein you drive a bus. That’s, uh, it, which is par for the course with a simulator. The developers should be aiming to emulate driving a bus as best they can instead of diluting the experience with other mechanics. So, the big question when addressing the gameplay is: Does it do it well? Well, at its absolute core, yes. But that doesn’t save this simulator.

Bus Driver Simulator’s first impressions are awful. The menus are incredibly basic and ugly looking, with stereotypical cut-rate simulator background music. If you know much about rubbish simulators, you know this immediate greeting is enough to send you running for the hills, or persist to see how hilariously bad the experience will be. From the main menu, I decided to give the tutorial a go, at which point I was directed through the very basic controls in broken English contained within the world’s biggest text bubbles.

To top it all off, the game looks atrocious. It’s honestly quite hard to describe how bad the graphics are. I’d be doing it a disservice to say it looks like a game from the late 90s, but I can’t in good conscious say it looks like a game from the 2000s/2010s. It’s somewhere in between. Like an optical illusion manages to be both retro and current, but also neither. The graphics make me feel like I can smell this game. And it smells like damp office carpets in a 1970s council building or a tired library. There’s an immense amount of pop in with whole buildings popping into view 100 yards from the nose of the bus.

Bus Driver Simulator on Road

And the sound design. Oh, sweet merciful cripes, the sound design. The tutorial instructed me to start the engine by pulling up an action selection screen by using one of the face buttons, then hold A to start the engine. Once the engine started, well, it sounded like someone had recorded the sound of a bus engine, compressed it down as far as they could and then ran over the USB drive containing the audio file with said bus. The same could be said with the horn sound effect. It sounded more like a cat being drop-kicked over my back fence than an actual bus horn.

Once through the tutorial, I elected to dive headfirst into the Career mode. I started out with an amount of non-descript currency to buy a bus. Then I could select two locales to begin my bus driving escapades: Cologne, Germany or Serpukhov, Russia. I chose Cologne and the only bus I could afford and was oh, so very excited to begin. But I could not find the button to actually start the game!

I could look at the stats of the bus and change environmental conditions but that was it. I tried going back to see if I selected the wrong option. Alas, no. “Ah maybe, I have to start in Russia and I’ll unlock Germany”, I thought to myself, thinking I’d cracked the case. I selected the Russian location, chose my bus and I was faced with the same screen! Turns out, in the bottom right there is a small prompt to hold ZR for a couple of seconds of all things to begin. Well, excuse me, Mr Bus Driver Simulator for not seeing that unintuitive prompt.

Bus Driver Simulator Windscreen View

After navigating the absolute farce that is the menu, I was finally rewarded with the game itself. As said, it looks atrocious, really atrocious. The game also does not run very well despite the downgraded graphics from the PC version. Often the framerate chugs more often than that aunt at the wedding open bar. The low-resolution textures cause the entire game to look as though there is a layer of translucent cling film wrapped over everything.

Surely, the Switch should be able to run this pile of a game with such poor visuals. But, alas, it does not, which I will chalk up to poor optimisation on the developer’s part. From the off, the game did provide some unintended hilarity in the form of the NPC animations. Most looking like they were carrying a sizeable load in their britches and trying to hide it. Or carrying that same load, only strutting their stuff so that everyone knows it. Often these animations would lead the NPC’s to clip through each other and even the bus when getting on board. I’d say this was the only aspect which brought me any joy throughout the whole venture.

Bus Driver Simulator Passe

The bus handles, like well, a bus so it has that going for it. It does take time to get used to the bus controls. Buses have a very wide turning circle but can easily oversteer if you’re not paying attention. You’ll find yourself either not turning sharp enough and collide with cars in the oncoming lane or oversteer and collide with a lamppost. Either way, you’ll wrack up a nice number of penalties.

Now, I’ve never had any experience driving an actual bus. On this one, I’ll give the developers the benefit of the doubt and hope this is an actual portrayal. However, even if it was accurate, that doesn’t make the experience any more fun or interesting. The gameplay is the same every route you take.

You start at the bus station and drive your bus along the route stopping at the designated spots and earning money from fares. This is most definitely an accurate representation of the job, but it’s just so darn dull. “Oh, but Taylor, it’s a simulator so an accurate depiction of the role is what the player wants”. Yes, you are absolutely right. But Euro Truck Simulator and American Truck Simulator also provide an accurate replication of truck driving, for the most part, but it’s also a fun game because there is an actual aim or end goal.

In the Truck sims, you earn money to buy/customise trucks, hire drivers, buy garages, buy more trucks for your fleet, and explore the entire map. That’s just not here in Bus Driver Simulator. The most is the buying of buses and painting them a different colour. Sure, you can explore the map in the free roam mode, but why would you? The map is barren with the same blocky buildings so there’s nothing interesting to see. The only purpose the free roam mode serves are to drain your fuel so you can use that pointless non-descript currency to buy more.

Furthermore, if someone was looking to play a bus driver simulator, they’d be better of looking at those available on the PC. No simulator gamer is going use the Switch for that experience unless they desperately also want to take it on the go.

On that note, prepare yourself, here’s the price: £24.99 on the Nintendo eShop. That’s a staggering amount of money for the product you get and the visuals/performance of that product. Shocking, I know.

If there are any simulator players watching this and you’re looking for a bus sim or a good long-form driving sim here are some recommendations:

  1. OMSI 2 (£27.11 on Steam) – a bus simulator with an immense amount of attention to detail and effort.
  2. Euro Truck Simulator 2 (£14.99 base price on Steam) –  has the entire European continent to explore if all the DLC is purchased.
  3. American Truck Simulator (£14.99 base price on Steam) – essentially the same format as ETS2 but set in the Western United States.
  4. Bus Driver Simulator on PC (£19.99 on Steam) – If you are dead set on this particular bus sim, get it on PC. It’s cheaper than the Switch version and has better visuals.

(Prices and listed content accurate at the time of writing).

Overall, Bus Driver Simulator is a cash grab port to cash in on Switch players due to the lack of simulators of this kind available on the eShop. This port has no redeeming qualities within its gameplay loop, visuals or performance. It may provide a realistic depiction of driving a bus, but there isn’t much here to bring you back. The animations were fun to look at but not worth the staggering £24.99 entry fee, especially with so many strong alternatives.

[A copy of Bus Driver Simulator was received for review purposes]


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