Beware the white word-art of the ‘simulator’ video game! I beg you to remember those words whenever you think that ‘…simulator’ looks like a good title to pick up. The fact of the matter is there are very few true simulation experiences to be had with any of these games. Garbage Truck Simulator, Stone Quarry Simulator, Demolition Company Simulator, they’re all the same game packaged under the guise of giving the player a real life experience. Well I’m afraid that Bus Simulator 16 is no exception to this lie, and here’s why.
First off the user interface is ugly. The developers Stillalive Studios (although for how much longer I ask) have tried to make it look like a sleek tablet PC design, but it looks like your first experience in Microsoft Powerpoint. Sorry I’m being picky about something so small, let’s move onto the gameplay itself because that can’t be bad right? Wrong.
The back story of Bus Simulator 16 is that you has just inherited a small bus company with the view to expand it into a public bus empire. You can walk around the world and climbing onto your bus for the first time can be exciting. You can interact with all the buttons on the dashboard and even unjam the doors using a special lever. It’s cool because you feel like you’re actually carrying out the job of a bus driver. The devs have even included a working cash register where you can issue tickets and work out how much change to give the customers. This is where the fun stops however…
Here is my biggest frustration with Bus Simulator 16, so get ready! You’ll be driving around from stop to stop; at any speed you fancy without getting penalised I might add, collecting €2.20 from each passenger and working out a few daily/weekly/monthly tickets for those difficult customers. Then when you reach the end of the route you’re presented with that god awful tablet screen and a breakdown of what you earned on the day – €7,499. Really? From about 40 passengers? 40 x €2.20 is certainly not €7,499, even if maths is not my forte! To me that kills the experience dead, because it makes the gameplay feel totally soulless – what is the point in playing if you’ll be given a figure which doesn’t add up? Perhaps the driver has been playing free roulette on his virtual table with the days takings!
I continued to play nonetheless for the purpose of review, but I wasn’t surprised to feel that the game became very samey in an instant. You add more bus stops to your route, meaning that you can pull up to more stops and go through the exact same process more times; parking brake, kneel the bus, open the doors, collect the monies and then do the same in reverse. Might I also add that there is a timer, so the ‘skill’ in the game is how rapidly you can repeat the above combination of actions, drive off and arrive at the next stop before the timer runs out. It may as well be Garbage Truck Simulator, because the gameplay is very much similar – set up a route, buy some more buses, get the AI to drive your buses, and then in the words YouTuber Mac, “blow your brains out with a magnum”.
It does have to be said that on a positive note, this game has some ok graphics. Nothing groundbreaking to see here, but the six different buses are littered with nice little details – most of which are functional to the gameplay. The city itself suffers from a case of ‘glossy texture’, where everything seems to be made of plastic. All the people, buildings, road signs and vehicles look like they’ve been shrink-wrapped, but nobody seems to care that they’re walking round in a plastic bag. The fact that you can add decals and paint jobs to your bus is a dead giveaway that the developers were struggling to make this title a standout.
This title is just scattered with stupid mistakes which could have been avoided had the game been thought through more thoroughly. For example if you drive at night without your lights on, nobody seems to care. If you ram your bus into a crowd of pedestrians, presumably killing them all, you get an insurance penalty and are still open to trade.
In summary Bus Simulator 16 is a lifeless, soulless lie of a simulator; and I use the term ‘simulator’ in the loosest possible way. The buses handle like jumbo jets and the business management side of things is a complete joke. None of the figures match up, meaning you’re just driving route after route over and over to get to the next bus. Gaming has moved on from this kind of progression, more commonly seen in early console games on the Megadrive and N64. The difference being that I love those games, whilst this is garbage. The only thing stopping me from giving this game the lowest score, is the attention to detail on the buses, and the fact that the game tested by maths in it’s change-giving mini game.
Do yourself a favour, don’t buy it. It will drive you round the block.
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