Another one rides the bus.
I’m sure there’s a market out there for a bus driving sim. The world is a big place, after all, so it’s safe to assume there’s a market for everything. But if you’ve been eagerly refreshing the Nintendo eShop hoping to finally get the definitive game for city bus immersion, I’m afraid to say Bus Driver Simulator is not it.
That’s not to say it doesn’t try or that the developers aren’t dedicated to the cause. Bus Driver Simulator adheres strictly to its sim component, working as hard as possible to dock you for doing anything other than efficiently picking up passengers and dropping them off.
The game begins with a quick tutorial that teaches you everything from how/when to open doors to turning on lights to accelerating/braking. There’s a lot to manage and remember, and condensing it all to the Joy-Con will be overwhelming at first. What button is the blinker? Did I leave the doors open? Why can’t I move?
The latter question proved to be the most problematic. More times than I care to admit, I drove the bus over a curb when rounding a corner to pick up and drop off passengers. Not only does this hurt your score, it also makes it difficult to move. Why I can’t just pull forward to get off a curb, I have no idea. But when it happened, I’d have to wedge myself away.
Such quirks get annoying because the gameplay is centered around efficiency with timetables. While wrestling with the bus’ controls, you’re also wrestling with traffic and routes as you try to stay on schedule. Traffic is never nearly as bad as actual city traffic, and the cars move somewhat slowly, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get annoying as you try to get over to the bus stop. To make matters worse (or better, depending upon what you want out of a bus driver simulator), you also have to worry about gas and maintenance. Figuring out when to work these “pit stops” into your schedule will greatly affect your profitability.
The money you make can be applied to the purchase of new busses (around 15 total) or upgrades to the bus you already have. You can even customize the appearance of your bus if that’s your thing. Considering profit is the only reward, it’s therefore frustrating that it’s so easy to receive a financial punishment. This happens if you get ahead of or behind schedule. It happens when you have trouble navigating a turn. It happens for reasons you won’t even understand.
As such, Career Mode—with its predefined routes and objectives—can become annoying. Thankfully, the developers provided the option for you to set up your own routes and objectives, giving you the option to move about town at a more leisurely pace.
Unfortunately, the towns aren’t really worth driving around. European and Soviet cities are well represented, but they’re certainly not attractively depicted. The graphics are dated and glitchy.
The maps themselves may be accurate, but there’s very little to distinguish one city from another. As such, Bus Driver Simulator seems to never progress. Hours into gameplay, it still looks like you’re in the tutorial.
All of this combines to make me wonder if there’s a point. Driving a bus isn’t particularly interesting (no offense to my father-in-law and cousin, who have both done professionally), and the developers’ faithful adherence to the process makes for a game that reflects this. I’m not saying I want arcade-style action here, but Bus Driver Simulator needs to offer something more than just getting from point A to point B with efficiency. I don’t know…are there bussing industry equivalents to the railroad robber barons?
Either way, sim fans are better off seeking employment elsewhere.
Review: Bus Driver Simulator (Nintendo Switch)
Bus Driver Simulator deserves some appreciation for its attention to detail, but the details are pretty boring in this case. It doesn’t help that the gameplay is cumbersome and glitchy, and the visuals are dated and drab. Unless you’re really into slow drives through PS2-era depictions of European cities, take the Desert Bus instead. At least then it’s for charity.