The Bus has taught me that public transport, done properly, can be a great thing.
Playing The Bus, I loved being able to hop on, go for a little while, then hop off and just wander around, taking in Berlin’s buildings, streets and citizenry. Then, whenever I felt like it, I’d just get on again, wait until we’d reached somewhere that looked interesting, have another leisurely wander, rinse and repeating for a good few hours. And the best part of it? My passengers never once complained.
Terrible jokes aside, the one thing that The Bus is really missing is the ability to just jump on a bus and watch Berlin go by. Being able to roam around on foot is great, particularly if your PC has enough power to ensure The Bus looks its best, but there were definitely times I wanted to join the passengers in the rear of the vehicle and just chill.
However, that’s the biggest problem I have with a title that, despite being in Early Access, is great just to mess about in. I spent most of my time in The Bus‘ arcade mode, meaning I didn’t have to deal with taking money off my passengers – though I can see how that would be appealing if you were truly immersing yourself in the role of a Berlin bus driver. The game does technically support controllers, but even in arcade mode you still need to make use of the keyboard, so sitting on the sofa for the entire journey is out of the question.
Besides which, you do need to maintain an degree of awareness. It’s a mercy that you seem to be the only bus on the road because controlling your vehicle is a trial. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the handling itself, compared to other vehicle sims, but your bus is pretty massive. It may not be a double decker but if you smugly head out of the station expecting traffic and scenery to bend to your will, you’re in a for a big surprise.
I did reach my first destination, at the cost of several lampposts, but I realised I needed to be a lot more careful. The Bus is a relaxing game because you have to take care, not in spite of it; waiting patiently at traffic lights, considering whether your bendy bus can get around the corner without side-swiping anything, is the real joy of the game. One feature I’d love to see in the final version is complaints from your passengers, about not getting there on time or hitting an object or so forth; as is, they seem infinitely patient.
There’s a lot of fun to be had with The Bus, even if sims aren’t normally up your street. As a taste of things to come it’s got me looking forward to the final release, hopefully with some of the tweaks I mentioned. Sticking to one 1:1 city might seem limiting but TML Studios (who’ve had more than a bit of sim experience) have the opportunity to really go all in on this. I’m on board for now, but we’ll see how things develop as the journey continues.