Bus Drivers Wanted 

In real life buses can sometimes appear in convoys. However a move to a virtual environment results in a bus becoming a solitary vehicle.
Bus Simulator from Avanquest

I have to admit, that as a child, the job of being a bus driver, or any type of driver for that matter, did not feature to high in the list of possible future careers that I considered in any moments of wishful thinking.  Buses were merely a mode of transport for my own convenience rather than an object of affection such as my collection of cigarette and bubble gum cards.  Perhaps this lack of affection for the vehicular mode of transport is further explained by the times I found myself travelling in the wrong direction when boarding these predominately red monsters.  The reason for this look at my relationship to buses is the arrival of a new game, entitled Bus Simulator, from Avanquest Entertainment.

Like a number of buses, this product does take a little time before opening its doors to passengers (or perhaps I should use the more modern parlance of "customers").  Once through the lengthy start-up process, the opening menu gives you a choice of starting a game; viewing high scores; customising various options; or exiting the game.  With options, you can make adjustments to graphics and game effects including volume levels; screen resolution; and the controls used when driving the bus.

Before starting out on this new career, you will need to create a profile, up to four are allowed, which involved little more than typing in an appropriate name.  This profile will be used to automatically keep a record of your progress (or lack of it in my case).

As a novice in the bus travel industry, you will find your game playing choices rather limited to say the least.  The only bus initially available will be the Tiger's Town L kneeling model with a seating capacity of 29 plus 9 standing (what nobody kneeling!) for you to rent using part of your starting budget.  Again there is a restriction in that you can only rent a single vehicle - obvious really as you start as a one-person operation.  You can rent ad space to different companies in order to supplement your income but again you are limited to a single deal.  Later you will be able to run Promo campaigns but these are initially locked to you.

Moving on to the Tours section you can set up the services you will offer to customers (I still think of them as passengers).  Tours fall into three separate categories with only the first one initially available and even that is limited to a single, or Hobson's, choice of a suburbs route with six bus stops.  Access to the Day and Special tours feature will only come when you have gained experience.  Having accepted the only options available, you are now ready to move on to the nitty-gritty of being a bus driver.

Following another lengthy pause, as your bus is fuelled up and made ready for action, you take up your position behind the wheel ready to tackle the task of transporting your customers to their destinations.  While most of your controls are available from the keyboard, you can make adjustments to the camera angle, as opposed to your viewpoint, with the mouse.

This is not racing track action by any means but driving that needs to conform to all the requirements of the public highway as you need to stick within speed limits; watch out for traffic lights; make use of headlights when necessary; use turn signals; and show consideration for other road users.  You will also need to pick up and drop off customers at designated bus stops.  Fairly exact stopping areas are required in order for your presence at a bus stop to be acknowledged by those waiting to board the bus.  You also need to remember to open and close the doors of the bus.

A head-up display and on-screen map should help although there were occasions when the map failed to update my current location.  Speed camera, traffic violations and damage to private property are frowned upon and could bring your tour to a premature end.  You also need to watch out for those milk bottles that sometimes appear in the middle of the road.  However, if you reach your destination with the required quota of passengers within the set timetable, more and more of the game's feature will become unlocked.

In total there are 34 missions to complete with 18 different routes.  Eventually you will have access to eight bus models based on four styles including the bendy-bus.  While driving your bus is fun, it is the business aspects of selling ad space, ticket pricing, promotional offers and building up a bus fleet that will bring success.

Minimum specifications are a Pentium 1.7GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 3D video card with 128MB of RAM plus 2GB of available hard disk space.  But for a more enjoyable performance, you really need a more powerful computer.  Bus Simulator has been priced at £19.99 including shipping :


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Comment by Jamie, 13 Aug 2008 19:47

I'm pretty disappointed at this game. It is very slow even with a computer far abouve the system requirements. It is very unrealistic but still, it can be quite fun. The graphics aren't very good too. If your looking for a bus game, then I recommend Bus Driver or Midtown Madness 2 where you can download bus cities and hundreds of different buses. If you have good coping skills then you should get along fine with this game.

Comment by petew, 8 Aug 2008 17:13

I assume you *did* download the free trial before parting with money?

Comment by struck, 8 Aug 2008 13:52

This is the worst game I have ever played, hands down. I purchased it after being mildly disappointed with the quality seen in "bus driver" hoping the issues I found with that game to have been addressed, such as the lack of first person view and the difficulty in corners. Although "bus simulator" (I would use the term simulator very very loosely) offers a first person view, thats about the only positive thing it does offer. I was astonished to find a game that was virtually unplayable due to awful programming, no physics (really? I thought buses really can turn 90 degrees on the spot and commonly oversteer uncontrollably) and more bugs than the insectarium at your local zoo. Not small bugs either, bleeding great dung beetles such as how your bus can just stop and refuse to go forwards or reverse forcing you to quit. This is the last new game I buy without checking for reviews beforehand.

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