In my preview of Farm Mechanic Simulator a week ago, I noted that there’s been a rise in the number of oddly mundane simulators in recent years. Though previously the preserve of extremely nerdy PC players – and, frankly, often looked down upon by other gamers – the rise of capable consoles has seen a wider acceptance of the genre. Not only that, but games such as Euro Truck Simulator 2 have shown how therapeutic and strangely satisfying the genre can be.
Which brings us to Bus Driver Simulator on the Switch. Featuring the full game of Bus Driver Simulator 19 and its DLC, this is the first outing for the series on Nintendo’s little console. It’s definitely a simulator rather than an arcadey open world: care must be taken to open and close doors at the correct times, routes must be adhered to and even early departure times from bus stops will be penalised. Players earn money from successfully picking up passengers on a pre-determined route with arrival and departure times; money can then be spent on purchasing new buses. If you want to create your own routes and timetables through a city, you can do so. It’s surprisingly fully featured. The tutorial can feel a little overwhelming, but once you’re on the road and driving your own bus, there’s a nice simplicity to the stop-start schedule, opening and closing doors, making sure you’re sticking to the timetable and adequately stocked with fuel.
The problem is, from a technical perspective it’s an absolute mess. It looks positively ancient; the visuals are ugly, glitchy and bland. You’d be forgiven for dismissing it based on the horrendous visuals alone.
Yet the gameplay really shines. There’s a soothing, chilled out feel to the game – taking care to pick up passengers and stick to a timetable without endangering other humans (or their vehicles) is surprisingly compelling, as well as rewarding. It scratches an odd itch; one that you may not even realise you had. There’s a decent amount of freedom to play how you want too, in the form of creating your own routes – though of course this still means adhering to the rules of the road and your employer.
Despite the lack of detail in the world, the visual iconography and instrumentation on your bus – as well as the camera angles you can use throughout gameplay – give clear, unambiguous detail that helps you do better; tt’s very well designed from that perspective at least. It certainly goes to prove the old adage that you should never judge a book by its cover. Despite the fact that it’s an ugly mess, the compellingly structured gameplay means that you’ll likely glean a lot of enjoyment from Bus Driver Simulator. It’s hard to unequivocally recommend due to the shoddy port, but I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to drive a bus around a strangely low detailed European city.
Ultimate Games provided me with a code for Bus Driver Simulator for review purposes.
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