Well, the title can really explain everything you would expect and see in this game. Bus Simulator 18 is quite accurately and literally just a bus simulation. Even though I may question the existence, creation or design choices of this game, it does do the job well of pretending to drive a real city bus.
You are the head of an aspiring city bus company…..you can name it whatever you want and drive people around the city.
The point of the game is to drive routes safely and timely to gain more money to make a bigger company to buy employees to eventually do exactly what you’ve been doing. Having never driven a real bus in my life, I guess I am not totally equipped to say how accurate all the different mechanics work compared to a real bus or bus company, but this does feel somewhat accurate in the steering, the weight of the bus and interactions with the world.
Driving the bus is straightforward, go, stop, follow traffic laws (including blinkers). As the bus driver, you must also open doors, sell people bus tickets and give them correct change, help those who are handicapped and even ask people to turn their music down (along with other various things). All these mundane tasks seem so trivial and boring compared to driving the bus like a maniac and seeing how many rule violations and the debt I could accumulate. But after actually trying to follow all the rules and be a good bus driver, I found it to be more fun and satisfying to make money. There are a lot of controls, some I still haven’t found out what they are for, but overall the actual driving around is the best part of the game.
The management of my company and hiring other people is quite forgettable. With no real-time constraints, a progression of story or great prizes for being the supreme bus fleet in the city, I found that the management side of the gameplay to be rather dull and devoid of meaning. I racked up $130,00 in damages in the first hour of playing. Yet my company was still functioning and viable, I was able to keep playing as if being ridiculously in debt made no difference, making my consequences of being a good or horrible bus driver absolutely meaningless.
The game looks fine overall. The environment and other cars on the street look alright. The menus are okay, a little buggy at times. But the people, it would have been better if the were more like faceless cartoon characters. I would sometimes get the exact same NPC walk on the bus with lifeless faces and simple textures and animations. The faces all look human, but it would have been better if as a whole game was a little more cartoony.
The noises all sound about as good as standing next to an actual loud bus. They seem accurate, but stale and forgettable. The music/radio and voice acting was also as bad as real normal modern radio or employee training videos.
I find no real reason to play this game at all, let alone playing it for extended periods of time or coming back to it. However, if this game was meant for aspiring bus drivers or employees that need to go under certain training, then this game actually fits the need and would work well for a long time.
What It Could Have Done Better
The various buttons, mechanics and different inputs to use while driving the bus can be kind of funny or more fitting to the inherent difficulty of driving a bus, but ultimately feel clunky and poorly mapped on the controller. There are many buttons and things to do at once, and it never feels quite smooth or organic to use most controls.
Creating routes and acquiring more business or employees needed to either be more fleshed out or totally removed. In general, if the game leaned more into realistic bus simulation on every detail or leaned to be more arcade-ish and generally entertaining, the game would be better all around.
Stillalive Studios has made a city bus simulation that surprisingly works on many fronts but falls short of being a fully convincing bus simulator or entertaining video game. The game was clearly made for a specific audience and will fulfill their needs.