Game Review: OmniBus

In which you steer a bus. reviews

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Omnibus is a pretty strange game. Much of its strangeness stems from the game’s successful attempt at fusing together two seemingly disparate genres. On the one hand, it’s a racing or driving game, but on the other hand it could also be described as an adventure game.

You start off as a big blue bus. However, this is no Bus Simulator 16, and instead of transporting passengers from one stop to another, you’re given the strangest possible tasks to undertake. The game features a number of different worlds to play through, each one with its own theme. In this way, Omnibus bears some resemblance to more traditional adventure games. In each world there are a number of levels, with each level offering a different challenge to overcome. In addition to the single player story mode, there is also a multiplayer mode. Up to four players using the same computer can go head to head in jousting matches where the objective is to knock your opponent off the stage.

There are only two controls throughout most of the game: a and d to turn the bus left and right. It may sound rather simplistic, but Omnibus is anything but. With only the ability to steer you can’t control the speed of your bus, which continuously ticks upwards throughout each level. Once you reach the maximum speed of 205mph, things become nigh on impossible as even the slightest bump or knock sends the bus flying skywards or tumbling off the edge of the map. The constantly increasing speed puts pressure on the player to finish each level as quickly as possible, before the bus becomes too difficult to drive. Each level is infuriatingly difficult (I can’t deny that me being shit at racing games doesn’t help), with absurd objectives that have remarkably little to do with public transport.

For example, in one level it’s your job to knock a giant gorilla off the top of a skyscraper, by driving at full speed up the side of the building. In the next level, you’re breaking into a bank by ramming into it. After that, you must flee to the Moon in order to escape the police. Once in space, you must dodge between asteroids and then drive across what looks like a space station of some sorts.

In certain levels you’re given a different bus to drive, often with special powers that alter the way in which you must play the game. One bus defies gravity, while another allows you to grip onto different surfaces.

As is the case with most indie games at the moment, a retro visual style is used throughout. The only difference here is that Omnibus hankers after the style of the first generation of consoles to use 3D graphics. Simplistic blocky visuals and bright colours are the order of the day – it looks like it could have been released on the original Playstation or the Nintendo 64.

Part of me would like to delve deeper into the world of Omnibus.

Why is it up to the bus to do all these strange tasks? Who is the stranger who pilots this magical vehicle? How did the bus gain such an esteemed position in this society? But none of this really matters. The game simply sets out to befuddle the player, and is remarkably successful in doing so.

Omnibus is not a game for everyone. For some players, its irreverence and absurdity could come across as simply annoying. The game’s difficulty might also be seen as a barrier to enjoyment. However, on the whole, Omnibus is a quirky and fun game, that is unique for the way in which it blends different video game genres.