It might be time to check the kids shoes still fit, and pick up some new stationary, but the end of the summer holidays, brings us one unexpected relief, and that’s the first official extension for Bus Simulator 21.
Because not only is it pretty damn good, it’s far, far better than expected.
Having played just about every simulation game on the Xbox, I’ve always been a fan of Bus Simulator, the release of Bus Sim 21 and the subsequent “Next Stop” update, did add more depth (and some management confusion) to proceedings, but for a game I’ve always enjoyed, one area that’s not been as inviting is their previous DLC offerings which have been somewhat mixed, there’s been the fantastic free city expansion, balanced out by “Bus packs” costing £5-£7.50 which add a number of vehicles and interior designs but never really add much to the game beyond a different licensed vehicle.
After hearing about the school Bus extension (with a tram extension planned for later in the year), I was a little apprehensive, especially at the low price of £9.99, but it’s safe to say I’m more than happy (and a little surprised) at the overall quality and package we’ve received with the school Bus extension.
To start things off, there’s 3 new vehicles, all licensed “Bluebird” buses from the American manufacturer (for the record, this would already cost £7.50 if it was a separate Bus Pack), but you’re not limited to the American map, you’re free to utilise the school Bus extension on either map, as long as you’ve reached mission 12 in Angel Shores, and for Europe, (as long as you’ve unlocked the second map), you’re free to use the school extension straight away).
In game, the map has been updated to add a number of schools on each map, specific bus stops where you’ll have to pick up the children, these won’t interfere with your normal career, but if you want to try your hand whipping the kids off to school and back, a simple left on the d-pad in the menu’s will switch to the School Bus extension, which will give you a completely separate set of objectives, as you start to build your reputation as the best local company to ensure the safety or reliability of getting the kids to school.
During play, there’s a few extra options, such as the amber lights, red light stop, and extended Stop sign, to ensure safety and warn nearby drivers that you’re stopping to collect school children.
Just like indicating into a space, and opening the doors, this soon becomes part of the stopping routine, as you make your rounds to get the children into school on time, but it does take some getting used to down on the Dpad, now initiates the amber lights (which should be used instead of an indicator when stopping at a bus stop) and then you’ll have to bring up the action menu and turn on the red stop sign and the extended front barrier to stop kids crossing right in front of the buses bumper.
It takes some getting used to for sure, but it adds to the realism, and not having to worry about taking fares and checking tickets gives it a slightly different direction without being more or less complicated.
Like in the main game you’ll raise the reputation for each stop, but you’ll need to keep an eye on how many kids are collected from each stop, to make sure each route collects enough passengers to make the route economic, while also ensuring the comfort of everyone on board.
Once your round is complete, you can jump back to the main content to drive city buses for a few hours, or you can skip forward to mid-afternoon, ready to collect the children after school and drive them back home again and whenever routes inter-twine, you’ll still see your other buses on the roads.
It’s a well-made and well implemented package, that definitely adds to the game, without interfering with your current or past progress.
There are still the same customisation options for the school buses, so rather than the standard yellow buses, you can opt for a slightly more modern wrap or create your own details decals if you have the time and attention span to do so, but with unlocked skins carrying over from any content you already own, you should have plenty of options to make each route or bus look unique.
Graphically, there’s some welcome additions, the schools added to the game give an increased level of realism to your surroundings, and while they’re ultimately part of the extension, they feel just as much part of the actual game, and at times, you barely notice their additions because they match and suit the existing areas so well.
Sound also has minimal but equally impressive additions, with small voice lines from the school kids, which usually follow the same humour the main game does, without as many cats being mentioned.
Generally, DLC is always divisive, you’ll get some people who want more, while others feel post-launch content never feels part of the original games, but the School Bus Extension feels very much a part of the actual game, from the objective delivery, to creating routes, you’ll feel just as home as you have with any normal Bus Sim 21 experience.
At £9.99 It proves great value too, as more and more games are pushing towards the £15-£20 mark for DLC, it’s rare we get something for less than £10 for a full expansion, and its rare still that add-on content costing twice as much would be as well implemented.
The only question mark is, do you buy the single DLC or go for the £20.99 Season Pass, because on the quality of this extension alone, I’m already looking forward to the other major extension (adding a Tram network) which is due out before the end of the year, and with the season pass, that extra £1 will also get you the Eudesco bus pack worth £7.49 and another “Thomas Built” bus pack due later in the year, which is likely to cost the same again.
Overall, whether you go for the season pass, or the standalone school bus extension, anyone who’s enjoyed Bus Simulator 21, will find a great package to sink their teeth into, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed DLC and found as much value as I have with than this extension, it might not bring more players to the game, but it will please anyone who already enjoys Bus Sim.
I usually sit on the fence with DLC, and rarely find myself playing a game long enough to really enjoy add-on content released months down the line, but with Bus Simulator 21, it’s a game I keep coming back to and the official School Bus Extension, will make you wanting to boot up the Xbox and get the kids off to school even sooner.
Bus Sim 21: School Bus Extension DLC
I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed DLC and found as much value as I have with than this extension, it might not bring more players to the game, but it will please anyone who already enjoys Bus Sim.