Genius arrives in several places among the indie game circuit. Sometimes it involves solving puzzles on a mysterious island. Sometimes it involves discussing philosophy with an artificial intelligence. And sometimes, just sometimes, it involves having to ram a bus through a set of gigantic bowling pins on your way to pick up a pile of money that came out of a bank you smashed into. OmniBus, my friends, is one of those games.
OmniBus is a game where you play as a bus that is constantly speeding up, which is a premise one can easily get behind. There is a story mode, but all you need to know about it is that it basically allows you to work on your crazed bus driving skills via a series of challenges that involve you herding cattle, busting the heads off of statues via convenient ramps, and having to drive up the side of a skyscraper in order to knock off a giant ape. You know, the type of stuff your typical bus driver has to deal with.
On the surface, OmniBus is a proudly low-tech game that makes great use of early PS1-era graphics and chiptune music, but despite the appearance deliberately making things appear sloppy, it actually controls quite well. You can play with either a controller or keyboard, and driving around is simple and easy either way. That said, some of the moments where you have to try and land an airborne bus correctly can feel a tad awkward. Mind you, it’s not like such a scenario would be easy to get under control in any circumstance, but in a game where tipping over and becoming unable to move means game over, being able to stick the landing a bit more accurately is something that would be welcome.
The sense of humor roaming throughout OmniBus is welcome as well, typically delivered by a quick description of the current objective by a character at the beginning of each level. It reminds me a bit of Roundabout and how it gleefully played up the cheese factor with every character you came across, right down to pixelated real-life photos for the portraits. The level design also contains a great deal of energy, whether it’s a shattered saloon in the old west or a Star Fox-style asteroid belt getting smashed up by your driving skills.
Given the variety and level designs, you would think that the Free Play mode where you try to get the highest score via aerial tricks and constant mayhem would be one of its biggest draws. Yet oddly enough, only one map taking place in the city was available for Free Play at the moment. Hopefully more get added for the final release, though, because I’m itching to see just how big a score you can rack up by ramming cacti with a double decker bus. Yes, multiple buses are available in the story mode and in Free Play as well, each with their own unique quirks and ways that they handle (the double decker tips over easier and provides a challenge, the gravity bus can rush down towards the direction its pointing to with the push of a button, et cetera), and it goes without saying that it’s a nice touch.
With just a little more tweaking and a few additions, OmniBus can easily end up as one of the next big indie classics. After all, everybody deserves to experience the saga of the most epic bus that ever lived. And with any luck, we shall all get to join in on such insane joy when OmniBus comes out this Spring.