The Magic of the Desert Bus

A while back I stumbled across a game called Desert Bus and I recall thinking how different the game was. It is very, very tedious and only a dedicated gamer or several drunk students would tackle it.

He Who Dares Wins

I don’t recall the where I found Desert Bus but I do recall thinking how different the game was. Until then I was used to games companies striving to make challenging, entertaining, and creative games. The thing that stood out about this one was the mind-numbingly tedious nature of it! I mean it was deliberately and maliciously tee-dee-us! But another rather surprising aspect of it is that gamers were actually prepared to take it on!

The objective of the game is to drive a bus across a desert non-stop in real-time. All the while, the steering pulls to the right a little. That’s all you have to do. The road is straight and at the end of the 8-hour journey, you get 1 point on the 8 digit counter and the chance to drive back again.

The trick is that you can’t stop the bus. It accumulates damage if you run off the side of the road and eventually you can accumulate so much damage that it breaks down. When the bus stops, a recovery truck is sent out to pull you back to the start line. That part is also in real-time and that could take hours…

Desert Bus

Pretty exciting stuff!

The first picture shows what it looks like during normal play. It has a little Christmas tree air freshener that twirls around as you go – but wait, there’s more!

Desert Bus splat

After a few hours, a bug hits the windscreen, see the bug splat? That’s something to look forward to. Knocks the stuffing out of today’s so-called realistic games, eh. Grippingly, after a few more hours, the sky changes colour, dusk approaches and night falls leaving you to steer using the headlights to see the road.

Night Bus

One commentator was driven to write “The game was so boring and stupid that it was great.”, and I have to agree, even though the game was a bit of a joke, literally.

So you probably won’t be surprised that the idea for the game came from famous comedy duo Penn & Teller. It was packaged as a mini-game extension in the Smoke & Mirrors CD for the Sega Megadrive.

This Game is Available to Play

Although the company crashed before the game was released, a few copies were preserved. One such copy was held by a QA tester at the company, who has a few things to at about just how bad that job was here, and who can blame him! You may be able to get a copy of the binary image from a fan at this address.

Penn & Teller DVD

But for those who are interested and don’t want the fuss of recreating the run-time environment to get it going, there are a couple of options you’ll be glad to hear. One is to get an IOS App recreation from the Apple Store. The other option is to get a newer version of the game, recently released, here.

Desert Bus on Oculus Rift!?

Yes, the latest version makes use of an Oculus Rift VR headset so you can see the featureless landscape and the innards of the empty bus as you trundle along. But it can be configured to run on a normal monitor quite simply via a text config file. At the time of writing, there were no keys mapped to let you look around.

I think the VR version of the game is a great idea and the graphics are in keeping with the original, so well done to them.

VR Desert Bus

There are some amusingly gruelling video links below of players in action, but the new purpose of the VR game is to provide a platform for raising money for charity! It’s an annual event that has been gaining momentum over the years. It looks like a video feed over at Twitch TV has been used to broadcast the progress of the charity runs as they unfold.

Desert Bus Charity

An Over Nighter

Run Time: 6:11

Here are some guys doing an overnighter and getting a huge amount of satisfaction from beating the game and scoring a single point :0)

Complete 8 Hour Play Through!

Run Time: 8:07:47

Penn & Teller

Run Time: 3:35

Penn & Teller discuss how the Desert Bus came about.