Occasionally here at Player2.net.au, we will play something that deserves your attention but probably doesn’t need a full review written for it. Be it DLC for the latest AAA title, a little indie game or even an Android/iOS title. We play these titles for a blockbusting amount of time (2 – 5 hours) and report back to you the reader on what we found. So grab your popcorn and settle in for the latest episode of Blockbuster Gaming.
Blockbuster Gaming – Omnibus
As a child, I used to love Scalextric cars. If you don’t know what that is, firstly thanks for making me feel old, secondly, they are the scale model slot cars that run on powered tracks – the idea being that the person with the remote control alters the speed of the car to get around the track as fast as possible without crashing. My problem, though, was that crashing the cars was my favourite thing to do. There was something deeply satisfying about watching the cars approach a tight corner at high speed, only to go barrel rolling off the track, end over end. I was equally parts fascinated by both the spectacle of the accidents and the physics involved in why the cars rolled so easily, or why they flipped the way that they did. Being a little kid I never would’ve guessed that at the time, but that particular moment of fascination has stuck with me over the years.
OmniBus shoots for a similar feeling, revelling in the art of rolling a vehicle through literally anything in its path. Imagine Speed – minus Dennis Hopper – but on an open pinball table, that’s OmniBus. The bus cannot stop, and will only slow down when you get some sweet air time, or if you run into a giant bumper, although when it comes to the latter be sure to replace “slow down” with “shoot wildly in the opposite direction”.
Just so we’re on the same page, OmniBus is a crazy little physics game that pits you and your bus against a variety of challenges, be that to stay on the map for a certain period of time whilst dodging cars that are flying at you, or navigating a narrow road up the side of a building whilst a giant monkey throws cars at you.
It utilises a heavily stylised look pertaining back to the earliest days of 3d accelerated graphics in the mid to late 90’s. Much of the game harks back to those days, in fact. OmniBus’ story mode is presented in an almost Nintendo-like fashion, as a group of 5 worlds, each with 7 levels that unlock as you complete the previous one. On completion, you are awarded a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on how well you stacked up. It’s old school game design at its best, and played in short bursts, OmniBus ticks all the boxes.
Controlling the bus itself is two parts ridiculous fun, one part highly stressful. It speeds up on it’s own, so all you have to worry about is steering. Almost every building or object on the map is either destructible or movable, meaning maps end up looking like a town that has just survived an extended playtime with a giant 3 year old. You score points by controlling your flipping bus as it rolls through the sky, performing stunts and tricks, or by driving through everything you can. Points are broken down in a way similar to the BurnOut games, with everything appearing in an itemised list as the points rack up. Smacking into pylons and giant cactus, sending them into buildings and watching them disintegrate is good fun for a while, though it’s undeniably a bit of a one-trick pony, which is why OmniBus works well in small doses but quickly overstays its welcome.
In saying that, though, it doesn’t feel like OmniBus is trying to be anything but what it is – a simplified physics sandbox – for better and worse. The various ways the designers have played with sandbox nature of to create a varied assortment of challenges deserves applause, because it’s what makes OmniBus work. The disjointed way the story mode pieces together doesn’t matter in the slightest, because without its variety, OmniBus would be something you’d try for five minutes before putting it down, never to pick it up again.
Given the nostalgic nature of a game like, and how starkly it reminds me of video games from 20 years ago, OmniBus feels like the most Video Games™ video game I’ve played in 2016, although granted I have yet to play Battleborn. It harks back to the days of arcade driving games in a way that I appreciate and throws enough at the wall that what does stick leaves a good first impression. Just don’t stay for too long in any one sitting.
James Swinbanks is a Games Critic currently writing for GameSpot, although you’ll still occasionally see him popping up on Player 2, because frankly, he loves the smell of the place.