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Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: Spring 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PC Preview - 'Omnibus'

by Brian Dumlao on March 10, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

OmniBus drivers must complete missions at unsafe speeds and without landing on its head or sides. Choose between the mission mode, trick mode and versus multiplayer mode to achieve goals, set high scores, and reach total enlightenment.

Some games pride themselves on being weird. For example, Mount Your Friends is about making the tallest tower possible out of half-naked men. I Am Bread is about the journey of a slice of bread that can move on its own. Hatoful Boyfriend is about a girl trying to woo a pigeon for a mate. They're weird but fun experiences if you choose to partake in them. Omnibus falls easily into that same category: a strange game that is loads of fun.

In Omnibus, you drive a bus that, for one reason or another, cannot stop. You can turn it in any direction, but you cannot manually slow it down or speed it up. It's susceptible to falling on its side if you take turns too sharply, but it is otherwise indestructible. It also behaves much differently depending on where it is. On the ground, the bus has some weight to it and can roll over if you take a turn badly or get hit by an object with some force. If you get launched in the air, you'll find the bus to be floaty, and you have a little influence about where you can orient it, so you'll have a chance to eventually get on your wheels again and keep driving.

In its current state, the game has three modes. Free Play is probably the best place to start, as you can get a general idea of everything offered. You start by picking a bus, and each one has its own characteristics. Mr. Bus is a good all-around choice, the Barrel Bus is great at being able to stay on its wheels, and the Ultra Bus is two busses connected together that can fishtail much like an out-of-control big rig with an attached trailer. After that, you land in the middle of a decently sized piece of land, where you quickly discover that smashing into buildings gives you points. You also find out that there are speed pads that make you go faster and pinball bumpers and trampolines that send you skyward. Here, flipping and landing also gets you points.

It doesn't take long to find out that Omnibus is essentially Goat Simulator with some of the controls taken away from you. Your whole purpose is to wreak havoc and perform tricks to look stylish while things around you get destroyed. It taps into something primal that finds destruction fun. Aside from your constant speed, the major difference is that the experience is relatively bug-free. Granted, the physics are off-kilter, but it isn't as if you'd see the bus clip into the ground or see buildings or bumpers sink or go flying. Things seem purposefully done here, so whatever you see is intentional.

The second mode is Versus, which is essentially you trying to force your opponents out of an arena. The buildings may be gone, but the speed, jump pads and pinball bumpers are still present. In some cases, the pinball bumpers even move, so it's tricky when you're avoiding opponents that are trying to ram into you. As expected, it's humorous and supports up to four people. Interestingly, the simple control scheme means that two people can use one keyboard, since all you need are the arrow keys for one player and the WASD keys for another. Unfortunately, multiplayer is a local-only affair for the time being, which seems to be a trend for indie games nowadays.

The final mode is Story, and it is here that Omnibus takes advantage of the capabilities of your semi-out-of-control vehicle. You're given four different worlds with stages that ask you to do a variety of things, all of which are pretty insane. One stage may ask you to climb up the side of a building, avoiding everything along the way, so you can knock out a gorilla at the top. Another has you skydive and land on a platform before driving off to get your license. Yet another asks you to survive in a football field amidst an onslaught of cars and bumpers and pads. The only stage so far that can be considered normal is one where you take a bunch of tourists to see landmarks, and even then, the physics make that task quite difficult. A medal system is in place for that mode, so it's easy to see how people can obsess over the challenge of scoring gold medals.

Topping it off is a presentation that is both modern and retro. The game is completely done in what looks to be voxels, but it's purposefully done to look rather crude. While the texturing means you can easily discern what an object should be, everything still looks very square, as if it were created in Minecraft. The frame rate holds very well no matter how many objects are on-screen, so the wanton destruction never suffers from slowdown. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is comprised mainly of chiptune tracks but with added bass to provide more dimension. It fits nicely with the game's seemingly chaotic and random nature.

Omnibus is scheduled to hit the PC in spring 2016, and from what we've seen so far, it could be a riot of a game. The inherent destructive nature of the bus and ability to perform tricks feel oddly appealing. As much as the Versus and Free Play modes are fun on their own, it is the Story mode that is the game's big hook once the allure of the base mechanics wear off. If you like your games to be a little unconventional, be on the lookout for Omnibus.

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