Omnibus: Game Of The Year Edition Review

Omnibus is a funny game, not so much for its humour, which is pretty basic, but for the humour you can derive by turning it into a party game.
“Funny” is a tough thing to quantify. There’s that famous quote from Mel Brooks that relates tragedy and comedy (“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”) and I’ve never met anyone who disagreed with that, but beyond that what one person thinks of as funny may fail to resonate at all with another.
Games which try to be funny have an even tougher job, simply because you’re now serving two masters; you’ve got to try to be amusing and you’ve got to try to be an engaging game.

Omnibus can also be used for a frighteningly accurate depiction of Sydney CBD traffic on weekdays.
Omnibus can also be used for a frighteningly accurate depiction of Sydney CBD traffic on weekdays.

Omnibus: Game Of The Year Edition certainly tries hard enough with its sales pitch, where it describes itself as (and I quote) a “next-to-last-gen out-of-control bus simulator” that was originally a “Jaguar launch title in 1992”. Just to make sure that you’re in on the joke, it launched in two variants.

Omnibus: Available in two flavours

The basic Steam title (provided for review) is the (self-awarded) “Game Of The Year” edition, while a single “Ultimate” edition is available for $US7,500, which includes an actual bus. I do wonder what they’ll do if somebody calls them on that, although it is admittedly pretty unlikely.
The developers do at least note that parts of the game’s development description are fictional, but the essential effort is there. Omnibus gives you control of a bus that cannot stop accelerating. Why? It probably doesn’t matter, and frankly, you’re never told one way or the other.

One of the advantages of claiming your game has been in development since 1992 is that you can claim to have had the idea of a bus that can’t slow down first. Obviously completely original back then.

 

Omnibus: Drive bus, hit things

What this essentially boils down to is a fun physics playground with a more or less indestructible bus in the middle of it. For the most part, you can’t lose unless you fall off the generally tiny level, or flip onto your side or top, because then you can’t keep accelerating, now can you?
Omnibus doesn’t take itself terribly seriously. Not in plot terms, where levels vary from taking a group of toga-clad emperors on a sightseeing tour to evading a constant flow of cars into a football stadium to climbing a building to knock a bonobo ape from its perch. Equally, though, its grasp of how physics actually works is also rudimentary, and that’s part of the charm, because if everything is fast, loose and bouncy (and often, it’s all three) then you can sit back and enjoy the ride.

Physics is a thing that Omnibus has heard of, but it hasn't decided if it's really sure about just yet.
Physics is a thing that Omnibus has heard of…but it hasn’t decided if it’s really sure about just yet.

If that’s all that Omnibus offered, it would want to be inexpensive, because as a simple joke it’s perhaps one that you’ll tire of rather rapidly. Certainly, in my early play I figured that this was how it was going to go, until I introduced it to other players. If you’re only playing it solo, there’s fun to be had here, but you will tire of it rather more rapidly.
Heh. Tire. A vehicle pun, you see. Omnibus’ deliberately awful humour must be rubbing off on me.

Omnibus: More fun with friends

Omnibus is one of those rare games where it’s quite fun seeing other people struggle with the silly plots, dodgy physics and ludicrous challenges, even if they’re failing, just because it’s such a small, silly injection of fun into their lives.

For once, the trailer does not lie; this is very much what playing Omnibus is like… except for that song. But you could sing it to yourself if it would help.

 
Omnibus does provide single screen multiplayer for simple jousting competitions, but while watching others struggle with its challenges (or just for high scores) has hilarity potential, the actual multiplayer experience isn’t that great, simply because you’re far more likely to come a cropper from the wobbly ingame physics than you are any other foe.
Hub worlds were quite the thing back in '92. Remember Hub worlds? Great times.
Hub worlds were quite the thing back in ’92. Remember Hub worlds? Great times.

Omnibus is available on Steam for $US9.99 at the time of writing, and at that price it’s a fair price for what is a slender, but amusing game. No, you’re probably not going to actually count it amongst your games of the year, but if you’ve got a group of friends you can share its irreverent attitude with, you’ll get your money’s worth from it.

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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