‘Desert Bus’ Almost Makes the AVGN Retire With its Badness
In the last episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd, the Nerd took a spin in what he eventually called “the worst game ever made,” Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing. Today, the Nerd returns with a new episode wherein he covers yet another driving game—Desert Bus.
How could this possibly top the awfulness of Big Rigs?
Easy. Create a game where their only objective is to drive a bus from Tucson to Las Vegas. In real time. At a non-negotiable speed of 45 miles per hour.
Seriously. That is all the player has to do. 360 uninterrupted miles on a lonely stretch of desert road. Just the player, a steering column, and a pine tree air freshener.
How long does it take to complete Desert Bus? At a traveling speed of 45 miles per hour over 360 miles, the player will arrive in Las Vegas after eight hours. Their reward for doing so? One point. One. Point.
Perhaps the worst part about this? The minds behind Desert Bus—magician/comedy duo Penn & Teller—knew what a lousy game it was. The idea, it turns out, was to create an ultra-realistic (read: boring) game as a response to early-90s criticisms of hyper-violent games like Mortal Kombat and Doom (read: fun games). How realistic is Desert Bus? The bus doesn’t even start the first time you turn the ignition.
But Penn & Teller weren’t total sadists. In fact, they had even intended to hold a contest where five grand prize winners would win an actual bus trip from Tucson to Las Vegas with Penn & Teller and four nights at Bally’s. All you had to do was score a single point, take a picture of the screen, and send it along with an entry form.
Clever. Very meta, indeed.
Speaking of controls, there isn’t much to speak of with Desert Bus. A accelerates. The D-pad steers. And that’s about it, unless you count the start button sounding the horn and the B button opening the door to the bus and making a lovely little squeaking noise.
Oh, but if all you need to do is accelerate, why not just put a clamp down on the button and let the game do the work for you?
Because if you walk away for too long, the bus will veer off the road and get stuck on the shoulder. Then a tow truck comes and drags you back to the starting point. In real time. So, yeah, if you’ve driven 7 hours and get stranded, it takes 7 hours to get towed back. How’s that for ludonarrative dissonance?
But not everything tied to Desert Bus is bad: the annual Desert Bus for Hope marathon tests the limits of human patience while raising funds for the Child’s Play charity. Last year’s event was a big friggin’ deal, featuring guests such as Matt Fraction, Bill Corbett, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, and Bonnie Burton and raising more than half a million dollars.
In the end, the Nerd is so confounded by Desert Bus that he states that he’s hit the bottom of the barrel, has failed in his goal of warning the world off of the worst video games ever made, and should retire immediately.
Until he is swayed back into action by a playthrough of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest Redaction, a greatly-improved version of the first video game he ever reviewed. And we should be thankful for that (and the fact that the Nerd has led us to something as badass as a hacked version of Simon’s Quest that actually explains the game’s convoluted puzzles), because the Nerd is a much-needed commodity.