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About the Story
Your commute is simple enough. Or at least, it should be. But today, the entire public transportation system seems to have it out for you--and is it just you, or does the geography keep... shifting?
52nd Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
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Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
This entry is quick and dreamlike for good reason: it's a transit nightmare. In your rush to arrive at work on time, you only see a brief slice of content before arriving at one of many endings. Multiple playthroughs uncover a much larger range of outcomes.
What the Bus? pulled off a clever trick with my expectations, although discussing it ventures into spoiler territory: (Spoiler - click to show)the word "Nightmare" is not hyperbole. The author has created an experience where you start off sleepwalking through your daily commute before realizing that you're fully asleep and not walking at all.
The tediously familiar routine of commuting was presented so effectively that the various detours, delays, and redirections steered me to some very weird places before I realized what was happening. I like how it played with the assumptions embedded in city commutes — of course you take everything for granted, you've done it a million times before.
There's a back button at the bottom of every passage that seemed confusing and unhelpful on my first playthrough. Then I realized that it was an essential mercy to let me back out of paths leading to endings I'd already seen. Background colors that change to show the different subway lines was another nice detail.
I appreciated this entry's use of procedurally generated text. You will see a lot of familiar passages, retracing your steps to arrive at new endings, but if you pay attention you'll see (Spoiler - click to show)mimes, former schoolteachers, zombies, and other dreamworld inhabitants. I checked my GPS app every time the option came up, because I knew the results would be entertaining.
I never thought I'd say this about public transit: "That was fun. Let's do it again!"
A fun, very quick game about getting the runaround trying to navigate the public transit system.
Frustration mounts and most likely you become increasingly lost. There are multiple endings--some of them better than others (and one is the worst). Finally, you arrive at a destination. There's perhaps only a little more to it than that, but a couple playthroughs will let you know what to expect for the rest of the endings.
If you're looking for a fun little game to play between texting a friend when your bus is late or your train delayed, why not give it a try. It doesn't require much thought, but can effectively distract you while you wait.
Weird confession: I’ve been a public-transit user all my life, and now that I haven’t had a commute in over six months – I kind of miss it? Despite the fact that What the Bus? presents public transit commuting (accurately, at least by my experience living in LA!) as a surrealistic nightmare of mysterious delays, interminable transfers, and subterranean disorientation, I sank into it like a warm blanket, partially because it was scratching an itch I didn’t know I had. Again and again I smiled in fond recognition at things that are, objectively, awful:
“You follow signs for the Blue Line through a long tunnel, up a flight of stairs, down a shorter flight of stairs, up another flight of stairs, through some sort of central lobby with an insane number of passages branching off of it, and then down a hallway that you feel like has one too many right turns.”
Yup, I’ve transferred from the 1 to the A-C-E in New York by going through that awful Times Square to Port Authority tunnel, this is exactly right.
“The train is packed, other than one conspicuously empty seat, which you avoid.”
This is obviously correct behavior.
After complaining to a friend about delays:
“Yeah, I hate that, Chris replies. Especially when it’s due to an unspecified emergency or the existence of seasons. Those are the worst.”
Indeed, who at a transit agency could have ever predicted seasons!
Admittedly, there’s not much to the game besides navigating the Kafkaesque labyrinth in search of the ten endings, which are helpfully tracked for you – though I like to think the fact that I got to my office successfully on my second try indicates that real-life skill with public transit translates. But there’s plenty to enjoy along each of the branches, and the “Back” button at the bottom of each passage makes it easy to check out other paths. And now that I’ve played What the Bus?, I think I miss my commute a little less!
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