It takes anywhere from six to eight hours to drive from Tuscon, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada. There’s a lot of things you could do with that time: a full days’ work, a Batman movie marathon, maybe even complete five or six ‘full’ VR games. Or, you could drive from Tuscon, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada… in VR.
That’s not me describing Desert Bus VR in a nutshell, that’s me describing it in its entirety. In this remake of an obscure 90’s minigame — made as part of a collection of weird games for Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors on Sega CD — you jump into the drivers seat of a scrappy-looking bus, push the pedal to the floor (or rather hold the trigger button firmly) and strap yourself in for a long, long trip from one great US city to, well, Vegas.
Why should you do this, exactly? Outside of the 15 Steam achievements, there’s no great reason other than for some strange, twisted bragging rights that no one will actually be jealous of. That said, over the years the original Desert Bus has built up a cult following that actually raises money for charity with an annual livestream of the madness, and this VR version breathes a little new life into that.
The road itself is a lonely one, stretching out for miles to see with absolutely nothing of interest on the horizon. A fuzzy radio whistles away the hours with a number of programs, including an interview with Penn Jillette. But it’s not without its innovative features; you can wave to yourself in the rearview mirror, for example, and even open the bus door if you’re feeling particularly mischevious.
Okay, so really there’s not much to it. Keep your hand on the wheel and keep it straight and hope the journey ends before your sanity does. If you should steer too far off to one side (or if, like me, your Rift tracking messes up and catapults your hand to the right), you’ll be towed all the way back to the start. It doesn’t matter if your five minutes or five hours in; disobey the rules of the bus and it’s a long way back to the beginning.
One great feature that makes the journey a little more bearable, though, is the addition of multiplayer, which lets up to four friends jump onto the seats behind you and, should they be so inclined, hurl paper balls at the back of your virtual head.
Desert Bus VR is available on Steam now for free with support for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Brave the insanity if you dare.