Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
As if being a bus simulator wasn’t an easy enough joke, OMSI goes further by being about a particular type of bus at a very particular time and place: divided Berlin during the 1980s. How strange, how funny, who would want to play this?
Everyone should want to play this. OMSI is rich, soulful, a mental balm, a sensory delight, and one of my favourite games.
It’s the details that make it. I don’t know my gear stick from my drive shaft, but OMSI’s buses are alive with creaking metal, shuddering suspension, and hissing brakes. Your task is of course that of a bus driver, to pick up passengers and take them to their destination, push buttons to dispense tickets, and make your stops on time as comfortably and reliably as possible, but the routine and the precision and the sound of the rain and the lurching weight of your locomotive guide you into a kind of trance. You’re simultaneously focused on the task at hand and free to think of other things, to let your mind wander across the hours ahead or behind you.
I come away from every OMSI session recharged, feeling as if I’ve been on holiday in a peaceful other world. This feeling is helped along by the long minutes where you park your bus at the depot and wait until your next trip is due. You can fast forward time, but I prefer to pick up a book and wile away the minutes by reading in the front of my cab. It’s a delightful Tim Stone simulator.