Alakazam! Desert Bus VR Sequel Teased

Desert Bus has found remarkable fame for an unreleased game. Created for funny wizards Penn & Teller’s scrapped Sega CD minigame ’em up Smoke and Mirrors, Desert Bus has players drive a bus from Tuscon to Las Vegas in real time. That takes about eight hours, during which they must correct it slightly veering to the right. The game never officially came out, but did leak and gained fame through Desert Bus for Hope. Since 2007, the annual livestreamed marathon has raised over $3 million for charity.

That’s grand, but I’m still surprised to hear that Penn Jillette is planning a virtual reality Desert Bus sequel with Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford. For charity.

“This is not announced publicly so, people listening, don’t spread it around,” Jillette said last week on his podcast Penn’s Sunday School (episode #202 – jump to 1:24:50 for VR chat). Hey, I saw those rogues at Gamasutra blab first so don’t blame me.

“We are going to do a new Desert Bus. It’s going to be just for charity, so charities can use it to raise money. He’s calling it Desert Bus 2.0; I’m calling it Desert Bus 1.0003. It’ll be a period piece, it’ll be set in 1992 like the original Desert Bus, just high-fidelity.”

Not that it really matters for us non-charity folks at home, who’ll likely never get to play, but he says “it’ll probably be for the Rift and PlayStation VR.”

One presumes Gearbox at large are involved, and it’s not just Jillette and Pitchford making it in a shed.

More secrets are to come. “It’ll be a bundle of games,” Jillette said, “and we’re talking to a bunch of people.” The original Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors was a compilation with magic tricks masquerading as games, containing secrets that a gamewizard could exploit to mystify and amaze their pals. Desert Bus was more of a gag, using unrelenting dreariness to tweak the noses of folks complaining about violent video games.

Here’s are some fun related facts for you: Gearbox head honch Randy Pitchford used to be a professional magician himself, and has bought Jillette’s ponytail. I imagine the two communicate through crystal balls which actually conceal two-way radios. Maybe Pitchford has taped Jillette’s ponytail to the back of his scrying sphere. Drawn little eyes on the front in Magic Marker. I should stop here.


  1. gbrading says:

    They need to make it more realistic; instead of a bus journey from Tuscon to Las Vegas (approx 6 hours), it should be a journey from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas (approx 16 hours).

    And if you leave the road, you’re towed all the way back to Oklahoma City, in real time, obviously.

  2. tucsonnottuscon says:

    The city in Arizona is Tucson, not Tuscon

  3. Distec says:

    All these years and I’ve been reading it as “Dessert Bus”. Like, you drive around give people cake and ice cream. In the desert, I guess.

    This seems better, actually.

  4. BiggerJ says:

    Smoke & Mirrors also had a real game (an action-platformer adventure not unlike the Beavis & Butthead genesis game) that had a trick involved as well. There were two difficulty levels, Normal and Impossible. If you choose Impossible, the game will begin as normal, but walk down the street a little and you will find, standing on the corner, suitcase in his hand, Penn Jillette’s personal Fonz, Lou Reed. Who, after Penn’s greeting, eye-lasers Penn and Jillette’s bodies until they explode and tells their living severed heads that ‘very difficult is winning the Nobel Prize; impossible is eating the sun’. Someone involved in the games production has revealed that Lou did a bunch of takes of that scene filled with profanity.