Vintage joke game Desert Bus, where players drive the eight-hour journey from Tuscon to Las Vegas in a wonky bus which veers slightly to the right, is now remade in full modern fancy-o-vision as Desert Bus VR. Published by Borderlands devs Gearbox, this new version is completely free, it adds online multiplayer, and yes, it has a non-VR version too. The original Desert Bus was part of an unreleased Sega CD game, Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors (yes, Penn & Teller the wizards), which leaked online then came to fame through Desert Bus for Hope, the annual charity fundraiser marathon.
Desert Bus has players drive a bus from Tuscon to Las Vegas in real time through a dull desert, eight hours of holding forwards and steering slightly to the left to avoid going off the road. If that happens, god help you, you’ll be towed backwards to Tuscon – also in real time. Reach Las Vegas and your grand reward is one point and the opportunity to take a return journey.
The new Desert Bus VR remakes this experience in full 3D fancy-o-vision, giving us a dingy bus with trashed seats and still so much nothing to see. You can turn your head and look around, though. Online multiplayer means passengers can now join to sit, wave, and throw paper at the driver. I sadly could not find a bus to join when I tried.
Desert Bus VR also adds a radio, with programmes including Penn Jillette talking about the game’s origins amidst the violent video game moral panic of the ’90s.
When Jillette gabbed last year about making a new Desert Bus, he said it would come as part of “a bundle of games,” like the original was in Smoke and Mirrors. Well, I see only this, but I’m not complaining.
You can download Desert Bus VR for free from Steam. The release date, yesterday, was chosen by a winning donor from this year’s Desert Bus for Hope. 2017’s event raised $651,766.51 for the charity Child’s Play.