Desert Bus is a trick minigame in the package, and was a featured part of Electronic Gaming Monthly's preview. The objective of the game is to drive a bus from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada in real time at a maximum speed of 45mph. The feat requires 8 hours of continuous play to complete, since the game cannot be paused.
The bus contains no passengers, there is little scenery (an occasional rock or stop sign will appear at the side of the road), and there is no traffic. The road between Tucson and Las Vegas is completely straight. The bus veers to the right slightly, and thus requires the player's constant attention. If the bus veers off the road it will stall and be towed back to Tucson, also in real time. If the player makes it to Las Vegas, he scores one point. The player then has the option to make the return trip to Tucson for another point (a decision he must make in a few seconds or the game ends). Players may continue to make trips and score points as long as their endurance holds out. Although the scenery never changes, a bug splats on the windscreen about five hours through the first trip, and on the return trip the light fades, with differences at dusk, and later a pitch black road where the player is guided only with headlights. Through the continuous play of the game during Desert Bus for Hope, a bug in the game was found. The game goes from day to dusk, night, dawn, and then night again. It loops from dusk/dawn to night and back again, never returning to day.
Penn Jillette commented in his radio show that the overly realistic nature of the game was in response to Janet Reno's comments in support of the moral panic about violent video games at the time (see Video game controversies). He also stated that there would have been a prize for the person or group to get the highest score in the game, also substantiated by the various "Desert Bus" contest materials prepared for the release of the game. Penn said that the prize "was going to be, you got to go on Desert Bus from Tucson to Vegas with showgirls and a live band and just the most partying bus ever. You got to Vegas, we're going to put you up at the Rio, big thing, and then, you know, big shows." Some have played the game using a tool-assisted emulator, managing to obtain 99 points, the maximum the game allows. A run of this length would have taken over 41 days to complete in real time.