The game's costar Teller states, "by the time the game was finished, the format was dead. We were unable to find anybody interested in acquiring the game". The publisher Absolute Entertainment went out of business before they had the chance to release the game. Nevertheless, the game had already been featured and previewed in various gaming publications such as Electronic Gaming Monthly and reviewed by VideoGames magazine.
Skyworks Interactive, Inc. owns the rights to all unreleased Absolute games, except for certain handheld console versions of Super Battletank, A Boy and His Blob, and Turn & Burn, which are owned by Majesco Entertainment. However, since Penn & Teller were owed money when Absolute Entertainment went out of business, any rights pertaining to their intellectual property, likenesses and performance within the title were revoked. The game regained minor notoriety starting when a former 1990s video game reviewer mailed his review copy of Smoke and Mirrors to the editor of the website Lost Levels, which is dedicated to arcane and unreleased video game creations.
Considered by Penn to be the "best part" of the collection, Desert Bus is a trick minigame and 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 45 MPH. The feat requires eight hours of continuous play to complete.
The bus contains no passengers, there is little scenery aside from an occasional rock or bus stop sign, 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, one point is scored. The player then has the option to make the return trip to Tucson for another point, a decision which must be made in a few seconds or the game ends. Players may continue to make trips and score points as long as their endurance lasts. Although the landscape never changes, an insect splats on the windshield 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. The game cannot be paused.
The game was designed to be as inoffensive as possible to prove the point that not all video games were corrupting influences. 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." One player used a tool-assisted emulator, managing to obtain up to 99 points, although their claim that this is the maximum the game allows might have been an April fool's joke. A run of this length would have taken 33 days to complete in real time.