Review by Sinisalo

"An Interesting Idea, But Only Fun For a Little While"

Admittedly, part of the reason why I checked out Singles – Flirt Up Your Life was because of the fact that characters could interact on an intimate level (I think a layman's translation of that is unnecessary). I'm not saying that I rushed out to get this game because I wanted to see some computer game characters ‘getting it on', but I considered Singles as a possible improvement from The Sims, a game which I never really caught on to.

That said, despite my limited exposure to The Sims (not literally) I can still easily say that this game looks, and essentially plays exactly like it. Anyone who has played The Sims will immediately recognize the game's interface. You have your menu at the bottom left, a nicely animated little circle where you can check up on the different issues that you and your… Sims, no, I mean, “Singles” will have to deal with. The main issues being a character's day-to-day attributed, such as “body” (meaning cleanliness, bladder issues, etc), “hunger”, or “energy”, all of which indicated by sliders that also bear an exceptional resemblance to The Sims. These three in particular seem to take up a bulk of one's playing time, since these people clearly are not satisfied unless they've used the toilet, had a shower, washed their hands and brushed their teeth over and over and over. Other ones such as “comfort” and “fun” seem excessively easy to keep up, since both of these typically increase reciprocally with other attributes. Plus, even if they are low, your Singles won't show any particular changes, I left one of my Singles with his “hunger” slider at zero for several game-hours, and all that happened was a small sad face thought bubble.

The eventual romantic interaction between your two Singles primarily depends on achieving and maintaining high “relationship” and “sensuality” rating. Since it takes less time to do the standard menial tasks (eating, cleaning, etc.) as it does in the The Sims, your characters will be given ample time to improve these stats, especially on the weekends. The game also give you cues that your Singles management is on the right track, as there will be points where you characters will have a preset conversation that assists you in showing what sort of relationship your pair is headed to, be it disdain for unequal cleaning and cooking amounts, or friendship to fling to romance to… well, you get the idea.

Singles provides you control of both the male and female characters, and there will not be any more or any less characters as you play through the game. At first I figured I'd use the phone to call friends, but calling friends just means you stand there and talk to them. Even the pizza guy won't come up, you have to go down to him! Characters are easily operated; a simple click on the item you want to interact with will bring up the options of what you want to do. Click on the other character will bring up the interaction options, which include friendship, romance, and sensuality, all of which bring up more options. After a while many of the options in these interactions become essentially useless, since eventually actions you unlock apply to several of the categories, negating the need for others (why just “hug” when you can have a “passionate kiss”?).

Singles also includes a somewhat average house-building section. You can pause the game and improve your flat with the money you earn. However, as mentioned, attributes like “comfort” and “fun” are so easy to keep high that its pointless to buy that fancypants new designer television when its just as easy to make out with your partner to improve your fun rating and your sensuality rating.

An interesting addition in Singles is the fact that your characters will level up as time passes. I didn't find any particular rhyme or reason as to what causes your characters to level up, but nonetheless, once you do increase a level, your character will get a skill point. This point can be attributed to options such improving your job (which will improve your income, but also increase your working hours), making your Single a better cook, or perhaps more romantic. Generally this is a fun and interesting idea in advancing your characters, but the system lacks balancing, and some of them seemed to be much more useful than others. I never put any points into the “humour” trait, but it didn't mean that my Singles were unable to amuse themselves or each other. And, on the flip side, adding points to the “cooking” trait did not appear to make my Single cook any faster or better.

The graphics featured in Singles are very nice looking. The game seems to be best suited for a 1024x768 resolution and above, not necessarily because it looks best, but anything lower makes the much of the text too small to read. The characters are well detailed, right down to the ‘naughty bits'. The camera angles, although difficult control, allow for complete freedom, and the flat looks very nice from far away or when zoomed in very close. The interface also shows a close up of whichever Single you're controlling, and the Singles have smooth, well rendered faces that have a variety of different expressions and look pretty realistic when speaking. The speaking, by the way, is the classic Sims gibberish; any important conversations are played out in captions at the bottom of the screen.

The game also did not escape without several frustrating bugs as well. One of the more common one for me was that my Singles would often just walk through walls. In retrospect, I guess that IS the fastest way from the bathroom to the kitchen. I also encountered occasions when my save game would no longer work because the moment it loaded I was crash back to my desktop. Finally, even with my relatively high-end computer (P4 2.4 ghz) the game would seem to suffer from extreme slowdowns, particularly after long playing bouts.

The sound and music in the game is virtually irrelevant. The soundtrack is essentially 3 or 4 songs that play in rotation over and over again. The sounds that you can hear in the game are also fairly limited; you can hear the Singles speak in their gibberish when they're talking (as well as the female moan when ‘doing the deed'). Other than that, there is little in the way of sound, partly since interaction between the Singles and their surroundings is fairly limited.

In terms of difficulty, it is a lot easier to advance your characters than in The Sims, yet you encounter a lot less scenarios that appeared to make The Sims more interesting and challenging. Ultimately, while playing through the game, my sole motivation simply became seeing all the new actions my Singles would do. However, eventually the novelty of seeing your new couple have a ‘passionate kiss' or ‘pet' or even ‘have sex', just wears off, and you're left somewhat disinterested. And, if your main goal in this game is to simply see your Singles knock boots, then you will have achieved your goal within the first 6-7 hours of gameplay. There is more to do afterwards, but that only tacks on another 1 hour or so. If you were so inclined, you could start the game up again with different characters, as the character's interaction dynamics are changed depending on the personality, just like in The Sims. You can even have homosexual relationships, if that floats your boat.

The original premise and presentation of Singles – Flirt Up Your Life gave it the potential to be as successful as The Sims and be even more attractive to adult gamers with its racy-er style and goals. Unfortunately, its lack of depth (meaning, there's more to life the reaching home base) hold it back from reaching the pinnacle that The Sims achieved several years ago. However, in comparison, I played this game for more time before I tired of it than I did The Sims, so those who have not tried The Sims or didn't enjoy The Sims might consider giving Singles a look.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 06/12/04

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