Reviewed: June 24, 2003
Reviewed by: Mark Smith

Eidos Interactive


Released: May 24, 2003
Genre: Simulation
Players: 1
ESRB: Adults Only


System Requirements

  • Windows Me/2000/XP
  • Pentium III 1 GHz
  • 256mb RAM
  • 32mb 3D Accelerator
  • DirectX Sound Card
  • DirectX 8.1
  • 700mb free disk space

    Recommended System

  • Pentium 4 1.5 GHz
  • 512mb RAM
  • 256mb 3D Accelerator
  • 3D Sound Card

  • Singles: Flirt Up Your Life is a bold step in PC gaming for several reasons, the first and foremost being the ESRB rating. It is the first mainstream game to ďreleaseĒ in the U.S. with an AO (Adults Only) rating, and as such is not available in stores. Apparently, the German developed video game that prominently features naked young adults engaging in undercover sex acts falls into the same category as XXX porn, at least by the standards set by Wal-Mart and other major retailers.

    The only other game to ever stir up this much adult controversy would have to be Acclaimís console release, BMX XXX, that featured naughty mission designs and MPEG video clips of exotic dancers (Xbox only) as unlockable rewards. But while that game failed, simply because it tried too hard, Singles presents sex with a little more class.

    Designed like any reality show you are likely to see this year (probably on Fox), two random individuals of your choosing are thrust into an apartment. You are the casting directory, choosing from a variety of male and female couples of different lifestyles, ambitions, attitudes, and personalities. If you really want to spice things up you can even create a same-sex version of the ďsimulationĒ.

    Iíll be the first to admit that I do NOT like games like The Sims. Never have and never will. Not that they are bad games, but somehow simulating the ďlife experienceĒ just seems like a waste. Iíd rather live life than play it. I play games to experience things I canít do everyday, so why pay $40 to simulate a character who has to go to work, keep up the house, and do all those other mundane tasks Iím trying to escape from by playing games.

    Given my dislike for the genre youíd expect Iím the least probable person qualified to write this review, but itís for that very reason I chose to do it. If a game like the Singles can not only get my attention but also captivate my ongoing interest for several weeks then everyone else is going to love it.

    Singles is much like The Sims only with a much more limited focus. Nearly everything you do in the game is centered around bedding down the other roommate. Sure, you have a career, but that is used primarily to earn money to buy furnishings and gifts for your roommate.

    The game is surprising in its realism, at least as far as the dynamics of relationships go. When you first start the game your couple is thrust into the same room, one is moving in, unpacking their belongings, and getting situated. Just like any simulation, economic, dating, or otherwise, there is a complex set of variables that are always in a state of flux.

    There are numerous status bars for personal comfort as well as indicators for relationship dynamics. These are all updated in real-time as you play the game and interact with the other character and your surroundings. If your hunger meter dips into the red zone itís probably time to fix some dinner. Body odor got you (or your roommate) down? Time for a shower. And you can either use the clock or your energy meter to determine when itís time to hit the sheets.

    For the first few days you can plan on hitting those sheets alone. No matter how charming you are you are going to have to slowly build trust, romance, and sensuality before you can go all the way. During that time you can pick and switch between characters and interact with the other through a simple set of context-sensitive icons.

    Many selections are locked at first and will only become available after you have slowly ďearnedĒ the right to click them. Others will be unlocked but unavailable due to the current dynamics in the relationship. Itís easy to tell jokes or flirt the very first night but making out on the couch isnít even an option. You can even create some embarrassing situations by walking in on your roommate in the shower, on the toilet, getting dressed or just streaking around the apartment.

    With the focus on the relationship aspect, much of the normal ďsim stuffĒ (mundane tasks) are handled for you. Characters will eventually go to the bathroom or prepare their own meals and go to bed when they are tired assuming you donít do it for them. This leaves you free to plot your own schemes for enriching the relationship.

    Naturally, you will want to test the boundaries of the programÖerrÖI mean relationship by doing extreme acts. I barged in on my female roommate while she was on the toilet and was most amused when he held his nose and waved his hand in front of his face. I then cracked a joke by clicking the Tease button and found that girls arenít amused when you comment on their toilet habits Ė especially since we had only known each other for three hours.

    Singles is as much an exercise in home repair as it is dating. Iíd swear this game was co-developed by ďTim Allenís Tool TimeĒ. Iíll concede to the fact that most people starting out in life donít have the best appliances, but the crap that came with my apartment broke on a near-daily basis. Purchasing new appliances, furniture, and items to decorate with is more about freeing up your spare time than aesthetics.

    Much like real-life, keeping the relationship going after you have achieved the ďgoldĒ is nearly as much work as getting there in the first place. Adolescent gamers will undoubtedly get their hands on this game, and much like their first peek at a Playboy, will get all exited over the rendered scenes of intimacy, even though they are quite tame by modern day standards. Older gamers, especially those involved or previously involved in serious relationships might just find a surprisingly accurate mirror that reflects some of their own experiences.

    I was impressed with the flexibility of the game. Almost every object has multiple functions. You can click on the couch and sit or sleep. Turn on the radio and you can dance to party music or jam to some rock and roll, which just so happens to be the gameís background music. You can cook, clean, wash dishes, sleep, shower, change clothes, and interact with your partner on a variety of levels and these options only grow as you collect more material wealth and nurture your relationship.

    And yes, there is nudity, but in no way is it presented in a sexual manner. All intimate encounters are under the sheets and both characters even shower in their underwear, odd since you can strip them down to full frontal nudity and run around the apartment. Itís humorous to get caught streaking and flee to your room with cheeks (the ones on your face) blushing bright red.

    My only real complaint was that all attempts at establishing a relationship take place at home. There are no opportunities to go out to dinner or to the movies. We donít see our characters at work so we canít cheat with our secretary or the boy in the mailroom. The characters and situations are much like a tightly controlled experiment, or better yet, my previous analogy of a TV reality show.

    Singles comes with two unique environments; an apartment and a luxury beach house that you can unlock after you complete the story mode. There is also a sandbox mode that lets you play interior decorator to your heartís content. Itís too bad there arenít more items to make this mode more substantial that it is.

    I was really surprised with the quality of the graphics in Singles. Again, I havenít seen any of the newer versions of The Sims, so the closest thing to this game that I have played is Virtual Resort: Spring Break , which was more of an economic sim with sex and booze-crazy college students.

    The characters are the focus of the game and they are exquisitely modeled right down to the most private of parts. You can even see real-time emotions in the highly detailed face textures of each character so you know exactly what they are feeling.

    The environments are nearly as good as the characters. You have multi-room buildings and the walls will vanish when necessary so you can keep track of your roomies. There is a small catalog of items you can shop for, appliances, electronics, artwork, furniture, and clothing. Itís a given that no two homes will ever look alike. You can purchase anything you can afford and place it anywhere the game permits.

    There are some nice special effects. Some are as simple as the slowly changing night and day cycles while others are as clever as the shower steam that masks any nudity or smoke from a range fire in the kitchen.

    You can pan around the house, zoom in with the wheel and rotate with the cursor keys to get that perfect angle on the action. The menus are all easy to read as are the icons that appear in the thought bubbles and floating menu prompts. Itís a very clean and functional interface.

    I was intrigued with the opening theme music that has a catchy European techno tune and even some simple but appropriate lyrics. Once in the game there are very few music tracks, even when you start playing the radio or larger stereo systems. The tracks are short and loop often. Some of them are easy enough on the ears that you simply ignore them while others will slowly grate on your nerves until you head for the options menu to turn it down or off.

    There is no intelligible speech in Singles, but rather a unique hybrid of sim-speak with some German flair. I even thought it might have been German at first until I researched the issue and found out differently. While I would have preferred to hear the dialogue I fully understand that with ten characters and thousands of lines it would have been a massive undertaking for a game that isnít likely to be a huge commercial success.

    Like most of these simulation type games there is no real ending. One could say that the goal of the game is to get your roommate in the sack and once you do there isnít much point in continuing. I know a few people who are like that in real life Ė itís all about the quest. In the case of the Singles, you can complete your ďquestĒ in 3-6 hours.

    Of course the challenge goes beyond that, since you can mix and match your couples for maximum diversity, thus creating a tougher uphill battle to the bedroom. Looking for the ultimate challenge? Put the lesbian and the gay guy in the same apartment and try to get those two to hook up.

    If you arenít sure about the game or think the concept might wear thin you can download a playable demo and try it out yourself. If you like the game you can pay your $30 and download the full game with all of the scenarios, complete cast, and full catalog of items.

    For a first effort on the part of the designers, Singles: Flirt up Your Life is a bold and titillating concept that will certainly spark the interest of gamers who enjoy a good dating sim or are simply looking for a more adult version of the latest dating expansion for The Sims.

    Singles is a unique but somewhat shallow approach to the complicated scenarios of establishing a relationship or simply nailing your roommate. Itís a bit predictable since there are firm rules in place and you have instant access to the results of your efforts. Plus, you donít have the random psychotic nature of the female species to deal with. Show me a dating sim that charts those five magic days of the month where you need to move out and youíll have a true relationship simulation.