If you're anything like us, you've felt something of a mixture between intrigue and general creepiness when looking at the screenshots that have been released for developer Rotobee's dating and relationship sim, Singles: Flirt Up Your Life. Already popular in Europe, Singles takes something that vaguely resembles the relationship aspects of The Sims and focuses singularly on it, adding quite a number of options to managing and maintaining the relationships of your two controllable characters, as well as adding a lot more ways to allow your characters to express themselves...physically. We took a look at Singles at publisher Eidos Interactive's E3 2004 display, and while we still admit to being a bit creeped out by the whole thing, overall what we saw seemed quite interesting.
The basic premise of Singles is pretty simple. You will begin by choosing two characters, one male and one female, and put them into an apartment as roommates. Choosing characters is actually half the strategy of the game, as each character has his or her own unique personality quirks. So, if you try to put the slick Casanova with the angry Goth girl, chances are you're going to have a much tougher time developing a relationship. And, really, the whole point of Singles is to get these two crazy kids together. Though they start out as roommates, it will be up to you to further their relationship by dictating how they spend their time.
Most of the time, you'll earn the most points by getting the two characters to do things together, whether it be simply sitting down to eat a meal together to getting in bed and enjoying some "heavy petting"--the latter of which you'll only be able to do after you've gotten the two to a point where they're in an actual relationship. Every aspect of the two characters' primary driving element is tracked via a meter, and these categories include hunger, comfort, energy, body, fun, relationship, sensuality, and surrounding. As you progress these characters' relationships, you'll be able to acquire new items and furniture for their apartment. In order to gain funds to get these items, both characters will have to work--however, the work portion of the game isn't anything you'll have to actually manage.
Once you've hit that point in the relationship where physical contact is possible, you'll have several options on how you can have your characters interact with one another. You can choose anything ranging from simple making out to actual sex. The version of the game we saw didn't feature any nudity, though evidently, the final version will (though to what degree, we're not sure). While the inherently voyeuristic nature of this aspect of the game may just be too creepy for some people, there's no need for any public outcry as it seems as though the way this is handled in the game isn't really pornographic in any way, and rather it is reasonably tastefully.
Graphically, Singles definitely seems to draw its inspiration from Maxis' perennial life simulation franchise. You'll manage your characters from something of an isometric camera view, and though walls and furniture may get in your way, they can easily be turned invisible to prevent you from missing anything. The interface seems pretty simple and intuitive, with most every option you'll need easily available from the in-game head's-up display. The character models are also quite impressive. Though from a distance you won't really notice it, up close you will see a ton of detail, especially in the faces, which each feature 36 distinct facial deformers to portray a wide variety of emotions.
Singles: Flirt Up Your Life is most definitely one of the odder games we came across at E3 2004, but on the whole, it seems like it will have enough going for it to make it a worthy entry into the life sim genre. Singles will be available to North American consumers this summer, but initially the game will only be available through online purchase--possibly because of the game's Adults Only rating. However, Eidos is also toying with the idea of a post-summer retail release of the game, which will feature a toned-down M rating (most likely sans nudity). We'll bring you more on Singles: Flirt Up Your Life as it becomes available.