Singles: Flirt Up Your Life Hands-On Preview
This relationship game promises to be a much racier version of The Sims.
Singles: Flirt Up Your Life is a game about scoring, and we don't mean in the rack-up-as-many-points-as-possible kind of way. You may have heard about this relationship game, which comes off as a much racier imitation of The Sims. In it, you control young, hot singles who are in the never-ending pursuit of--let us just say--a good time with each other. And given that Singles was developed in Europe, there are certainly expectations on this side of the Atlantic for something much more risqué than The Sims. Thankfully, we've had the chance to get some hands-on time with the game shortly before its US release--if you know what we mean.
In Singles, you'll basically control a pair of roommates who are living together, and the challenge will be to get them to go from being roommates to bedmates. To begin, you have to select your couple by choosing from a selection of female and male singles. Unlike The Sims, you won't be able to make a character in Singles, so you'll have to settle with the ones that the game provides for you. There's a decent selection, from the sleek and sultry Natasha to the nerdish Bert. Each character has certain personality traits, and some will pair up better with others. However, part of the game's challenge will certainly be to try to make the seemingly incompatible pairs work. And while the game defaults to male-female pairs, you can attempt same-sex pairs, since there is a single lesbian character and a single gay male.
There are several different gameplay modes in the game, including an interactive tutorial, a story mode, and a free-loft mode that allows you to basically create and furnish a loft from scratch, much like you can design a house in The Sims.
Like in The Sims, relationship-building is a long and involved process. Your singles won't just jump into bed with each other, so you'll have to constantly nurture their relationship and slowly build up to each physical milestone. The couple will start off as friends, and you can alternate control of each single to get one to try to interact with the other. The interaction starts off lighthearted, with lots of joke-telling and talking, but eventually you can move on to making out, cuddling, and other risqué behavior.
To progress, though, you have to make sure that each of your singles is happy. As in The Sims, you have to monitor hunger, comfort, happiness, and energy levels, to name but a few. If a single is hungry, it's time for him or her to eat. If a single is sad or lonely, then he or she needs to interact with another single. Once these needs are sated, you have to then monitor each single's various relationship meters. Depending on how your singles interact, their meters may raise in the areas of romance, fun, or friendship (to name but a few). To make out in bed, for example, you need to make sure that both singles' romance and sensuality meters are at a certain level. But beware, because there's also a trouble meter that measures discord among your singles. If a single is in a bad mood because he or she is tired or hungry--and if the roommate hasn't done his or her chores (like take out the trash, for example)--then there's a possibility that the perturbed single will snap and subsequently throw a tantrum. If a single throws enough tantrums, then the game ends and you lose.
To complicate things further, singles have full-time jobs that earn them money. You can use money to buy food or presents, but, most importantly, you can buy better furnishings with it. Though you won't be able to design a house from scratch like you can in The Sims, you do have the ability to modify the design of your loft. Singles comes with building and design tools very similar to those in The Sims, so you can extend walls, put in windows and doors, and apply a wide variety of wallpaper and floorings. There's also a ton of different furnishings to buy, and a resultant lush pad will make your singles feel a lot better about themselves. The good news is that while your singles have to spend a lot of time at work, the game does model weekends (which are sorely lacking in The Sims). So if you don't have a lot of time to work on a relationship during the workweek, you can devote the weekend to patching things up between your singles.
The game uses a 3D graphics engine that allows you to both swing the camera around and zoom in on all the game's action. The graphics are very sharp, and the singles are rendered in beautiful detail. You can dress them up in various outfits, and they can go prancing around in their underwear even. Be forewarned that there is nudity in the game, though it isn't total full-frontal nudity, since the groin areas are covered up by leaves (of all things). Your singles also speak in what sounds like a European version of simlish, the gibberish language used in The Sims.
You won't have to wait long to try out Singles for yourself, because GameSpot DLX will premiere the free trial version of the game this weekend. And you will only be able to purchase the game online, as it is rated AO for "adults only" and most retailers refuse to sell AO-rated games. Singles will definitely appeal to older fans of The Sims, but perhaps the most surprising thing about the game is that it's not about one-night stands. Relationships in Singles involve a lot of emotional investment and devotion, though the game certainly promises a bigger payoff for when the relationships pan out.
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