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Submitted by Derek dela Fuente on March 30 2004 - 00:00

Deep Silver bring us The Sims: Gettin Jiggy With It - sorry Singles: Flirt Up Your Life...

Occasionally a game appears that you just know is going to cause a number of emotive problems and that is from two angles. Firstly you have to understand the gameâ??s potential whilst also taking note that this is not a game in the purest sense. Some reviews are going to be overly gushing and very analytical - pointing out the cerebral and emotional aspects of the game whilst others will say, â??whatâ??s the pointâ??? The point is Singles is more than an interactive experience â?“ a game with tongue in cheek â??double entendresâ?? and this you must bear in mind at all times!

Singles can be seen on a number of levels but letâ??s say itâ??s a new and very exciting arrival on the PC scene.

The basic premise of Singles â?“ Flirt up your Life is about assisting, controlling and aiding two characters within their own living quarters. Actually controlling is slightly spurious, more supporting, two developing people over what could be a very eventful period.

There are all number of factors to be taken into consideration but all becomes apparent as the relationship evolves. There are potentially many anomalies that the game will throw up depending on how you perceive it but itâ??s all good fun however.

The two characters you help have their own AI and will go about their daily tasks in a minimalist way, so it is up to the player to give them more focus and build both the charactersâ?? personalities, so they will interact with each other, become more rounded people, and some might say, with the ultimate aim in seeing them horizontally fused so becoming the perfect couple. Now we can be very smutty all the way through the experience but you will soon become bored with cheap innuendo.

Importantly, to a certain point, how the couple interact and get it on is totally up to the player as there are a number of main and sub tasks the player must undertake and these are the building blocks and challenges of the game.

Once you have loaded up the game and a warning to you lower PC spec owners â?“ patience is a virtual. The main screen will take about 30 seconds to appear as the gameâ??s engine has a lot of equations to set in place, as there is an endless number of variables and options for each task you will make within the game! The calculations going on in the background must be immense!

OK, it all begins when you select from a number of couples - one male and one female - and we took the pairing that looked remarkably like one of Atomic Kitten and David Beckham, although I am sure that any similarities are purely fictitious!

The â??would be coupleâ?? has just moved into their own apartment with a small amount of money between them and itâ??s for the player to set up the apartment to their liking, purchasing the necessities and make it as comfortable as possible.

Thankfully, the flat is already kitted out with most of the basics but the first acquisitions we made were a stereo system and a nice plasma screen TV. Some prime time â??smoochingâ?? on the sofa whilst watching a film could surely pay dividends! The living quarters are split into a number of room â?“ bathroom with shower, kitchen dinner, front room and a couple of bedrooms â?“ one each for the occupants.

Now the more complex part begins and explaining what you must to do to create a better living environment whilst also building up the perfect relationship between the two singles sounds straight forward but achieving the end results is a lot harder.

You could easily fall into the trap of paying more attention to your own gender whilst others may find the opposite gender is much more intersting. It goes without saying that trying to entice both into the shower or demanding that both get their kit off and â??snogâ?? just will not work at the start. Thankfully, by clicking on the face icon of either will put you in control of them and you can interchange as much as you want!

The perfect synergy â?“ the coupling - will take time, so start with cajoling each of them to tell jokes, tease each other and do favours! All through the experience you may wonder if you are really controlling them? Were the decisions you made the right ones and why, on some occasions, when taking control of them, do they not respond fully or even get the desired results. This is all part of the mix between their own AI and your demands and that of the games design! (Frustrating in parts but understandable.)

If one of the couple is a messy so and so and does not clean up the flat, never cooks and is generally always watching the television then there could be problems. You have to enhance certain character traits whilst at the same time doing and taking control of the daily chores as well as assigning them to work, cooking a meal, looking after their hygiene, working on the upkeep of their home whilst building a relationship! You have to play the middleman, shore up any of their weak points and expand on their good ones. Sometimes you will have to fully orchestrate actions â?“ other times they may get on with it! Thankfully once they leave for work, you will find they come home on their own at the appropriate time. Leaving late for work is bad, so watch the clock!

They do say that three is a crowd but in this instance itâ??s the perfect formula.

Itâ??s a real shared experience and you will soon get to see which of the partners is doing what and helping them along becomes second nature. Itâ??s certainly a busy time with the upkeep of things and there is no time to just sit and watch the couple go about their business â?“ but you can, if you want, at your own peril!

So while you control both characters, watching or assigning them to making breakfast (going to the fridge and oven, etc), going to work (making sure they leave the flat at the assigned time), relaxing (watching the TV or listening to hi-fi) and recreation (not yet), sleeping - in general, satisfying their everyday personal and physical needs you also have to keep tabs on a number of icons onscreen which is possibly one of the biggest focuses for the player to ascertain and keep in tune with.

The menu and game interface is pretty inventive whilst being unobtrusive and easy to use and understand. You will need to keep in good order the couples comfort, hunger, body, energy, fun, relationship and surroundings icons. If things are going well then the bar/s will be predominantly green but the more red you see, the more concerned you should be - red means things need to be worked on. These menu bars give you a good indication to the overall relations so it is very important. If the Fun and Hunger bar is more red than green then eat and have some fun â?“ liking watching the telly or even telling some jokes. You will soon find things are pretty obvious!

Ideally you should daily go through a set of tasks like cleaning the house, ensuring the couple wash and more importantly ensuring they are telling jokes, speaking about hobbies, even watching the TV together, etc. The more you assign and implement certain activities/tasks, the more the rewards will grow and you will see this in a sub menu.

Initially you could easy think that the basic list of tasks given could become monotonous and also becoming very pedestrian mainly due to the fact that you are confined within the flat and there is not that much to do but in lots of respects this mirrors what life is about!

It is revolves around the elements of being within these confines, getting angry when one of the partners blatantly annoys the other by not washing up or generally being evasive to the other- this is when you really kick in, you become a sort of â??godâ?? and rectify matters and watch the progression in the relationship grow!

There are tons of cosmetic and esthetically nice touches â?“ switching lights on and off (boring but essential), being able to redesign your apartment and experiencing all the daily occurrences. Try assigning them both to go to toilet early on â?“ yes an embarrassing times for all!! Also, if you donâ??t get them to sleep and they stay up that will also have some ongoing effect.

The mechanics of the game are very much point, click, watch, do, help, push but all via simple clicking on the appropriate person and object. This is not an adventure game, in case the aforementioned text fooled you. Itâ??s very much The Sims (the first and only time mentioned) but with its own feel, idiosyncrasies and adult focus.

This is not a game that can be played over a mere couple of hours expecting to get some kind of real gratification or even reward, no itâ??s more like days before you have real empathy with the cast. With over 16 different characters to choose from and customize, their varying personalities and careers have a constant effect on their everyday needs, their favourite activities and the kind of relationship they prefer and so there is plenty to choose and manipulate!!!

The in game information given on each of the characters, on how to progress them could not be easier. If you have a character that is pretty clueless itâ??s time to push him or her into a situation that they will learn from. Once again this very much reflects real life!

Already the Singles experience on offer appears to be a cohesive mix of ideas and tasks but it is actually much more complex than that and sometimes what is going on is very perplexing, frustrating and darn right annoying but weâ??d like to believe that is all part of the master plan for Singles - and a big brand in the making. Singles is very much in its infancy but the direction could be a very inventive one if other character foibles and expanded interiors are worked on.

Graphically the game is fresh, alive and innovative. The great use of colours, slick animation and the design layout of the flat, so you can pan in on a characters or pan out and see all the rooms from a birds-eyes perspective means you can constantly make mental notes of what both the characters are doing and plan ahead.

Sound is also worked into the game to enhance the overall ambience.

Now just take one look at the screens and accompanying media to see what all of the fuss is about; however we should warn that the video clip contains scenes that may be considered offensive to minors.

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  • Graphics: 94%
     
  • Sound: 76%
     
  • Gameplay: 82%
     
  • Originality: 56%
     
  • Longevity: 82%
     
Overall Score: 8/10
It is really hard to make critical comments about Singles but we really hope this is the first step in what could be a huge franchise. The annoying aspect of one character talking to the back of the others’ head niggles a bit but many partners will know that feeling.

If you want a break from mentally draining RTSs, or boring looking FPSs then give this a go for you could easily find yourself hooked! At £20:00 it’s a snip!

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