It's obvious that the life sim has been a popular genre amongst PC and console gamers ever since The Sims was released in early 2000. Unfortunately, there hasn't been much variety outside of The Sims franchise and its piles of expansions, at least until now.
Singles: Flirt Up Your Life is a life sim that focuses on relationships rather than getting a job and bringing home the bacon. The game throws two single people into a house and it's up to you to make the fireworks fly in addition to getting the housework done and getting your singles to work. Instead of creating your own characters, you choose from a handful of prefab characters. The women all look great and have varying styles to them, but the same can't be said for the guys as they range from extreme yuppie to dire straight ghetto in appearance. In addition to males and females, you can also get the token gay or lesbian characters if you're up for some girl-on-girl or guy-on-guy action.
The game puts you in control of both characters and allows you to easily switch between them. You're also able to move the camera around and zoom in during those intimate moments – if you're a perv. You build up relationships by interacting with each other in a variety of categories such as friendship, fun, romance, and sensual. Your characters will gain experience points for each category which allow you to unlock new and sometimes more intimate actions. One problem here is that the order of how actions are unlocked isn't too realistic. I had two women in a flat who were kissing with tongues and snuggling in bed before they got confident enough to hug or give pecks on the cheek. Either way, it seems that your ultimate goal is to get your singles to (as the game refers to it) “do the wild thing” and unlock all of the actions that are available. You'll find yourself spending the majority of your time flirting with your roommate repeatedly to get to the next level of the relationship. This can be somewhat repetitive and somehow feels rewarding at the same time. Especially when you get past their initial shyness and make them walk around the house naked – full frontal nudity and all. This game definitely earned its adults only rating. Sensual acts also look realistic. Kisses look passionate; characters will pet, look into each others eyes and speak to each other while cuddling in bed among other things that shouldn't be mentioned in a review written by an amateur trying to write like a professional. One really annoying aspect is that when you get enough experience to do the aforementioned “wild thing”, the characters will only do it if you buy them a double bed. I know if I were living with a hot chick and the time came for some action, I'd settle for a twin bed no matter what.
In addition to your blossoming relationship, your singles also have to do chores and get to work. Like the Sims, your singles all have needs like hunger, body, comfort, surroundings, relationship, and love. Naturally, you can stave away hunger by pulling food out of the bottomless fridge or cook for you and your roommate. You can get your body levels to normal by washing your hands, taking showers, or going to the bathroom. You can even get by just taking showers and not using the toilet for the entire game without one complaint out of your single. There is also housework to be done, lest your comfort levels go down to abysmal levels and start causing arguments amongst your roommates. Sharing the housework also helps your relationship along. Sorry, no master/slave scenarios here.
One unfortunate aspect is that the game world doesn't exist outside of your living space, which means your singles will disappear from 9am to 5pm to go to work or go out and buy a gift for their roommate, but that's about the extent of outdoor activity. What the game offers in terms of indoor environments all look great, if it's any consolation. You'll also have the life sim standard of buying new furnishings for the home that increase their effectiveness on your needs. None of them are quite as creative or interesting as what The Sims had to offer, but at least its there and offers a little more depth than the somewhat shallow gameplay.
Speaking of visuals, the characters all look great as they're all a couple steps up from the sims of old. One drawback is that all of their animations are recycled, no matter what character you're playing. It just depends on who you want to see naked. There are also a host of graphics glitches abound, mostly consisting of clipping issues. For instance, when a character is brushing their teeth, you'll get the somewhat horrifying sight of them stabbing themselves about the face and eyes with the toothbrush instead of keeping it in their mouth. Same goes for when they hug or snuggle, arms and hair will go through the other person's body.
On the sound side of things, the game features a pretty good soundtrack of three to four songs that can get repetitive after a few hours of game time. The characters also speak their own simish language and while it's voiced well, there isn't a lot of variety as far as speech is concerned.
All-in-all, Singles: Flirt Up Your Life is a solid, if not shallow take on the things that the Sims were missing. Though the game can be entertaining while your relationship develops, the fun quickly drops off once you reach your ultimate goal. If you're tired of the Sims (and let's face it, it's been four years) and you're not squeamish about virtual nudity and adult situations, Singles can make an entertaining weekend of casual play despite its questionable gameplay and visual glitches.
- Brad Hicks (aka Dr. Swank), SwankWorld Media