Sex sells -- but not in computer games, unless the sex is an extra, like giving the female protagonist of an action game bountiful assets. If the game is only about sex, then K-mart and Costco won’t sell it, and publishers will stay away from it. Well, usually. Every year or so somebody sends up a trial balloon, and this year it’s Eidos Interactive and Rotobee with Singles: Flirt up Your Life, a Sims-like game where you control two roommates and try to get them to have lots of sex -- er, I mean, fall in love.
The background story to Singles is about how two people are struggling to get by on their meager wages, and finally decide that they’d be better off sharing an apartment so they can also share the bills. And so they find themselves in a cramped apartment always in close proximity to each other. Your goal in the game is to keep the roommates happy, make sure they don’t run out of money, and get them to fall in love so they eventually get married.
Singles takes its cues directly from The Sims. The two games look a lot alike (although Singles is in 3D), their interfaces are similar, and the needs of the roommates are about the same. The roommates require food, cleanliness, a comfortable apartment, fun activities and more. Where the games differ is in how they let the people you control interact. In Singles, the roommates can start out by flirting and gossiping and telling jokes, but then they can move on to hugging and kissing, and eventually they can “do the wild thing” (the game’s terminology, not mine). Finally, once you’ve earned enough friendship, sensual, and romance points, the roommates can get married, which means you’ve won the game for them, but you can keep playing them for as long as you like.
Singles comes with 12 possible roommates, and you’re allowed to work with gay or lesbian relationships if you feel so inclined. Since the game is about the interactions of the two roommates, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that there is nudity in the game, including full frontal nudity, but the game isn’t pornographic. (Think of it as the equivalent of an NC-17 movie.) When the roommates finally get to the bedroom and get beyond the heavy petting, all their activities take place underneath blankets, and so events are mostly left up to your imagination.
The problem with Singles is that there just isn’t a whole lot to do. Like with The Sims you can decorate the roommates’ apartment, but there aren’t a lot of choices, and the choices have more to do with how good an object is rather than what it looks like. For example, if you buy a “designer” refrigerator, it’s less likely to break down than a regular one, meaning the roommates won’t have to spend as much time repairing it. Then there are the roommates themselves. Even though there are 12 of them, they all have the same body shapes (only their faces change) and the same voices, and although they have personalities that can lead to fights, the fights only come about because of chores. If one of the roommates doesn’t think the other is doing enough cooking or cleaning, then he or she might complain about it, and if the roommate gets upset enough, then he or she might leave. That’s the only way you can lose the game, but it’s an easy enough situation to avoid, provided you take direct control of the roommates and don’t let them try to live their lives on their own. That means, since roommates can never lose any romance or sensual points they gain, all you have to do win a game of Singles is just grind your way through it (so to speak).
Even then the game could still be some voyeuristic fun, but there aren’t enough activities for your roommates to participate in. They can watch TV together or play a board game, but they’ll only do things like that when they need to improve their fun rating, which isn’t often. There are also chores that need to be done, but the chores are generally quick and easy. That leaves the more personal interactions, but there are only (by my count) 19 of them, and you’ll have to perform many of the interactions 50 or more times before the end of the game. That is, the first time you see the roommates French kiss or snuggle, it’s fun to watch, but after a while you just want the losers to get married. And there isn’t much of a reason to play the game a second time, because the roommates (gay, lesbian or regular) don’t change much, and you’ll just end up watching the same interactions 50 more times.
Strangely, once you finally get your roommates hitched, there’s already a notice in the game that Singles 2 is coming. It supposedly features threesomes. Hopefully developer Rotobee doesn’t think the addition of one more person is enough for a new game, and they’re working on ways to give their titles more lasting value. One way would be to make Singles more easily moddable, so hopefully fans will create more content and more things for the roommates to do (the shower could be more exciting, for example). Otherwise, Singles might be fun about for about 10 hours, and then again it might not. So only buy it if this sort of game overly appeals to you, or if you’re a guy and naked computer women turn you on.