I’m not really an angry guy and I quite like a challenge in a game, but Singled Out pushed me to my limit. It’s not even as if the game is overly difficult or that it features mechanics that are hard to work out… it’s just very, VERY stressful. Sounds like it’s a bad game, right? Well, no, it’s actually not – the game is designed to be that way, with developer Matt Glanville looking to challenge players’ memory skills (and their stress levels) in his intergalactic criminal hunting escapade.
Singled Out’s gameplay is pretty simple, with the player shown three different facial characteristics of an intergalactic criminal and then expected to match them up with one of the faces that are shown bouncing around the screen. This could be a pair of eyes, a nose, a mouth, a face shape, or a hat – typically, you’ll see a few instances of each characteristic on an individual basis across the faces on show, but only one of the faces will have all three. There’s a time limit in place though, with more points awarded the faster you identify the face that you’re looking for. Once you identify the right face and shoot it, you move onto the next wave with each getting progressively tougher with more faces to search through. Run out of time or shoot the wrong face? You fail and have to start over again.
Singled Out is one of the most stressful games that I’ve played, though that’s how it’s MEANT to be. Those ten seconds that you’ve got to identify the weird looking criminal? They go by SO fast and trying to match up the exact traits that you’re looking for when there are a ton of faces on show can be really tough. There are times where it can be obvious straight away, especially when you’re looking for a particular head shape or hat, but there are also times where you’ll have to examine each and every face on the screen before you can figure out who the baddie that you’re hunting is. Believe me, trying to do that in ten seconds is brutal, especially during the later waves where there are a ton of different faces filling the screen.
I’m sure that level of stress will provide a real buzz for some gamers though, especially when you manage to nail the intergalactic baddie with just a few milliseconds left on the clock. I’ll admit, it was during those moments where I got the most satisfaction from the game, but failing at the last second when you’re lingering in those aforementioned later waves? It’s rage-inducing.
There’s no denying there’s an air of ingenuity to Singled Out though, with it taking a really simple concept and turning it into an experience that can be as rewarding as it is frustrating for the player. Don’t consider that ‘frustration’ to be a flaw though, with the game intentionally designed to push both your memory, your reaction speed, and your patience to their limits as you take out each intergalactic super criminal. There were plenty of times when I came close to rage-quitting, but there’s just SOMETHING so quirky and charming about the whole thing that it made it addictive enough for me to keep coming back for more.
Well… up until I finally beat the game, anyway. Singled Out does have an end that comes when you clear wave-thirty and I’ll admit that I was done with it at that point. There are leaderboards for players to try and climb if they want to compete for the highest score in the game, but I’d already pushed my criminal-spotting skills to their limit in beating the whole thing once. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the game because believe me, I was proud at myself for beating it – it’s just that it has also given me anger issues that reignite every time I see one of those stupid intergalactic criminal faces…
Want to know the worst thing? I gave it to my non-game playing partner to try and she found it easy, almost beating the game on her first attempt. I’m sure the rage that comes with the experience is going to be on a player-by-player basis, but it certainly struck the wrong chord with my stress levels on more than a few occasions. It’s something that I actually admire about the game, with Singled Out undoubtedly being easier for some players more so than it is with others. For me though, someone who considers himself an ‘expert’ of gaming? It was rough, man.
So it’s clear my relationship with Singled Out was a bit of a sketchy one, but I do have to admit that I actually quite liked the game. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I hated it when I was playing, but it obviously did something right to keep me hooked in for over an hour to actually beat the damn thing. Even if you’re done with the game after an hour, it comes at a low price point and is perfect for quick sessions on the Nintendo Switch – there’s also an additional ‘Memory Mode’ to unlock for masochists who want an even tougher challenge, so you’ll certainly feel like you’re getting good value for money with the game. Just don’t be surprised if it makes you want to pull your hair out too…
I enjoyed my experience with Singled Out, but I also kinda hated playing it too. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just the nature of the beast, with Matt Glanville’s challenging yet charming memory game taking a simple concept and turning it into something that’s both entertaining and rage-inducing.
Does that sound like your idea of fun? Then the cheap price point of Singled Out will definitely make it worth investing in, especially if you’ve got the grit to work up the high score table. Don’t like the idea of being stressed out by the game or are you easily angered? Maybe you should steer well clear of this one…
(Look, I’ve been a little hyperbolic with my rage in this review, but Singled Out can be stressful to play – it can also be a lot of fun though. It won’t be for everyone, but if you enjoy a challenge that requires a good memory and quick reactions, you’ll really enjoy what it has to offer.)
Developer: Matt Glanville
Publisher: Matt Glanville
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC