Have you ever watched Desperate Housewives? A more spiteful, conniving, back-stabbing f'ed-up bunch of women you'll never meet. But for all that, it's got something to it: enough mystery and intrigue to fill a library's worth of detective thrillers, even if most of it is set in a suburban domesticity that's hardly evocative of high tension.
The same sort of suspense and mystery pervades Desperate Housewives, the mobile phone game, and Gameloft's managed to recreate the spaghetti-like storylines in what is, essentially, a tarted-up boardgame.
Yep, that's right. In an age when 3D visuals are becoming more prevalent and we praise games for their forward-looking nature, what we've got here is an old-school, roll-the-dice affair. It's decidedly low-key.
You play as each of the main characters from the TV show, every one of whom has around a half-dozen individual levels to complete. As you go, you progress through the storyline, which is so complex it could have dropped right out of the TV show's scriptwriter's hands.
It centres around Susan (Teri Hatcher's character), who returns to Wisteria Lane after taking a holiday. She discovers that Edie has talked the bank manager into repossessing and selling her house. Moving in with Bree, she endeavours to uncover Edie's plot and rectify matters.
Along the way, each of the other characters get involved with their own sub-plots that all end up entwining with Susan's plight.
Each level you play contains clues, and it's the race to collect all of these clues that forms the goal of the game. Grab the required number of clues before the opposing, computer-controlled character that you compete against in each level, and you win, furthering the plot.
The boardgame aspect includes everything you'd expect to find. Mystery squares give you bonuses in terms of extra moves or force you to skip a go, money squares give you credit to spend on bonuses in the shops that occasionally crop up, and mini-game squares drop you in a spin-off challenge.
It's a style of play that can, when not done quite right, get boring. And unfortunately for the Desperate Housewives, that's the case here.
Although the storyline is more interesting than most games, the action quickly becomes repetitive. The mini-games are unimaginative and barely entertaining, and there's the constant thought that the dice rolls are fixed to ensure that each level takes as long as possible to play. It would be far more entertaining to be able to play against another human being, but that's not an option here.
You'll arrive at this conclusion when you find that it's almost impossible to win all of the clues available within a level without the computer-controlled opponent getting any. In fact, you'll soon come to think that the biggest screw-job isn't in the storyline, but rather in the way that you're forced to play each level for longer than you'd really want.
You can't even admire the glamour of the TV show, as the visuals are non-descript. The music is more faithful, with a rendition of the show's theme tune, but really, it doesn't do much to add to the atmosphere.
There is the occasional pay-off, mind. Desperate Housewives fans will enjoy the juicy bon mots from the show's dialogue that grace the loading screens and there's a heavy trivia element involved. If you don't know your Desperate Housewives plot minutiae then you'll struggle, but if you do, then there's a geeky kind of pride to be had in remembering who lent whom a food blender.
We like the storyline, and the boardgame design doubtless suits the target audience. But in the end, Desperate Housewives will leave most mobile gamers feeling stuck in a bit of a cul-de-sac.