The O.C.
| The O.C.

Sun-soaked summer days, beachfront lounging, bronzed bodies and a banging nightlife. Yep, Weston-Super-Mare is quite a place. Until you're exposed to the equivalent lifestyle in southern California, at least.

By adhering to the usual North American mantra of 'bigger is better,' L.A., San Diego, San Francisco and myriad other towns and cities in the Golden State are unequivocally more glamorous. So it's a good job that TV series The O.C. is set where it is.

It also makes for a more entertaining game on mobile. The O.C. enables you to slip right into this balmy paradise as Seth, Ryan, Marissa or Summer and live out their lives as the biggest date of the year approaches: Prom night.

Whoever you choose to play as, you'll be faced with the exact same crises facing the characters in the TV show: how to get your friends to stay that way, dress stylishly and make out with one of the flawlessly manicured members of the opposite sex.

Seen from an isometric viewpoint, you're able to wander about at will between and within several Newport Beach landmarks, including the Pool House, Student Lounge and Diner. At each location you can interact with the other people you meet, make use of the facilities and complete the objectives that you're given.

It's these objectives that drive the storyline forward, and each character's experience of The O.C. is slightly different as a result. But it also means that you're not as free to roam around and do what you want as you initially suspect.

Various folk from the wider O.C. universe pop up, including Kirsten, Sandy and Julie, and they'll all get in on the act, too, asking favours of you and even carrying over elements of the TV show's storyline into the game, setting up some important tasks that must be completed.

These tasks are dealt with in a series of mini-games roughly based on the situation in which you find yourself. This could be cooking breakfast for a friend, which involves you catching a specific collection of ingredients that drop down the screen while avoiding foodstuffs you don't want. Or it could require you to dodge cars on the highway as you give someone a lift to the mall.

Mini-games are also the means by which you progress your relationships with the inhabitants of Orange County. Your character has a series of statistics that represent his or her intellect, attitude, style and maturity, as well as how well liked he or she is by other individuals.

Much of the game is centred on you keeping tight with Marissa, Ryan and company, and this is achieved by ensuring that you meet and chat with them regularly to up the friendship quotient. Again, chatting brings up mini-game that finds you collecting smiley emoticons and avoiding unhappy ones. And by now, we're sure you're noticing a pattern emerging.

As entertaining as these mini-games could have been, and undeniably were intended to be, they become incredibly repetitive. There are only around half a dozen in total, including ones for karaoke singing and working out with a punchbag and, by and large, they involve the same catching / avoiding mechanic.

It wouldn't be so bad but The O.C. is otherwise as shallow as [insert your least favourite character's name here]'s intellect and doesn't have a strong enough appeal to keep you hooked for longer than a couple of hours. Your objectives most frequently come down to maintaining your friendship stats above certain levels, and upping your own character's attributes isn't challenging in the least; you'll be able to raise them to the mid- to high-nineties (out of 100) with ease.

It consequently becomes dull to engage with the other characters, and the episodic nature of the storyline becomes a drag as you have to complete often meaningless jobs before the next interesting part comes along (and interesting it is – the TV show's scriptwriters were involved in coming up with the plot and in-game dialogue).

What makes these flaws so surprising is that the company behind The O.C. also created Miami Nights: Singles in the City, which is a much more accomplished game and, despite being set on the opposite coast, manages to provide exactly the entertaining virtual-life experience that The O.C. tries to capture.

Unless you're an O.C. addict, there's really little reason to buy this when Miami Nights is so much better. The storyline and familiar characters are really all The O.C. has going for it, so if they aren't that important to you, climb aboard that Florida-bound flight and don't look back.

The O.C.

One for The O.C. aficionados only, this is a life we're not in a rush to experience again