Based on the American television comedy-drama of the same name, The O.C. is a re-skin of New York Nights: Success in the City, but more story-driven and with the addition of mini-games. In this Sims/dating game using an isometric perspective, you guide one of the series' protagonists - Ryan, Seth, Marissa or Summer - through their lives in Orange County, California. Each character has a unique look and characteristics based on style, maturity, intelligence and attitude. The aim of the game is to keep your friends happy as well as taking care of daily tasks.
All important information is stored in your cell phone. Friends call you to schedule meetings, you can view your current objectives, statistics and schedules, go through your inventory, or call to get to know a friend's current location. Basic quests include raising your four main characteristics, performing tasks for your friends, earning money, and buying specific items. There are also a few relationships to pursue, as there are many characters in town. Through an overview map, you can visit the student's lounge, rooms of friends, shops, etc. To raise your statistics, you can train with a punch bag, tutor another student, work in a diner to earn money, play video games, watch television, or go shopping.
You can talk to other characters, apologize or offend them, joke, or offer gifts. When a romantic relationship is introduced, it also becomes possible to perform more intimate actions. Conversations, as well as all other main activities, are presented as mini-games, somewhat reminiscent of those in Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. There are memory games, top-down driving sequences, games of catch, and even the classic Asteroids.