Squid Game: The Challenge review - More intense than drama series with new twists
Think Squid Game (the drama) meets The Traitors! This is not just the show we all binged back in 2021, but it's so much more.
The Korean thriller series, which saw its characters taking on life or death challenges in a bid to win 45.6 million South Korean Won, soon became one of the streaming site's most watched shows with 16.43 billion minutes of the show being streamed in total.
So when Netflix announced that it was launching a reality TV show, Squid Game: The Challenge, of the same theme, I, like many others, was skeptical about whether they'd be able to pull it off. After all, the show revolves around fictional characters dying in some of the most horrific ways after playing child-like games.
However, after watching the first five episodes of the reality TV show, which launches on Netflix on Wednesday 22nd November, I was immediately hooked.
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From the playground setting and multiple deck bunk bed dormitory, to the green tracksuits that the contestants wear, the red overalls of the workers, and the giant singing doll, Squid Game: The Challenge is practically identical to the drama series.
So much so, it begins in the same way to its parent show, with the Red Light, Green Light challenge up first.
While we don't see people being killed (for obvious reasons), the show has managed to pull off these eliminations in an effective way, with contestants who are no longer in the running to win the $4.56 million cash prize being shot at with black paint. The dramatic fall of each contestant as they're hit also makes these exits clear, and adds to what is already a very intense watch.
One of the big questions I had when it came to the reality TV show was how they were going to keep viewers invested in the 456 contestants, which is one of the largest ever line-ups for a competition show. I wondered if they'd cut it down to a number that felt easier for viewers to take in, but that could change the show massively. Netflix opted to keep the number of players the same, and thanks to a lot of editing, it works very well and heightens the "deaths" with people essentially dropping like flies.
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From the get-go, there are standout players - you have the muscular guys teaming up and using their size as an advantage, only for some of the underdogs (women, older players, and smaller contestants) to cruise through the competition. You have the lone wolves, who draw attention to themselves for insisting that they can take on this challenge alone. Along the way, you also have some very funny characters whose behaviour doesn't go unnoticed, and see many friendships being informed.
Credit must be given to the casting team for finding players of all different walks of life, with so many reality shows these days focused on the "influencer types". It's nice to see a mum and son duo playing together and older contestants taking a stab at some of the challenges on the show. But don't get too invested as this line-up is quickly whittled down – and it's so unpredictable, which makes the show both interesting and extremely savage.
Part of the fun of having watched the drama series first, is that it allows you to pre-empt what's coming next. You can almost put yourself in the shoes of the players and it makes the game feel very real.
But while similar in many ways, the show does introduce several new twists and challenges, which only adds to the drama of the show.
Think Squid Game the drama series meets The Traitors! This is not just the show we all binged back in 2021, but it's so much more. It's brutal, it's savage and there are many moments that had me screaming at my TV, as I questioned the actions of some of the players and the cut-throat rules of the game.
The drama series wasn't an easy watch, but when it comes to real people trying to win a life-changing sum of money by playing some of the most trivial games, the ante is raised. I'm still not over the cookie cutter (Dalgona) game. Perhaps some of the most intense scenes I've ever seen on a reality TV show – you won't be able to look away!
The show will launch on Netflix with the first five episodes, and will be followed by three more, which will see the contestants taking on even more challenges. The final two episodes will drop at a later date, during which the winner of the prize pot will be revealed. If the upcoming episodes are anything like the first five, viewers could be in for some of the best reality TV we've seen in years.
I had my doubts to begin with, but Squid Game: The Challenge not only lives up to the original show, but with the new twists, challenges, and the real-life prize fund at stake, it's even more intense than the hit show.
Squid Game: The Challenge launches on Netflix on Wednesday 22nd November.
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