In Netflix reality show Squid Game: The Challenge, the 2021 hit K-drama is reimagined as a nail-biting game show minus the murders

Contestants play in a completely insulated and immersive game world for the duration of the competition, forcing them to rely solely on those around them and their own ingenuity if they are to survive.

Squid Game: Netflix survival K-drama is wickedly entertaining

Squid Game: The Challenge has recruited players from all over the globe, but the experience is conducted solely in English, with the exception of a few significant holdovers from the Korean series, including the lyrics to the iconic “Red Light, Green Light” song and the dalgona honeycomb cookies.

Fortunately, players now have a distinct advantage over the characters portrayed on screen in the original by Lee Jung-jae and Jung Ho-yeon – they have all seen the show and are therefore familiar with the format of the competition and the games in which they will be forced to play.

Anticipating this – and that viewers at home will be similarly acquainted with what lies in store – Squid Game: The Challenge introduces a number of surprises for competitors along the way that will force them to break alliances, betray their friends, and fend for themselves if they are to be victorious.

There are 456 contestants at the start of the competition. Photo: Pete Dadds/Netflix

Following the tried and tested formula of reality game shows, the day-to-day coverage of gameplay, down time in the huge shared dormitory, and idle chit-chat between contestants is interspersed with extended one-on-one interviews with the players, conducted both before and after their ordeal.

We learn about their backgrounds, personalities, as well as notable insights into their strategies for winning.

Breathlessly edited throughout in order to ramp up the tension and draw out pivotal moments of revelation, the show deftly steers the audience’s attention towards the major players, disrupters and strategists throughout each of the show’s 10 episodes.

The guards from “Squid Game: The Challenge” season 1. Photo: Netflix

Inevitably, heroes, villains and victims emerge, and it is impossible to watch the action unfold without putting yourself in their position and ultimately, shouting at the screen as the collective is swiftly and brutally whittled down with ruthless speed and detachment.

During these lengthy interrogations with an enormous cast of anonymous hopefuls, strong personalities quickly come to the fore. As in the drama series, competitors are dressed in identical tracksuits throughout the proceedings and referred to only by their assigned three-digit number.

Notable top-tier contenders include 432, an arrogant, hot-headed athlete and former college football player, whose gung-ho approach soon polarises many of those around him.

Contestants in “Squid Game: The Challenge” season 1. Photo: Netflix

Mother and son duo 301 and 302 appear unthreatening and eager to make friends, but before long their inseparable bond begins to make other individuals uneasy.

Appropriating a Korean word used prominently in the original show that means “good friend”, a clique calling themselves the “Gganbu Gang” creates another strong alliance. Their loyalty and spirit of teamwork helps its members through the daily trials and challenges, but soon begins to threaten other players.

To reveal any specifics of how Squid Game: The Challenge unfolds would be to deprive audiences of what is an exceptionally well-crafted slice of utterly immersive reality television.

One of the games in “Squid Game: The Challenge” season 1. Photo: Netflix

Contestants are repeatedly forced into situations where they are challenged to collaborate with new-found comrades, only to be forced to turn against them moments later if they are to advance further in the competition.

Forging alliances is essential, but attracting too much attention to oneself could be all it takes to be singled out for premature elimination.

The success of Squid Game was an unprecedented global phenomenon, almost impossible to repeat, and even harder to do so intentionally.

Competitors vie to win the grand prize: more than US$4.56 million. Photo: Netflix

That said, Squid Game: The Challenge comes impressively close to replicating the experience, thrusting audiences into an elaborately designed arena and forcing them to trade places with those on screen and ask themselves how far they would be prepared to go for a giant piggy bank full of cash.

Squid Game: The Challenge will start streaming on Netflix on November 22.


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