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Squid Game: The Challenge reviews are in - is this Netflix's next big show?

A thrilling epic or shameful cash-in? The reviewers have their say...

Squid Game: The Challenge reviews are in - is this Netflix's next big show?
Andrew Williams
21 November 2023

Squid Game: The Challenge’s first episode starts streaming this week on November 22. Critic reviews are already out, and they can’t seem to agree on whether it’s a masterpiece or a disgrace.

The concept of “mixed reviews” is brought up a lot, but often means a show, film or game just received a mediocre reception. But Squid Game: The Challenge reviews really are a mix.

Judging by these reviews, how you react to the show may well rest on how you respond to reality TV, particularly the more emotionally manipulative examples.

Squid Game: The Challenge reviews

The Guardian’s is among the more positive reviews, suggesting Squid Game: The Challenge is a greatest hits of reality TV, distilled.

“This is sports day, it’s vintage Big Brother, it’s The Traitors, the Stanford prison experiment; it’s one of those funhouses on lorries that you get at the local fair.. But as a gameshow, as the spectacle it sets out to be, it is very hard to look away,” the review reads.

The Independent’s write-up reads positively too, despite it noting The Challenge basically wipes away the core meaning of the drama series.

“The fear of death and anti-capitalist themes may have been replaced by a rabid consumerism (an apt metaphor for modern America, if not an intentional one), but Squid Game: The Challenge is obviously an epic of its genre,” it says.

This was always going to be part of the deal, though. Can you make a gameshow where the end goal is to win $4.56 million anti-capitalist?

The Daily Beast is again pretty positive, while bringing up the issue of the show making good use of the heightened emotions of the contestants.

“It still manages to stand up to the original show, with new twists that match up to Squid Game’s intrigue—which is saying a lot, considering how thrilling the original was. While the controversies around its treatment of players are valid concerns, and pushback against its premise is warranted, so too is the popularity this masterful reality series will likely garner,” the review says.

There’s another side to the reviews, though. Not everyone was happy to balance out concerns with enjoyment of the show. Some folks flat-out hate Squid Game: The Challenge, it seems.

“The reality show is cruel, exploitative, and handles everything with a distasteful approach, revelling in the contestants' breakdowns for entertainment,” says Collider’s review.

“Frequently, the competitors will become stressed to the point of breaking down in tears. We're shown such moments in closeups that feel like the equivalent of a vulture circling over a dying animal.”

This kind of distaste can be applied to quite a lot of reality TV shows but, by design, a lot of the characters you’ll get to know in Squid Game: The Challenge will be blasted our of the competition quick-smart. There are more than 450 initial contestants, and all but one of whom will lose.

Similarly, Slant calls the show a “morally bankrupt drag,” although the review’s main takeaway is “some of the original show’s rounds simply aren’t that entertaining when actual lives aren’t at stake.”

The Evening Standard was also not a fan, talking about, how with all the original drama’s stakes themes largely stripped out, there just isn’t all that much of worth here:

“Without the fear of imminent execution or the powerful and engaging back stories of the original, The Challenge becomes just another reality show featuring personalities you feel might benefit from exposure to high calibre ballistics,” it says. Cripes.

Our take? It seems if you are already a fan of the emotional rollercoasters of reality-TV-land, you may find a lot to enjoy in Squid Game: The Challenge. But plenty of fans of the original show are likely not to get on with it at all.

You can stream Squid Game: The Challenge from November 22 on Netflix.