Critics hail Squid Game spin-off as ‘most gripping reality TV since The Traitors’

A reality version of Netflix’s Korean thriller juggernaut Squid Game has been hailed as “the most gripping reality TV since The Traitors”.

Squid Game: The Challenge recreates much of the original, down to the outfits and sets, although the lethal re-imaginings of childhood games have lower stakes this time round – instead of death, contestants instead face elimination.

Each elimination adds 10,000 dollars to a 4.56 million dollar (£3.66 million) prize pot, described as the largest in reality TV history.

The new show, which launched on Netflix on Wednesday morning, has been praised for its meticulous recreation of so many elements of the original drama, which became the streamer’s most watched show.

The Guardian said: “The real-life version of the Netflix drama is a grandiose, addictive spectacle that will have you shouting at your TV before the end of episode one.

The review added: “Squid Game: The Challenge not only works, but may turn out to be the most gripping reality TV since The Traitors.”

The Telegraph said the reality remake “loses none of the tension or intrigue,” adding: “With money at stake, rather than life itself, some of the cooped-up politicking in the middle episodes smacks wearily of Big Brother.

“Other passages of play lean too heavily on popularity contests. But by the final few episodes the tension, intrigue and antagonism are bubbling to the boil.

“I’ve seen eight of the 10 episodes and am agog to discover how ruthless the last dollar-driven survivors can be.”

The contestants of Squid Game: The Challenge (Pete Dadds/Netflix)
The contestants of Squid Game: The Challenge (Pete Dadds/Netflix)

The Independent also compared the show to BBC’s hit reality series The Traitors, saying: “For all that the ghost of its Korean cousin sticks in the mind, this is little more than a combination of The Traitors and Takeshi’s Castle.”

It adds: “The fear of death and anti-capitalist themes may have been replaced by a rabid consumerism (an apt metaphor for modern America, if not an intentional one), but Squid Game: The Challenge is obviously an epic of its genre.

“Like most epics, it’s overlong, overblown, and thinks it’s much smarter than it really is. But as a showcase for human desperation, and an illustration of the random brutality of chance, it just about sticks the landing.”

However, trade paper The Hollywood Reporter was less impressed, saying: “It exists to cash in on one of the streamer’s biggest-ever hits, the 2021 South Korean scripted drama Squid Game. In that context, it looks not like a one-off curiosity but like a brand extension that fundamentally misunderstands what the brand was meant to represent in the first place.”

It adds: “The Challenge builds on the most superficial aspects of Squid Game while ditching — or, really, undermining — the most profound.

“Squid Game could hardly have been more explicit or more scathing in its takedown of economic inequality, and yet it was smoothly co-opted to enrich an already wealthy corporation, at the expense of ordinary citizens who don’t have millions of dollars just lying around. Or perhaps that outcome only further underlines the drama’s central point, about the way the system entraps us all.

“You can try to take the anti-capitalism out of Squid Game — but capitalism will always find a way to rear its ugly head.”

Squid Game: The Challenge is streaming on Netflix now.