Review: Choose-your-own-adventure fails to be adventurous

Bandersnatch is Netflix's latest instalment of a dystopian choose-your-own-adventure TV series. (Design: Young Joo Jun/AQ)

Warning: Contains spoilers. 

The choice between breakfast cereals, Sugar Puffs or Frosties, isn’t a life or death decision. But Netflix’s latest instalment of the dystopian TV show Black Mirror, titled Bandersnatch, may have viewers thinking long and hard about what to eat that day.

The adaption of the Netflix series is one of the first episodes from their new project: interactive movies and TV shows. It’s essentially a choose-your-own-adventure book but in film format. Every five minutes or so, the viewer must decide between two options with their mouse or remote. In the case of Bandersnatch, it could be as simple as choosing which music to listen to on the bus or as complex as choosing whether or not to kill your father.

For Netflix, it’s a perfect way to introduce a new style of viewing and for the rest of us, it adds a new layer of suspense and excitement.

The film follows the life of Stefan, a young man, in the summer of 1984 as he develops a video game based off a choose-your-own-adventure book called Bandersnatch. It’s a fitting theme considering the film is also based off this model. As he gets drawn into the history behind Bandersnatch and the lives of his co-workers around him, we soon realize that it may not be a coincidence at all.

The story isn’t the strongest Black Mirror episode. But, the interactive feature might just make it one of the most frightening, since the viewer can control Stefan and his actions. Because of that, the audience is more invested in his fate. Some will want him to have the best life possible while others will want to lure him to his doom – as most Black Mirror episodes do, many ending with insanity or murder.

If you choose an option that doesn’t allow you to advance further in the storyline, two TVs will pop up and there will be the choice to go back and choose the right path.

The movie only allows the viewer 10 seconds to make a decision – which is terrifying.

It’s also confusing. It sometimes pushes the viewer back to the beginning of the movie for no reason, after it’s already happened. The non-linear movements might be part of the plot. It’s never made clear.

The number of endings and pathways aren’t as diverse as they seem. No matter which option you end up clicking, the film seems to bring you along the same pathway for most of the movie in one way or another.

I wanted completely diverse pathways and yet despite choosing different cereals, my friends and I all arrived at basically the same endings and followed the same storyline.

But it kept me entertained for two hours.

It also left me questioning how my choice of cereal in the morning will factor into my day. Will I end up paranoid, taking LSD and watching my friend jump off a balcony all because I had Frosties for breakfast? I hope not.