Review: 'Animals On The Loose: A You Vs. Wild Movie'

Post by: Rick Ellis 10 February, 2021

Netflix has invested a significant amount of money in their efforts to develop a viable "choose your adventure" type genre of streaming television. They've developed technology that seems to work very well (although it's not flawless). And they have created special "choose your adventure" episodes of shows ranging from Black Mirror to Captain Underpants. But for the most part, the efforts have been been interesting to watch, but not all that entertaining.

And watching the upcoming Bear Grylls special Animals On The Loose: A You Vs. Wild Movie, I realized what the big problem has been with all of these efforts. The best thing about the paperback books that inspired this idea is that some of your choices ended up going spectacularly badly. Your character would die or you would end up stranded alone on some desert planet. There were actual unpredictable consequences to your choices and that just isn't the case with Animals On The Loose: A You Vs. Wild Movie.

The episode takes place at an unnamed South African animal preserve. Grylls notices a hole has been torn in the fence surrounding the preserve and when he uses his radio to contact the park rangers, he learns the power to the fence has been cut off. And as a result, a lion and a baboon have escaped. So your first decision is to choose which of the three tasks to complete first. Do you try and save the lion, the baboon or fix the power grid to the fence?

The core problem with the premise of Animals On The Loose: A You Vs. Wild Movie is that despite the name of the special, there's not much adventure to the choices you're given. As far as I can tell (and I spent more time than I should going through the options), the worst case scenario in this special is that you end up trapped and are forced to call in the park rangers. After playing through the various choices a few times, the deadliest consequence I could find was one in which Grylls fires a flare after he is unable to extract himself from the grip of a boa constrictor. As he fires the flare, he is gasping that he can't breath. Which would seem like a fatal choice, except that you're returned to the beginning of the chapter and asked if you want to try it again. In another scene, I managed to give Grylls a healthy gash in his leg. But despite his warnings about how dangerous an infection in the jungle might be, I never found a scenario in which the gash turned out to be a problem.

Sure, it would be fun if you could pretend to kill off Bear Grylls, but that isn't going to happen for a variety of reasons. And in the end, that's the biggest problem with these "choose your adventure" episodes. Because they utilize existing IP, the choices available to the subscribers are constrained by what the IP owners will allow. Having an episode where you could make the decisions necessary for Carmen Sandiego to become a villain would be pretty damn entertaining. But that is never going to happen.

But the biggest problem with the Animals On The Loose: A You Vs. Wild Movie interactive special is that it contains a programming glitch. As I was playing through the scenes, I would make one choice, see what happened and then go back and choose the other selection (the Netflix interface lets you go back to an earlier point and try again). The first time I played, I chose the least logical option, rescuing the baboon first. After completing that task, I decided to attempt a repair of the power grid, which I purposely failed. When I was sent back to the main page, I was asked if I wanted to try to fix the power again or track down the lion. I chose the lion adventure and completed that. And when I did, I was returned back to the main page where suddenly I was given a fourth task. A group of elephants were being hunted by poachers. After I saved them, I returned back to the main page and was tasked with the final challenge: fixing the power grid. When I completed that task, I assumed the episode would be over. Instead, I returned to the main page and was told I needed to save the lion (again). And I ultimately also had to repeat the elephant challenge again before I could see the ending. 

I approached the challenges from a couple of different directions and from what I can tell, at least some of the time when you fail to complete all three primary challenges before you move on to rescuing the elephants from poachers, the coding makes you redo some of the tasks you've already completed. I don't know enough about the workflow of this technology to say whether or not someone at Netflix should have noticed the problem. For all I know, it's a problem that only affects my account (or because I'm watching an early screener of the episode). But it's the first time that I've noticed this type of problem with a Netflix interactive episode and to be honest, it is not the level of quality I have come to expect from Netflix. And the glitch made an already boring interactive episode feel even more mundane.

Animals On The Loose: A You Vs. Wild Movie premieres globally February 16th, 2021 on Netflix.




Last modified on Tuesday, 13 April 2021 22:25