The similarities are obvious: a bunch of contestants play in high-stakes games, where the cost of losing is their lives.
Released on Sep. 17, 2021, Korean thriller "Squid Game" is one of the latest shows that Netflix has been fiercely promoting, while "Alice in Borderland" is a Japanese series that aired in Dec. 2020.
The short of it:
"Hundreds of down-and-out contestants compete in a mysterious and deadly survival challenge based on childhood games, in order to win a multi-million dollar cash prize."
You immediately sense where the two shows start to diverge (disclaimer: I'm only at the first episode due to time constraints but everyone around me is apparently a TV addict).
For one, a hulking cash prize awaits at the end of the squid game(s). Director Hwang Dong-hyuk describes the show as “one giant allegory that expresses the capitalist society of contemporary times,” made even more jarring by the juxtaposition of children's games.
"Squid Game" is also the slower-paced of the two, although it picks up as you progress. "Long-winded" was the term used by some viewers.
Another observation was that the characters from the Korean series were less likeable, although some theorised that this may have been deliberate.
However, "Squid Game" is pushed through by a strong concept of gamification (for those who enjoy gore and suspense, particularly) that is not too mainstream yet.
The usual motifs are explored as well: human relationships, power dynamics, the ethics and morals of things etc.
While some viewers dropped off during the second episode, others found it compelling enough to watch six episodes over the weekend.
Bottomline: Decent, but not amazing. Watch, but temper your expectations.
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Top image via Netflix