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‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ whets appetite for next ‘Squid Game’

US-made survival reality show spinoff builds up anticipation for season 2

By Lee Si-jin

Published : Nov. 23, 2023 - 13:07

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"Squid Game: The Challenge" (Netflix)
"Squid Game: The Challenge" (Netflix)

The poster for a new Netflix original showing contestants wearing iconic green tracksuits might have confused some people into thinking that long-anticipated “Squid Game Season 2” may have come out sooner than expected.

But what they mistook as Season 2 of the international hit series is actually “Squid Game: The Challenge,” a US-made survival reality show based on the South Korean phenomenon, “Squid Game.”

With the same number of participants, unique game sets, soundtrack, staff wearing hooded pink jumpsuits and a piggy bank filled with the tempting prize of 4.56 million dollars, almost everything about “Squid Game” was brought to reality -- except the shooting of the game's losers.

The first two episodes of “Squid Game: The Challenge” bring to mind the original series, including the true nature of the players behind their masks, sacrifices, team efforts and greed.

The 10-part reality show has added an element of thrill to the competition with new rules and games, hoping to entertain "Squid Game" fans.

Kim Hyun-woo, a 58-year-old retail company worker, was surprised and excited to see participants from overseas competing in the same childhood games that he played with his friends many years ago.

“I read a lot of news about how ‘Squid Game’ became a global phenomenon and how foreigners were mesmerized even by the small details in the drama series. But, watching a TV show like ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ was overwhelming,” Kim told The Korea Herald on Tuesday.

Kim, who has watched a few Korean-made survival shows featuring mind games and psychological warfare between the competitors with his two sons, felt “Squid Game: The Challenge” was a bit special.

He said it was especially interesting to see a US TV show based mainly on aspects from Korean culture.

“I certainly felt that times have changed,” Kim said, adding excitedly that he is rooting for three contestants.

"Squid Game: The Challenge" (Netflix)

A graduate student surnamed Park shared that it would have been nice to learn more about the players.

The contestants have different ages, jobs, genders, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but he felt the show spent only a small amount of time delivering their individual stories so that viewers could empathize with them.

This made Park feel a little indifferent to some of the participants who were eliminated in the early stages.

Meanwhile, a 28-year-old marketing coordinator based in Busan who wished to remain anonymous, said she enjoyed the show and that it got her to watch the original series once again.

“‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ reminded me of ‘Physical: 100,’ because that show was released when the mega-hit series ‘The Glory’ was on a break before its part two. I am a big fan of ‘Squid Game,’ and ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ is a great appetizer before the release of ‘Squid Game Season 2,’” she said.

The marketer emphasized that she does not mean to dismiss the spinoff series by describing the show as an appetizer.

“The American show has its own charms and ways of getting 'Squid Game' fans excited by adding some new rules," she said.

"I don’t know if ‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ will become a global sensation like the original series. But, I personally find the series to be binge-worthy. I am excited for the upcoming stories and the final winner,” she told The Korea Herald.

The first five episodes of “Squid Game: The Challenge” premiered on Wednesday. The remaining episodes of 10-part series are scheduled to be released on Nov. 29 and Dec. 6.