At the end of June, Netflix introduced a new feature: interactive stories, letting you choose your own path through an adventure.
First, here’s the Netflix trailer:
(I know my living room looks just like that: totally pristine, with a few items tastefully arranged on the coffee table…)
So far, there’s just one show: Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale, a stand-alone episode featuring Puss in Boots. He gets trapped in a storybook, where a malicious narrator gleefully presents Puss with strange choices—Puss is stuck in the book until he finds the right path. (For instance, in the image below, Puss will either fight a giant or … a tree.)
Puss and the narrator both break the fourth wall, speaking to the viewer (or “reader”) and imploring you to pick one option over another. The story brings in various characters from the Puss in Boots universe, all playing various roles in the narrator’s tale. At key points, the you are prompted with a choice, which you control with your remote (or by tapping, on a touchscreen device). If you don’t interact after a period of time, the story picks its default and continues.
Some choices are dead-ends, in which case the narrator plucks Puss up and takes him back to the other choice. Others will continue the story regardless of which choice you make, but with a slightly different reaction from Puss before the story continues. When you reach the final ending, you’ll also be presented with the option to watch all the choices you didn’t pick, but in our case, I think we only had one or two left to watch, and the whole show was perhaps 45 minutes long.
The next interactive show will be Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile, which arrives July 14. I’m not familiar with Buddy Thunderstruck other than what I’ve seen in the trailer above, but Netflix says this will also be a stand-alone episode like Puss in Book, and not part of the regular season. After that, Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout is expected in 2018.
The sad news, though, is that the interactive feature doesn’t work everywhere yet. Right now, it’s mostly on smart TVs, game consoles, and iOS devices. You may have to update the app—the first time we made a choice on our Roku smart TV, the TV rebooted, and then it worked after that. Android devices, Chromecast, and Apple TV don’t support it yet, nor does the Netflix website (which I found a little odd). You can watch the episodes on these other devices, but won’t be able to make any choices and will just get one preprogrammed storyline.
Although Netflix is starting with kids’ shows, it sounds like they’re hoping more content creators will love the idea of telling interactive stories, and these two episodes will serve as a test to see how audiences react. As somebody who always loved Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, I’m looking forward to seeing what else turns up on Netflix in the future!
Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team, and have been provided access to Netflix in exchange for coverage.