The interactive series You vs. Wild is now streaming on Netflix.
[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]
By Greg Wheeler
You VS Wild is not a multiple branching, interactive adventure. Nor is it particularly unique in the way it presents its material. It’s worth noting this because conceptually, You VS Wild is very basic in design. If you can embrace the intelligent simplicity of this one, You VS Wild is actually a very good show and an extremely educational one too. On the surface level, this is a shallow, two-choice adventure, with over-the-top acting and sensationalist plot lines but underneath that facade is a very engrossing, absorbing idea designed to teach you survival techniques and for that alone, You VS Wild is an unmissable experience.
Split across 8 episodes, You VS Wild sees you take the reigns of Bear Grylls as you’re air-dropped into various treacherous locations and terrains, all whilst trying to complete a simple mission. From saving a dog and recovering medicine through to surviving in the harsh desert wasteland, the episodes pull together a variety of different terrains, designed to test your decision making and aptitude in the wild. Each of the 8 episodes clock in at around 20 minutes – a little more if you choose the wrong options. There’s a good amount of content here too although this really isn’t a series designed to be replayed multiple times although that choice is there if you see fit.
Each episode is broken up into distinctive choices, beginning with an introduction from Bear himself before guiding you through a series of different obstacles to overcome. Some are easier than others while some do result in a proverbial Game Over screen. Going down this path sees Bear tell us the mission is over and the reason why. This then pulls you back to the original choice where you have to repeat that segment again and choose the right option. As a reward for this, these incorrect choices actually offer some really educational material, with one choice early on offering some useful information around male fighting crabs in the swamp.
Stylistically, You VS Wild sticks very closely to the conventional feel of Bear Grylls’ shows. It’s over the top, cheesy and full of exaggerated segments designed to fuel drama and tension. This is all intermittently thrown together with the usual narration and commentary from Bear as he tells us about the terrain, shares useful survival tips and gives us glimpses of different predators in the surroundings. In true Bear Grylls fashion, each episode has a choice of horrible food to eat, leading many to inevitably to choose “Bear Poo” on one memorable mission (Sorry Bear).
Those looking for the next Detroit: Become Human or Bandersnatch with multiple winding paths, twisting narratives and deep characterization will almost certainly be left disappointed. You VS Wild is not designed to be that sort of interactive experience. Instead, this is a homage to Bear Grylls’ distinct style executed perfectly in this format. Much like his other shows, this experience is designed specifically to teach you survival techniques and educate on what choices to make at critical moments.
It’s ingenious if I’m honest, and throughout the episodes, I found myself less inclined to choose options to try to kill or hurt Bear and more toward what I thought would be the most logical solution if I was in that situation. As I discovered through the 8 episodes, I almost certainly would not survive in the wild very long. Maybe you will. Maybe you’ll choose the more logical solution and approach a choice with a different viewpoint and that is really what makes You VS Wild such an enthralling watch. It’s the perfect extension to what Bear Grylls has been trying to do over the years and Netflix’s interactive series is the perfect platform to showcase that. If you can go in with an open mind and not expect a hugely twisty, windy narrative with thousands of choices, You VS Wild rewards you with a really unique, fun and educational survival experience.
I give You vs Wild a B.