I, like a lot of children, used to love reading choose your own adventure books. I remember exploring titles from the Goosebumps and Dr. Who universes where the reader was tasked with making decisions at the bottom of each page to create their own story. Since 2017, Netflix has been doing the same with interactive shows and movies, but no longer.
Probably the most high-profile of these unique stories is the feature-length Black Mirror special Bandersnatch, which used a video game setting to tell a branching story that could go different ways. Perhaps the most interesting use of this technology I saw on the streaming service was another Charlie Brooker creation.
Cat Burglar was a 2022 Looney-Toons-inspired short where you were in charge of the titular feline thief, trying to rub a museum. To achieve your plan and defeat a pesky pooch security guard, you would have to answer trivia questions on screen mid-adventure. Fail and your poor kitty would meet a cartoonishly over-the-top fate. It had a lot of retail value with scenarios randomly selected each time.
My favourite use of interactive storytelling on Netflix however was in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs The Reverend a film spin-off of the brilliant TV show that placed viewers in charge of Kimmy's decisions. What made it so special was that the choices often spiralled off to ridiculous outcomes. I remember one choice where waiting for another character to turn up led to robots taking over the world Terminator style, it's full of bizarre twists like this and plenty of secret endings and easter eggs. It's a brilliant film too, with 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.
So why is Netflix abandoning the format? Well, it's safe to say it has plenty on its plate with a vast library of content plus its continued efforts to move into gaming with some of the biggest games coming to the platform this year. It's a shame, but Netflix still has plenty to recommend it as one of the best streaming services.