Loved Netflix’s ‘Bandersnatch’? Now Play These Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Video Games
Premiered on Netflix on 28 December, the latest episode of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror series, Bandersnatch, has become quite the water cooler/kitchen kettle talking point. Not because it does anything especially radical in terms of casting, themes or plot; but because it's an interactive show, where the viewer can determine the direction of the story and the fate of various characters, and arrive at a number of very different endings. And no, we're not about to spoil any of them.
As someone who grew up with choose-your-own-adventure game books like the Fighting Fantasy series - I even wrote a beginner's guide to it, in a previous professional life - Black Mirror taking this interactive turn fills me with happiness, even if the execution isn't faultless. But its format is nothing that video games haven't been doing for absolutely ages, taking cues from pen-and-paper role-players and fantastical page-turners alike.
With that in mind, here are five - yes, just five, so feel free to @ us about what we've "missed" - video games that you can play on current consoles and PCs (and even mobiles), right now, to scratch the you-decide itch that Bandersnatch has hopefully left you with.
Available for: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, iOS, Apple TV
Late Shift is a natural next-choice for anyone smitten with Bandersnatch, as it's more of an interactive movie than a video game in the traditional sense. Featuring real actors, performing on real film, much like those fuzzy FMV games of the 1990s, Late Shift enjoyed a cinematic release in 2016, with audience members voting at decisive moments, before coming to consoles, computers and mobiles. The player/viewer 'controls' Matt, a parking attendant who fumbles his way into into London's gangland, putting his future entirely in someone else's hands. Yours, obviously. (Trailer contains violence.)
Life Is Strange
Available for: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android
This graphic adventure from French studio Dontnod ultimately finishes only one of two ways (sorry, bit of a spoiler there) - but along the way, across five episodes, the amount of choice available to the player is pretty impressive. At several turns, you will be able to affect how protagonist Max Caulfield engages with the world around her - with nature, responsibilities, friends and family. Oh, and how she uses her time-manipulating powers, too. Life Is Strange might look like a teen drama from the outside, but it's got plenty of supernatural stuff going on, too. And its first episode is free, everywhere, so there's no excuse not to give this one a go. (Trailer contains strong language and violence.)
The Walking Dead
Available for: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Kindle Fire HDX, Windows, Mac, PlayStation Vita
Assuming you can get hold of Telltale's The Walking Dead - after said studio went unceremoniously tits-up in 2018, leaving Skybound to pick up the pieces for this franchise's swansong series - you'll have yourself one of video gaming's greatest CYOA experiences. The story of Clementine and Lee is already part of gaming history, and this first season, originally released in 2012, won itself a healthy handful of Game of the Year awards. While many decisions are fairly relaxed - pick up this item, use it in that hole, and so on - there are moments where quick reactions will save lives, so don't nap while the action's unfolding. (Trailer contains bloody violence.)
The Stanley Parable
Available for: Windows, Mac, Linux; coming to consoles (and PC again) in 2019 as the Ultra Deluxe expanded edition
What began as a mod for Half-Life 2 was released as a game proper in 2013, earning plaudits from right across the gaming media and a bounty of award nominations. The work of just a handful of devs, The Stanley Parable is a hugely amusing, expectations-skewing, wholly subversive narrative walk 'em up, which goes out of its way consistently to mess about with the norms of the gaming medium. Stanley, our protagonist, is given instructions by the narrator, guidance, assistance - but it's on you whether or not you want to follow it, or find your own path and ending(s). Mind that fourth wall, guys - it's about to get broken (all over again, later this year).
Available for: PlayStation 4
This PS4 exclusive (one of the best available on the platform) mixes comedy and horror to pretty brilliant effect, pitching itself somewhere between Scream and The Cabin In The Woods in terms of its position on the contemporary scares spectrum. With a recognisably starry cast - Rami Malek, Hayden Panettiere and Peter Stormare turn in committed performances - Until Dawn would make for a fun indie movie if stripped of its interactive elements. And as a game, it's a gruesome delight, in which every one of its characters - all of whom are player-controlled at various stages - can either survive the night or fall victim to the nightmares that prowl the frozen darkness. Did someone say jump scares? Here's a whole bunch of them... (Trailer contains bloody violence.)
Featured Image Credit: Netflix