It's hard to impress kids these days. So when Netflix announced its new interactive children's programming, I was initially skeptical. I knew it would have to be pretty cool to hook the iPad-, fidget-spinner- and PlayStation-loving set.
Turns out, it is.
This week, the streaming giant rolled out a choose-your-own-adventure experience, featuring new as well as beloved characters. The first story is "Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale," featuring the sword-wielding cat, Puss in Boots. Kids can direct plot points with the touch of a finger. What happens to the characters is completely under your control and will work with TVs (using a remote to make the choices), all streaming devices, PlayStations and Xboxes. In a world where swiping right is just as intuitive as walking, it's a pretty awesome innovation.
However, the ultimate test came when my all-too-cynical second grader, Lex, gave it a whirl. He eyed the iPad warily as the "Puss in Boots" adventure began, but he soon became invested in the story—mainly because he felt it was his story to create.
"Should Puss kiss the Evil Queen, or would a handshake be more keen?" the narrator asks. He carefully considered the options and chose the kiss. "I want to see where this goes," he giggled.
Perhaps the best part of this new capability is that it forces children to think about the story, rather than just mindlessly watching. Lex was so engaged that he went back to play out the scenarios he had not chosen the first time.
Final verdict: "This is really cool," he beamed.
However, there is one complaint Netflix will surely field: Why aren't there more of these interactive programs? Right now "Puss in Boots" is the only offering. Stay tuned. "Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile," about a semi-truck racing dog, debuts on July 14, and "Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout," about a stretchy teen superhero, is in the works for a 2018 release.