A charming addition to the Carmen Sandiego world, though admittedly one aimed at younger audiences.
March 10th marks the release date for Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal, an interactive special that will fill the void whilst you anticipate the (hopeful) announcement of Season 3. The show is a stand-alone addition to the Carmen Sandiego universe, so prior knowledge of the show isn’t strictly necessary, you can jump straight in and enjoy the action! On the other hand, if you want a bit of context then click these words for a Season 1 recap and these words for Season 2!
With the essential introduction out of the way, welcome back to the long-awaited return of Carmen Sandiego, the fedora-wearing caper crusader working to out-steal the worst of thieves for the good of humanity. Only this time Carmen must go against her own principles to work for V.I.L.E academy, stealing pieces of history for each member of the evil faculty. As we know Carmen is no stranger to V.I.L.E, usually working to sabotage their corrupt schemes, interrupting their evil intentions and foiling their menacing plans. This time, the tables are turned as Carmen must follow V.I.L.E’s orders to save sidekicks Ivy and Zack from V.I.L.Es villainous grasp.
Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal is lighthearted and playful, audience members are invited to help Carmen make crucial decisions that will influence how her rescue mission plays out. One false move may result in Ivy and Zack having their minds erased by Dr. Bellum’s monstrous device, the ‘Wiper’, followed by a reprogramming that will turn the pair into V.I.L.E slaves. The word ‘crucial’ may be a little generous for the choices, as since the special is aimed at younger audiences the decisions seldom have a weighty influence on the actual storyline. Furthermore, if audiences do stray too far from the bulk narrative, you will be interrupted and asked by the A.C.M.E chief to reconsider your choices. This being said, audiences can only choose between two options at a time so you will have to inevitably still play the story that is laid out for you. Even so, the choices are entertaining and can lead to some interesting Easter Eggs that will certainly entertain the young and young at heart before resuming the intended plotline.
Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal is not as in-depth nor as comprehensive as other interactive specials such as the critically acclaimed Black Mirror special Bandersnatch. In this case, audiences rarely feel like their influence holds much value beyond influencing an aesthetic change or sneaking a peek into an alternative event, before ultimately being forced back onto the ‘correct’ path. There really isn’t much consequence to the offered choices, but in a way, this adds to the series’ playability. Mistakes are easily fixed and younger audiences are not intimidated by a labyrinth of possibilities. The simplicity of Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal encourages audiences to revisit their options to see if they can stumble upon something cheeky and new. Unlike the more complicated interactive specials, audiences need only jump back one or two choices to fix their errors, saving them from lengthy replay frustration.
Overall, Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal does not take itself too seriously, this series serves to act as a pleasant and charming addition to the Carmen Sandiego world. For a younger audience, the show is a perfect gateway into the world of interactive media and a gentle inauguration for parents to discuss the subject of consequence. Choices are to be made and mistakes are to be corrected, it explores the value of weighing options and the importance of critical thinking. Audiences are welcome to make mistakes whilst not being held dramatically accountable for their choices. The special maybe a little juvenile for more mature audiences as the Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal is not quite as ‘worldly’ or mature as its’ series counterpart. Nevertheless, as a stand-alone addition, Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal is comical, engaging and infectiously silly. Ensure to play through to the very end as Ivy and Zack have a wonderfully ‘catchy’ little treat for all of those who manage to complete the mission and bring the pair to safety!
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Maggie has been a film critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018. Maggie gained a BSc in Film Production and Technology leading to her most notable credit for the production designer for a short film screened as part of the London Film Festival line up.