So today I've made a lot of my friends incredibly jealous because I went to The Crystal Maze. Originally a television game show from the 90's that pretty much the whole UK nation was hooked on. In a nutshell contestants enrolled individually into a games room. Their teammates scream assistance from outside. If you're successful you'll gain a crystal. Each crystal entitles you to 5 seconds in the last challenge, the Crystal Dome where you have to collect as many foil credits as possible.
This new maze was crowd funded on IndieGoGo. I still remember watching the energetic video pitch (see video below) for the first time and that it sounded far too good to be true, especially as there is always an element of risk with crowd funding. Therefore I decided to not purchase the final ticket but instead I bought a pair of 'tester tickets,' for half the final price. We were one of the first groups to try out the maze before official opening. As a tester we understood that we may not be getting the complete experience. Having said that I tried not to let my excitement get the better of me, as the organisers have a lot to live up to!
The location of The Crystal Maze was under tight wraps and for a long while we were only told it was in a secret location in Kings Cross. It's actually very convenient to Angel station.
There are plenty of free lockers for you to store your belongings whilst you partake. We were required to put away our phones and cameras so no sneaky pics from within the maze here. (Pics from the lobby).
There are a few variants on the show that make the experience more practical and enjoyable. For starters you are assigned to one of four teams, each with no more than eight participants. My friend Andy and I were on a team with six others. They got us to don the distinctive television show jackets; these uniforms made us strangers feel part of a team.
We were then ushered into a room where clips of the show were played to us reminding us of why we were here. After the video finished our maze master appeared. We all know that no one could ever beat the original presenter Richard O'Brien, but our new host was brilliant. His own charisma and energy was a real part of the experience. Quick fire questions were shot at us before being asked to introduce ourselves. His witty and hilarious interaction broke the ice. We were given a group salute to shout that was was ridiculous but fun, revving us all up for what was ahead. As the Crystal Maze theme tune began the maze master beckoned us to follow his lead through a narrow door.
The sets for the four themed areas, Medieval, Aztec, Industrial and Future zones were well constructed. You can see a lot of attention went into the details. As you look around you're instantly taken back to fond memories of the show. In addition some areas had smells emitted to help immerse you in their different worlds. To get around it involved a mix of running, climbing and crawling, with an optional slide to enter the Aztec zone. Someone on another team twisted their ankle on the slide but it was no more hazardous than being in a kids' outdoor park. I was elected as team captain so whenever it was time for a new game our maze master would turn to me with beaming eyes as to who I'd want to partake in a skill, physical, mental or mystery challenge. Once I'd made my decision he'd set us running through the maze. I'm sure we were running back and forth through the same rooms but I did feel like we were the only ones running through this labyrinth. Maybe once I saw a staff member but otherwise they did a good job behind the scenes of keeping up this illusion.
On our first game, our player just entered the room and the rest of us popped our heads through several windows to see a peculiarly shaped tree that sat in the middle of this medieval room. We could see our teammates peeping through another set of windows, leaning in with their green Crystal Maze jackets. Immediately we started shouting advice and the maze master announced the clock had begun and we were determined to win our prize. That was a magic moment. Wow, they've nailed it. I am in the Crystal Maze.
I don't want to go into too much detail with the games as I feel the fun is actually working out what on earth you are suppose to do! All games were 2 minute long. Some of the games were identical to the show, or at least the ones I remember. The scenic artists and games designers did a superb job in getting everything looking right. We periodically kept looking at one another and saying "this is amazing."
A few of the games were easier than others. For example when you had to navigate your way through a room without touching the lasers, our guy just crawled all the way along the floor with ease. The tile-shifting puzzle on the other hand seemed impossible to do in the given time. However as testers our feedback will allow the organisers to tweak the rules for individual games to make them more fulfilling.
Those who watched the show would remember Mumsie. People have asked and unfortunately she was not there today, however this will be a feature of some sort...
Traditionally if you didn’t escape the room within the time limit or made too many game faults you would get an automatic lock-in. One of our members faulted and was instead escorted to some chains where he was ‘tied up.’ He remained there until the next game, during that time he had to work out an answer to a question to win back his freedom. Lucky for him he got it right but I’m not sure what would have happened beyond multiple fails… (Would be a pretty rubbish experience to be left there for the rest of the time). On their site they mention a special jailbreak challenge...
As my blog stems from obstacle running I naturally choose to do the physical tasks. These challenges did seem easier than the other tasks as it was generally straightforward in what you were required to do, that's not to say they weren't fun. It was great constructing my stairs to climb my way up to grab my first crystal!
Although each team member only played two games each I can say I could feel my heart pounding after every round. It was very exciting shouting advice and rooting for your teammates. This is a brilliant team experience.
The Crystal Dome.
Before we entered each team announced the number of crystals they had won. We got eight, which on the show was quite a lot. Other teams scored higher with eleven! The first group stepped into the dome, with it’s door modified from the one on the show to cater for the chunkier contestants that may participate.
"Can you start the fans please?!!" bellowed out each maze master before his team's grand moment. I nearly cried when I looked at the dome with the theme tune once again blasting out. A childhood dream of many comes true. Previously the closest I got to this experience was throwing Monopoly money in front of a fan.
The one difference with the game rules was that there were no silver credits to deduct from your total. Just grab everything! They measured the credit by roughly assessing how much of your box you've filled up. I guess it's just more practical than manually counting each credit. To be honest I think everyone was just happy to play and not actually bothered by the results.
Only thing that was a little weird was that our maze master got us to boo the opposing teams when they came out of the dome. We knew it's only silly banter but I can't say it added to the experience in a positive way.
We had forty seconds in the Crystal Dome. It was pretty tricky grabbing the credits just flying up in the air. Harvesting the foil that clung with static on each other’s jackets was much easier.
The outing ended with the scores announced. Joint second place for us.
The Crystal Maze was fantastic and is one of the best events I've been to which left me on a 90’s nostalgic high. I love how they got us to wear the classic jackets to run, crawl and slide from Medieval, to Aztec, to Industrial and Future zones before finally entering the legendary Crystal Dome. While the full asking price of £60 for a 90 minute experience will definitely put people off, a lot of people would happy to do this as a one off. At the time of writing it's fully booked till November and that's without people knowing how good it actually is. So although it's only scheduled to run till March 2017 I think it's got a lot longer shelf life and I would love to see this as a permanent London attraction.
"Any tips, reviews and advice are my own opinions and are not to be taken as professional view points. The information on this site is what has worked for me and is here for guidance only, but I hope you gain insight into the various activities I partake in." Jonathan Chen