“Will you start the fans please?” booms an echoing voice from the ceiling as six players scrabble around to catch gold slips of paper being blown all around them before putting them in a box in a wall.
It may sound crazy, perhaps weird, but to many it’s a sound of nostalgia and fun. It is, of course, the Crystal Maze live experience, which opened in London’s West End a little over a month ago.
If you’re familiar with the concept of the show, this is a chance to play the maze for yourself – not with Richard O’Brien, Ed Tudor Pole or Richard Ayoade, but with your own personal maze master. Ours was a soccer mum called Pamela – resplendent in a tracksuit straight out of a 90s wardrobe, pink and green, and a very loud whistle.
You start the experience watching O’Brien and a montage of best moments, all with the backing of the iconic theme tune (it’s stuck in my head as I’m writing this too…) and your host bursts through a curtain – causing two of my teammates to scream in terror.
We then played the maze – starting in the Medieval Zone. The first game required shooting targets with a bow and arrow, and our second was some mental arithmetic. We left the first two rooms empty handed.
I was then tasked with playing the next game – a physical game called Ogre’s Lair, which required making a bridge (placing three skulls in holes in the floor), climbing across a narrow ledge, retrieving a piece of ‘bone’ from the floor from a wobbly bridge, using it to wind a rope which would lift a cage with the crystal in it, run across the bridge, grab the crystal, and run out of the room – all without touching the floor.
TEAM WORK: SWL reporters Jilo Katter (left) and David Saunders took part in the Crystal Maze Live experience.
Whilst socialising with our host after our game, she conceded that whilst most people win that game, she’d never seen someone complete it like I did – that is to say I got the crystal with fewer than ten seconds left and ran around the room, making it out in the nick of time…
So we had one crystal, and it took us two more games to get our second. After failing in a card game, the next game was perhaps the most fun one in the maze!
This required moving into the Futuristic Zone, which is the only zone to look more like the version in the new TV show, rather than the old one.
Our teammate rode a mechanical bull and had to throw tennis balls into holes in the wall. Despite falling off twice, she completed it. I made it two completed games in a row with the next game – essentially charades but with emoji. The streak snapped with the next two games, one requiring moving balls across behind a screen – the player couldn’t see what to do but their teammates could. The final futuristic game was to use a giant pair of scissors as tweezers, and place organs into the body of an alien. If it sounds weird, it looked weirder!
We then moved onto the Industrial Zone – playing games requiring solving a puzzle with wires which our teammate completed with just seconds on the clock, but ran out without grabbing the crystal… There was also a game involving collecting power packs and returning them to the front of the room before they drained.
Heading into the final zone of regular play, the Aztec Zone, we had no lock ins – in the version for the public, a lock in (which is when you either don’t leave the room within a set time or break the rules somehow) only causes you to lose a crystal – they do not leave players behind. The first game required filling a bucket with sand and carrying it across a rotating beam to fill a container at the other end of the room – our teammate gave up and tried filling it with sand from the other side of the room. Our teammate didn’t get locked in.
The same could not be said for our captain, in the next game. The room was full of ropes, think Tom Cruise and Mission Impossible, but some of the ropes had bells on – ringing three bells equalled a lock in. He got locked in – though got to the other end first which is better than I could have done.
We’d won four crystals and lost one, and it was up to me to win our fifth of the day. The final game was one with some mental working out – stepping on platforms to complete sums and rules. Yet again, I completed the game successfully with a few seconds to go.
Time to run to the Crystal Dome, where we’d acquired four crystals and so had 20 seconds to make a dent in the leader board. We ended up with 44 gold tokens – not bad for the time we had and beating the other team by more than 10.
It truly was an incredible experience and it is certainly worth going to.