Start the fans! The live version of the cult ’90s game show has moved to a West End location. We head along to find out what’s new.
Like any well-rounded twentysomething, I spent my tweens drinking questionable alcopops, picking out polyphonic ringtones and watching gameshow re-runs on Challenge TV, where ‘The Crystal Maze’ really had its way with me, thanks to charismatic bald Maze Master Richard O’Brien.
Fast-forward to the 2016 reboot and Stephen Merchant slipped into the presenter role, followed by current host Richard Ayoade. Sticking with the original format, the show has spawned a new set of maze devotees and inspired The Crystal Maze Live Experience escape game, which has just moved from its old digs in Angel to a new location on Shaftesbury Avenue. Now occupying the old Trocadero space (which has been given a £5 million renovation), the revamped maze is twice the size of its predecessor, with 32 fresh crystal-collecting games and a glamorous on-site bar.
A note to all escape-room nerds: the maze’s production value will make you quiver. The set-up unites the classic Aztec, Medieval, Future and Industrial zones, which are all whimsically decorated in the style of the ’90s show. As you’re led around by a Maze Master – ours was partial to innuendos like ‘put the ball in your sack’ – it’s hard not to get swept up in game-based delirium.
Your team captain is in charge of choosing which person plays each game to win the all-important crystals - each giving you five precious seconds to catch golden tickets in The Crystal Dome. As ever, the challenges fall into mental, skill, physical and mystery categories and the new Maze packs some particularly tricky puzzles. We were stumped by an especially difficult hand-eye coordination game involving resuscitating an alien. But, weaving between zones is just as amusing as crystal-nabbing, whether you’re throwing yourself down a slide or shimmying down a ladder.
Once you’ve worked your way around the zones and collected as many crystals as possible, it’s time to face The Dome itself. It’s every bit as surreal as you’d think. In fact, hearing the words ‘start the fans, please’ and then wildly grabbing gold tickets is distractingly silly... so we’ll blame our terrible team score on that, then. But it’s wearing the orange bomber jackets and high-fiving over shitty crystals that really counts. My advice? Ditch any uptight tendencies. Instead, peer through little windows and constantly shout well-meaning but totally useless advice at your mates. Become the competitive idiot that you really are. And, naturally, invest in some flattering team lycra.
Crystal Maze artistic director Neil Connolly gives us his top tips for tackling the escape game
Listen to your maze master
They are your best friend. They know the answers, want you to win crystals and are constantly trying to help you. Remember their jokes are veiled as clues and their clues are veiled as jokes.
Ask for time checks
The Maze Master’s job is opening doors and telling you how much time you have left for each game. Keep asking to avoid moments like watching seven people scream ‘THIRTY SECONDS!’ in a panic.
If you pick Big Steve to do a physical challenge because he’s massive and really strong, you’ll look silly when he has to delicately climb through a room of ropes without upsetting very sensitive bells tied to them. Bring a good cross-section of friends and expect the unexpected.
Everybody comes to the live experience saying ‘I’m gonna smash it and get 16 crystals.’ Then they realise how hard and stressful it can be when you’re inside a room trying to solve a really hard puzzle while people shout wildly counterintuitive advice at you. Just embrace it. I play the games every day and I’m still terrible at most of them.
Get to the back
Most of the tickets in The Dome are actually at the back. So get away from the door, use your hands like pincers and flail wildly for those golden sweet wrappers. When in doubt, just have a dance around.
Be competitive, but realise there’s nothing on the line apart from making great memories – and memories are best made as a team. One of the best teams we had was a group of mums who spent 45 seconds just having a lovely time dancing around inside The Dome. Interview by Alexandra Sims.
The Crystal Maze Live Experience is open now at 22-32 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 7EU. Tickets start at £49.99 per person.
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