It’s a-maze-ing! There’s no place like dome! And other ‘Crystal Maze’ puns! On April 1, the long-awaited real-life version of the ’90s game show finally opens, and last week we went inside for a sneak peek. What can we tell you about it? Lots, actually. Read on for our guide to everything you need to know about the new Crystal Maze game.
1. It's VERY much like the original TV show
Fans of the Channel 4 gameshow: prepare to feel exactly like you're in the Channel 4 gameshow. As you work your way around the four different zones (Aztec, Medieval, Future and Industrial – none of that weird business with the Ocean zone), you're forced to sprint about in an utterly unnecessary manner, just like on telly, back in the day. The Crystal Dome is an exact life-size replica of the original. And, like the original, you're led around by a maze master who occasionally touches his earpiece and says things like: 'Oh, I'm sorry! We don't have enough time for another game in this zone!'
In fact, the only real difference is the lack of Richard O'Brien as your host. Instead, you begin with an old-school TV showing you a montage of O'Brien's best bits and then an introduction to your host: an actor playing an enigmatic maze master. Ours was an unbelievably fun and energetic, steam-punky young lady who told us she was called Martine Clunes. Which we're pretty sure is her real name.
2. You don't need to worry about being locked in
As in the TV show, failure in some games will lead to you being locked into a room. But unlike the TV show, you don't have to sit around on your own. You'll be given a riddle to solve, and if you get it right, you don't lose a crystal. If you screw it up, then you get one less shiny gem for your haul, but it happens instantly, so you can go straight back to playing.
3. It's a ludicrously brilliant bonding experience
As one of your team-mates goes into their game, you'll find yourself frantically scrabbling to open the windows and yell abuse – sorry, advice – at them. In fact, lots of the games require it – ranging from ones that need you to yell out answers to riddles, to those that need you to shout out the solutions to mathematical equations (more fun than it sounds, trust us). When they come out, you'll clap each other on the shoulders and whoop. Basically, expect to feel closer to your team-mates than if you'd all tried to jam yourselves onto a bus at rush hour. Even better, you all get to bond over the wicked same-coloured bomber jackets you wear (sadly only at the start, so that you don't boil alive). Just check out how cool they make you look, though:
Alright, alright. You'll probably look cooler than we did.
4. It's the most impressive Crystal Maze in the country
Manchester mightn't be the first city to get a recreation of the Crystal Maze (London got their own around a year ago), but it's definitely the city to get the best one. Compared to the London one, it's humungous: featuring a gigantic Aztec temple and zones that are split into multiple areas (when you go into the future zone, some of your games will be performed inside a dilapidated space ship, others on the surface of a Mars-like planet, with the solar system hanging overhead). Plus, it features bespoke games made just for Mancs to play - and not available in that city where all those boring politicians hang out. It's the Crystal Maze that its creators always dreamt of making - and Manchester's the city to get it.
5. The game categories are pretty arbitrary (but nonetheless great)
At the start of the game, you'll have to pick a team captain (and a vice captain in case of lock-in). That captain will then spend the rest of your hour-long session being repeatedly asked to pick which team member is up next and what kind of game they should play (the choices being: mental, physical, skill and mystery). But you'll quickly realise that there's not a huge difference between them. We saw mental games that involved picking up hefty blocks and using them to form a cube. We saw mystery games that involved solving equations. Frankly, we have no idea what differentiates skill games from mental or mystery ones. But then that was always the case with the original gameshow. And, like the original, they all manage to be panic-inducingly tricksy without being fiendishly unachievable. They are, basically, awesome. And it's not too hard to win crystals.
6. There's real technique to beating the Crystal Dome
MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT! When you've worked your way around the four zones, you'll be led into a room containing the Crystal Dome. Each crystal you win will be exchanged for five seconds' worth of time to grab golden tickets. This you know already. But what you don't know is the best way to bag yourself the most shiny bits of paper (and thus get yourself onto their leaderboard of best scores). It's this: position as many people as you can by the letterbox into which you have to input the tickets. They're blown around by fans which are positioned near the walls, so that's where most of them collect (and not in the airspace in the middle). The more people you have shovelling them straight in through that letterbox, the better chance you have of winning.
Basicallly, you want to make sure that you do this:
Still, it doesn't matter hugely. It's impossible not to leap about to the 'Crystal Maze' tune and not have fun. Particularly if you yell: 'START THE FANS PLEASE!'