The Crystal Maze is now open……and what a great experience it is.
The original Crystal Maze
The Crystal Maze was a TV game show produced from February 1990 to August 1995 by Chatsworth Television for Channel 4. The first four series were presented by Richard O’Brien, before Ed Tudor-Pole took over for the final two.
How many of us watched the contestants running around wearing a fluorescent jumpsuits completing challenges and wished we were taking part?
In 2015, Ben Hodges, Tom Lionetti-Maguire and Dean Rodgers of Little Lion Entertainment decided to recreate The Crystal Maze as a live immersive experience in London. Planned as a more immersive experience than current puzzle rooms, the result is more like a cross between Secret Cinema and a Escape Room.
As fans of the show Little Lion Entertainment understood how exciting it would be to be contestants placed in the centre of the action. And their vision holds true to the original TV show sets with four zones; Aztec, Medieval, Industrial and Futuristic, plus, of course, The Crystal Dome itself.
Dean Rodgers of Little Lion Entertainment said “The people who watched The Crystal Maze when they were kids are the ones going to these puzzle rooms.” I’d challenge him on the “kids” part of that comment – a lot of adults loved The Crystal Maze and love playing Escape rooms now.
Crowdfunding a dream
Turning to crowdfunding to finance the project Little Lion Entertainment stated their preferred business partner was the British public as they wanted the fans to be the ones to bring back “the greatest game show of all time for everyone!”
Recreating the locations
Back in the day I met someone who was lucky enough to take part in the show. They confided that the building where filming took place was unimpressive from the outside but transformed unbelievably inside. And so it is with the new Crystal Maze location. From the front, 10-14 White Lion Street just looks like an old office building. Inside, however, the place transforms.
The London-based creative effects company, Artem, designed and built the iconic glass dome. Previously Artem conceived, designed and built the show’s adventure zone games for the original Crystal Maze TV series. They also provided floor effects, including smoke and pyrotechnics, and were responsible for maintaining the crucial fan system inside the Dome.
The four zones ( Aztec, Medieval, Industrial and Futuristic) are just as you imagine them to be. You don’t get much time to admire the work that has gone in to producing the sets though, as this is adventure is a race.
Your childhood dreams come true
We got tickets to the opening month of Crystal Maze. As one of our team commented “BEST DAY! Childhood dream actually happened”
Donning our blue Crystal Maze bomber jackets, we were transported back to the 90s. After a brief introduction to the TV series we met our Maze Master who led us around a series of timed challenge rooms.
There 20 Maze Master characters, all providing their own personality to the proceedings. The maze master reminds you how much time you have left, and moves your team from zone to zone at the sound of the Crystal Maze music.
What would you like to play next?
There are four categories of games – physical, skill, mental and mystery – and just like the series itself, only one team member must attempt the challenge. However, all the rooms all have windows so your team can help, or hinder, by shouting instructions. When it is your task the whole thing passes in a blur, with no time to consider your options. You have to try things quickly, guided by your teams instructions. When you are spectating, it can get intense as you watch your teammate struggle and offer suggestions.
Sometimes there is someone on the team who actually knows what to do. In our case, when this happened, the Captain took command by yelling “Listen to me” at me and the rest of the team fell silent in surprise.
Sometimes you win a crystal, sometimes you fail to get a crystal but escape the room and other times, oh dear, you can get locked in. If this happens the team must sacrifice a crystal to get them out. Unfortunately one of our team got an automatic lock in on the first game so we couldn’t buy him out. Instead he was ‘sent to prison’ and given a mini challenge while the rest of us carried on.
The game is quite physical with dashing about, climbing up and down, crawling through tunnels….And some of the game equipment is quite heavy. Not light polystyrene boulders.
Counting up our crystals
The team worked very well together and won 14 crystals.
Then it was the finale and our trip into the Crystal Dome. The aim to catch as many gold foil tokens as we could while giant fans blew them around us. We didn’t have a strategy but, to be fair, I don’t think that mattered. once the fans start and you are surrounded by bits of flying foil, blind panic takes over and you find yourself leaping around like idiots, catching thin air.
Did it matter that the Dome beat us? No, we’d had a fantastic time, had won the most crystals of the four teams competing and lived the dream of being on the Crystal Maze…..and that is an unmissable experience.
The Crystal Maze costs £50 per person in the week and £60pp at weekends and is almost fully booked until the end of the year.