If any of you guys are fellow kids of the 80s/90s, the words ‘Crystal Maze‘ may well fill you with a warm dose of British nostalgia. I was just seven years old when the original series began and it soon became a firm family favourite in our household (back in the days when we had only four TV channels and no internet access; can you imagine such a thing?). Every week, I’d dream of spending thirty seconds in the Crystal Dome and frantically grabbing at those precious golden tickets.
Well, guess what? You can now don your very own bomber jacket (albeit just to take a pre-maze picture, you don’t wear this whilst playing) and experience The Crystal Maze for yourself! After the huge success of the London-based interactive game, it’s now Manchester’s turn to shine.
For those you that are unfamiliar with The Crystal Maze, here’s a quick brief:
Contestants compete in a variety of games in four categories – Physical, Mental, Skill or Mystery – with each one designed to test their strength under pressure. There are four zones in The Crystal Maze – Aztec, Medieval, Futuristic and Industrial – and the aim is to complete each challenge and win a crystal before your time is up (otherwise you face a Lock-In and have to forfeit a hard-earned crystal to release your unlucky teammate) before heading to the Crystal Dome. This is a magnificent glass dome in which you have a set amount of time (you gain five seconds in the dome per crystal) to grab as many golden tickets as you can whilst the fans are blowing.
I was fortunate enough to be invited along to a press preview in Manchester and given the opportunity to test out The Crystal Maze Experience before it opens its doors to the public this weekend. Located inside the iconic Old Granada Studios on Quay St, this special building holds plenty of childhood memories for me personally (they used to host a fabulous tour back in the mid-nineties) and boasts a rich history. It was home to Coronation Street until 2015 and The Beatles gave their very first live television performance at the studios back in 1962 (I love random trivia). We actually spotted some of the original Corrie set as we made our way inside which was pretty cool.
After being greeted by members of The Crystal Maze Experience team, Adam and I paired up with the lovely Leigh from Fashion Du Jour and friends (our brand new BBFs that we’d known for about five minutes), forming a dream team of five that we aptly named ‘Stranger Danger’. We all signed our obligatory disclaimers and placed our belongings into one of the free lockers provided (including our mobile phones as there is a strict ‘No Photography’ policy once inside the famous labyrinth) before sitting down to form a strategic plan and allocate a team captain.
Being of similar mindsets, we settled this conundrum over a game of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors‘ where Leigh emerged the victorious winner and I happily settled into my role as vice-captain. We also discussed our personal strengths and weakness (I opted out of any physical challenges there and then) before we were taken to another room. This involved watching a short video montage featuring some of Richard O’Briens legendary moments and other classic nineties clips. By this point, the entire team struggled to contain our mutual excitement and there were definitely a few giddy squeals forming!
Once the video had ended, it was time to meet our very own Maze Master. Pinky burst into the room and…wow! Complete with sass, Heelys and neon hotpants, Pinky soon had us ready for the challenges ahead. I’m not going to say much more here as I don’t want to ruin the surprise for any future players, but our Maze Master was absolutely incredible, keeping us highly entertained and informed throughout the entire game, with quips to rival good old Richard himself.
Full of adrenaline and anticipation, we finally made our way inside to begin our quest. A familiar theme tune filled the air, along with cries of: ‘Oh my goodness, WE’RE IN THE CRYSTAL MAZE!‘. The first ‘realm’ we experienced was the Medieval Zone. We managed around four games here, including Mystery, Skill and Mental, and emerged with a couple of crystals between us.
Part of The Crystal Mazes allure is the mystery, so I won’t elaborate on any of the game details but think lasers, air hockey with a twist, ball pools, Spikes of Doom (in true theatrical style), skeletons, riddles, slingshots and maths puzzles and you’re on the right track. Some of the challenges were simply a case of beating the clock (games have a time limit of 2/3 minutes) but others proved to be very physically demanding and when facing the number/riddle based ones, you really do have to think fast. The pressure is real guys!
There was a good mix of classic replica games taken from the original programme (I was delighted when I found myself taking on one of my personal childhood favourites) and some brand new rooms to tackle. Our little team worked well together and helped each other out tremendously, shouting answers and
panicked commands advice through the viewing windows to whichever member was playing at the time.
The transition from zone to zone was fun and involved jogging, climbing, crawling and sliding (!) to the aforementioned theme music. The Futuristic zone was particularly awesome with its impeccable attention to detail. In his haste, Adam did manage to knock over over a palm tree in the Aztec zone, much to our amusement!
Being a fairly small team, we each played around four or five games and ultimately, arrived at the Crystal Dome with nine crystals (we’d forfeited one after an instant lock-in), giving us 45 seconds to grab as many golden tickets as possible. In a slight twist from the original TV series, there are no silver ones involved here.
All of the tickets are golden so that eliminated the need to be picky. We piled inside and heard those immortal four words: ‘Start the fans PLEASE!’ before descending into a frantic mass of flailing arms. (FYI, this is way harder than it looks!)
A few moments later, our windswept, sweaty team discovered that our final score was 176, which certainly didn’t get us into the top 20 on the scoreboard but was a respectable effort all the same. I caved at the gift shop (I’m a sucker for them) and purchased my very own ‘Winners Crystal’ (the small one pictured below will set you back £10) to take home as a souvenir.
Being the kind of girl that doesn’t actually own a pair of trainers, I arrived in skinny jeans, a jumper and ballet pumps; obviously not the most practical attire for this kind of event! It got super warm in the maze and I left with half of the Aztec sand in my shoes so I’d highly recommend wearing leggings, gym wear, t-shirts, vests, trainers etc (tying long hair up is also a good idea) if you plan on taking a trip yourself.
The Crystal Maze Experience Manchester open it’s doors today (1st April 2017) but be quick as tickets are selling out fast. At £45-£55 per person, this isn’t a cheap day out but we enjoyed 90 minutes of nostalgic fun and talked about it for days afterwards. I’d love to take my Dad, the kids and co along for my birthday next month but at an eye-watering £462 (a team of 8) to book a game for that particular Sunday afternoon, this may not be a feasible option for our humble bank accounts! You can find booking information, prices and times here.
‘Start the fans please!’