It’s here. There’s a real life Crystal Maze in London and you can play. Thanks to a whole load of crowd-funding, the original creators, former host Richard O’Brien and the imaginations of immersive theatre experts Tom Lionetti-Maguire, Dean Rodgers and Ben Hodges you can now yell “To the Crystal Dome” and then actually go.
The RadioTimes.com team were lucky enough to don the gear for a sneak preview and we’ve got some handy hints and tips to help when the fans start…
Don’t be put off by the exterior
On arrival you might think you’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes and that you’re about to enter a boring office and look at some ruddy spreadsheets. Fear not, the former college on White Lion street is like a Tardis, bigger – and way, way cooler – on the inside.
Don’t wear too many layers
Given all the “will you start the fans, please” you’d think it’d be cool in there. It’s not. It’s roast city. The bomber jacket they give you to wear (which you’ll spend at least ten minutes admiring) is more than enough over a light top.
You will run around a lot
Oh yes, Richard O’Brien would be proud of the Maze Masters who zip you around the four zones – Aztec, Futuristic, Medieval and Industrial – as if their bums are on fire. These guys aren’t just here for the LOLs (although there are plenty of those), there’s a pool of 20 who went through various auditions to get the part. At first you think they’re joking about how fast you have to move. Then you get left behind and realise you really do need to keep up.
Know your teammates’ skills
Every time we went to a new section I frantically pointed at someone and hoped for the best. But if you’ve got a logical thinker, keep them for the ‘Mystery’ or ‘Mental’ games. Light on their feet? Save them for ‘Physical’ or ‘Skill’. Then again, don’t be afraid to mix them up. Our ‘logical thinker’ pulled a blinder in what was essentially a man-sized hamster wheel.
You’ll be surprised by how much you want a crystal
There’s an overwhelming sense of doom, failure and panic if you’re the only one on your team who hasn’t got a crystal. You’re happy for your team, sure. But you will want one for yourself. You know Scrat and the acorn in Ice Age? It’s like that. In fact, you do have to make a conscious effort not to throttle your Maze Master when they won’t tell you exactly how to do it.
…and you never find out how it could have been done
Welcome to Irritation City, population: you. Yep, once that time runs out that’s it, onto the next challenge. You’ll never know what on earth you were meant to be doing with those hanging bags, that random pole or those fiddly bits of plastic. “You’ll just have to come back…” the Maze Masters chuckle as they scamper off, the secrets to success locked away as tightly as that sodding crystal.
You better believe you can get locked in
Just like the real game, there’s real peril here. Well, by peril I mean you’ve paid cold hard cash and can get locked up and actually miss out on some of the fun. But clearly aware this would lead to a lot of unhappy people stood around moaning about refunds, the game has twisted the rules. Namely that you go to prison instead. So if you run out of time, or break one of the rules in an ‘automatic lock-in game’ (this includes things like crossing a red line) then you get banged up instead. That means your teammates can choose to let you out straight away (cost = one crystal) or leave you to try to figure out a puzzle. Suss it out and you’re free! You can only be locked in four times games, then your mates have to swap a crystal to let you out.
The games are really well put together
You get a sense that the makers had the weight of a thousand fans on their back while designing the maze. To put it simply, it couldn’t be crap. It couldn’t be filled with games that felt like a secondary school kid had knocked them up in tech class. And there’s none of that here. There’s heavy equipment, things to climb on, things to clamber over, tie up, untie, throw about. It’s a thumbs up from us.
You can watch through the windows
Just like the show, you can peer through windows to yell helpful (or more likely, unhelpful) suggestions to your chosen player. A good idea is to think how you can actually be useful, rather than just yelling, “Er, maybe push that thing?” For example, there are often hidden instructions on the wall, or the crystal may not be immediately obvious so look for it. Our biggest takeaway is to remember to look on the back of things for clues. And remember remind your teammate to get out before the time runs out!
There’s a mix of original and new games
The guys behind the maze aren’t bothered about admitting they’ve nicked some ideas from elsewhere. You may well, for example, find yourself trying to clamber over (or under) laser beams à la Entrapment. You’ll also find games they’ve invented themselves, one of which even they confess is actually pretty tough (which it was. We tried it. We’ve laid the groundwork for a revamp to make it easier, so you can thank us for that later). But there’s plenty in there you’ll recognise from the show. Watching reels of footage online to gen up before you go is much advised.
The dome is awesome
After filling your pockets with crystals you’ll make your way to the Crystal Dome itself. It’s huge. It also works really well, something we found out wasn’t always the case on the TV show. The magic of television helped them. Here there’s been a bit of tinkering with the design and so far, so good.
There are no silver bits of ticker tape to worry yourself about. You just have to grab as many of the gold ones as you can and chuck them through the letter box. You get five seconds in the dome per crystal you’ve bagged. Yes, they do say “Will you start the fans, please” and yes, you’ll have a minor fan freak out before remembering you’re supposed to be playing. Top tip: stand near the letter box and grab them off the walls.
You can get disqualified for cheating
Dropping to the floor and scooping up the gold ticker tape might seem like the most obvious thing to do. But you’re not allowed. We were told it’s because it’s actually just a lot more fun leaping about in the air. Which it is. And if you are caught hoovering the dome floor, you will actually get disqualified and get a fat zero put next to your score. I know, I saw it happen.
Everyone’s been watching you on TV screens in the bar
Upon finishing, you’ll realise that all those chilling out in the bar have been watching (and laughing) at you. But you get over that quickly, as then it’s your turn to watch the next lot…