What is it?
The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience is a faithful recreation of the 1990s game show hosted by Richard O’Brien and Ed Tudor-Pole. And, with a recent revival - featuring Richard Ayoade as the maze master - the live Crystal Maze experience will appeal to those nostalgic for the 1990s, people wanting to try the challenges for themselves and family and friends who just want a few hours of fun.
What’s it like?
We visited the London experience shortly before it moved from Angel, Islington to its new home on Shaftesbury Avenue in The West End. But there's also a location in Manchester if you book directly with the Crystal Maze rather than Virgin Experience Days.
When you walk in, it’s a little underwhelming and has the feel of any other activity or experience that requires a change of clothes. There’s free lockers, places to get changed and lots of people getting into their teams and ready to enter the Crystal Maze. There is a bit of admin to deal with when you arrive - forms to fill in and a safety briefing - so you should arrive well in advance of your booking time.
You’ll wear jumpsuits in the Maze itself and it’s best to wear loose and light clothing, as it gets very warm inside - plus, you’ll be running around and climbing a lot. There is, however, a photo opportunity before you go in for your team to wear the iconic jackets. But you wouldn’t want to wear these whilst competing in the maze - they’re far too warm.
You’ll also need to come up with a team name while you wait and, if your group size is less than eight, you’re likely to be in a team with strangers. That adds to the experience and you’ll find that you quickly bond over each of the games as you help each other out. But coming up with a team name with strangers, to begin with, can be somewhat challenging. There’s similar awkwardness when choosing a team captain, too.
It’s at this point that you’ll meet your ‘maze master’ and where the fun really starts to begin. It would have been easy for Crystal Maze to have just had an ordinary staff member to take your round the maze. But each maze master takes on a persona, complete with costume and theatrical performance - your very own Richard O’Brien (or Ayoade). This is what transforms the experience from being just a series of fun and exciting games into one where you have the genuine feeling that you’re taking part in The Crystal Maze.
Four zones have been re-created from the show: Aztec, Medieval, Industrial and Futuristic - all of which have different games that include skill, physical, mental and mystery. The aim is simple: earn as many crystals as you can from these games as you can. With every success in a game comes a crystal and the more crystals you have means more time in the Crystal Dome (the very one used in the Channel 4 series in the 1990s).
Some of the games are particularly challenging - especially when you’re up against the clock; often contradictory instructions being shouted through the viewing windows by fellow teammates creates a sense of confusion too. If you can keep a cool head and not get distracted, you’re likely to do well.
We won’t go into details about each of the games, as that would spoil the surprise and the thrill of doing them yourself. They are, however, faithful re-creations of those from the programme and the work that has gone into making them look completely authentic is very, very impressive.
During our time in The Crystal Maze, our group managed to win eight crystals - so we had a success rate of around 50 per cent. This bought us 40 seconds in the Crystal Dome, which you do as a team once all of the games are completed. If you’re a fan of the show - past or present - this is a real highlight of the day and the scramble for tickets is as frantic as it looks on the small screen. You’ll compete against other teams who have also been in The Crystal Maze at the same time as you (though, thanks to clever choreography, you never see them and it feels as though you’re the only people in there).
Should I go?
The Crystal Maze LIVE experience is an exhilarating way to spend a couple of hours - whether you remember the show or not. But tickets are a little on the pricey side, especially if you’re booking as a family or larger group. But this is a unique and very well produced experience. It’s entirely immersive and, crucially, manages to pull off the trick that you’re taking part in the show itself thanks to a keen eye for detail in the games and a focus on the theatrical side of the experience.
It often sells out quickly and you must book several months in advance, so you need to be flexible about dates and plan way in advance. This isn’t an experience that you can do on a whim. If you’re in a couple you may find that some short-notice cancellation tickets are available.