Becoming Crystal Clear – Adventures in the Crystal Maze

The latest immersive experience to craze to hit London is a big one with adventure and challenges up to your eyeballs. It’s also a chance for fans of cult favourite British TV show The Crystal Maze to live out their dreams of participating in the show. A full building has been converted into a replica of the set and challenges present on the show. It’s a huge, sprawling and fast-paced beast to conquer – and it’s an exceptional amount of fun.

Now, I must make an important statement here before I proceed – I have never seen The Crystal Maze. I grew up in America and missed out on what I now know to be a British phenomenon. With that in mind, my review will look at how this experience works as a group activity, an immersive experience and an escape room game rather than nostalgically matching it to the TV show. For what it’s worth, my clever Irish friend Sam swears it’s exactly as the TV show was, so that’s that covered.

For the experience, four large teams (8 players per team) run through four ‘worlds’ of adventure and challenge concurrently to each other whilst collecting small crystals on the completion of each task.

Each world has a series of problem-solving challenges that revolve around skill, mystery and a show of strength. Team members decide who will attempt each challenge whilst the remaining members look on through windows, offering help and suggestions. Each completed task earns the team one crystal. Each failed task has the participant locked in a jail to try to solve a puzzle (or abandoned, so no pressure there then!)

The challenges are great – but some really are hard work for the time allowed. An athletic member of the team is definitely needed for a few of the challenges (we made an excellent decision when it came to sending our tallest member in for a true leg-stretcher) and the ability to do maths on the spot is a welcome attribute. The mystery ones are excellently set up, but would benefit from either a slightly narrower scope or a slightly extended time period but, overall, the challenges are engaging and fun and outstanding for cementing a team bond.

The entire piece is a riot of movement and fun – we run from event to event and jump, slide, and crawl from world to world (absolutely wear trainers; under no circumstances wear a skirt.) Similarly, the set design is outstanding. No stone is left unturned and I’m emptying sand from my shoes for days after the Mayan temple world. As an immersive experience, it soars – but, second disclaimer here – 90% of my team were late to the event so we were unable to do the medieval world. Damn you, team members.

There are some drawbacks to the piece, especially when it comes to some of the action, as there can be some accidentally pauses in motion. Not all the rooms had enough space/windows for all 8 members to actively participate, and I wonder if the teams would be stronger with slightly less participants – this would also let more people do multiple challenges.

The final challenge incorporates the entire team, and this seems to excite the fans of the original show the most. The four teams reassemble and put the crystals that they collected on display. The crystals amount to the length of time spent in a giant Crystal with gold foil papers blowing around it. (Sound weird? It is.) The teams must then collect the foils and the team with the most foils collected wins the overall challenge.

This part of the event holds the most weight towards the running order of the finishers and I can’t emphasise to you enough here that cheaters do not prosper. There are rules and the organisers are quite strict about not cheating. Cheaters will get publicly disqualified. Consider yourself warned.

Strangely, even though we missed an entire section of crystal gathering and games, we still finished second out of four groups (missing out on first by 7 pieces of flapping foil.) The moral of the story? Never give up and seriously – don’t cheat.

The Crystal Maze is a heck of a lot of fun. Fans of the show will be delighted to live out a childhood fantasy, and it’s a great team building activity. There are lots of laughs, victories and achievements here – and the fast pace leaves no time for dwelling on small defeats. Tickets are getting snapped up at a very quick rate rate (and are admittedly pricey at £50) but it is a fun experience with excellent memories – and sand in your shoes for the next week.

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Purchase tickets here until the 18th March, 2017.

*rumour has it it has recently been extend to May 2017 but get your skates on nonetheless!

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