Moving away from indoor home entertainment for a moment, I wanted to focus on a different sort of entertainment within this blog and something new that most of us are familiar with by now. I want to look at and share my personal experiences with live-action events and experiences, as one of the guests and as an employee, and to highlight my recent adventure through The Crystal Maze Experience – Manchester.
In the Zone
Many of the live-action experiences and events I’ve been a part of have been since a younger age to present-day and every one of them has offered something different and exciting. Some of them have been better value, better production and a more worthy, immersive experience. Some have been short and others have been a full-day event. Below are a few teasing details, insights and visuals of what I’ve been a part of overtime and not in any particular order.
- Alien War – Trocadero Centre, London, UK
Long before The Crystal Maze Experience came to light in Manchester I used to work in this area during the 1990s and with a work colleague, got the chance of embarking on this spectacular sci-fi movie tie-in at The Trocadero Centre, London, UK. The experience included real movie props, including the realistic tall alien costumes, special effects and lighting.
A colonial marine would guide your team through a maze of corridors, steps, elevators, pipes and an alien nest area, defending the group where necessary before boarding the drop-ship. This was a gripping and tense experience with surprises from all angles and there were some close call moments indeed.
- Scarefest – Alton Towers Theme Park, Staffordshire, UK
In 2014 and 2015 I had the chance of working with the Alton Towers theme park as a live actor and performer in the seasonal Scarefest event mazes. In 2014 I took on the role of a dead, zombie fireman and a hooded wraith in 2015. Once training was complete, make-up and costume were applied daily and then the team and I entered the zone which was filled with props, smoke, sound and lighting.
All we needed was brave cautiously moving guests. The late hour and the location did the rest. Obviously no touching was allowed by either performer or guest but that didn’t stop us getting up close and personal with guests, getting our kicks and thrills from every scare. As actors/performers we even had our own “scare codes” and award system.
- Pasaje Del Terror – Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, UK
I believe that this was one of the earliest and scariest live-action events I’ve been a part of, plus I was younger then and was more than likely more susceptible to the scares. Although I experienced the one in Blackpool, UK there are actually a few more dotted around different locations and countries as stated on the Pasaje Del Terror website.
As a team you cautiously moved and shuffled through the eventful maze, making your way to a very public exit – watching others at this point darting out and screaming from a false bookshelf was enough to put some people off. This dark maze brought out the jumps and the familiar movie characters that were known to me during the 1980-1990s, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees and The Undead to name a few.
- Secret Cinema Presents Back to the Future – London, UK
The location wasn’t revealed until last minute but once I got there, I felt like I was in Hill Valley itself. I’ve never been in such a full-on, immersive experience just to watch Back to the Future once again. The whole town square and courthouse had been recreated by the Secret Cinema organisation, as well as Peabody’s farm and with the courthouse being the centrepiece for the movie.
As the event opened up you could witness George Mcfly riding around on his bike, Biff and gang causing trouble, driving around and interacting with guests and even engage in Doc Brown’s experiments. There were other actors in the mix too as cleaners, mailmen and garage attendants, everything and everyone was interactive.
Lou’s Diner was even open for a drink or lunch. As the night drew on and the movie started, I couldn’t decide what to watch, the movie or the live actors and Delorean racing around the square in tune and playing out various scenes of the movie.
- The Castle Dungeon – Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, UK
This medieval setting and location is bound to have its dark cells and walls and that it does, not just within the main castle but as an interactive live experience. The castle sets the scene for the willing guests to take a plunge into live-action history. Unguided and on edge, guests move cautiously together from area to area and through dimly lit rooms.
This event gets you face-to-face with a whole host of live performers but with history in mind and tragic tales of the plague, torture methods and the trials of law and justice back in the day. Visit Warwick Castle and its grounds in order to experience this thrilling live-action event and see what else this historical, medieval castle bring’s to present day.
The Crystal Maze Legacy
Besides all the adventure, colourful sets, jumpsuits and various zones filled with challenges, the most memorable moment and a quote I remember from the hit TV show was from Richard O’Brien – “Will you start the fans, please?” He used to call this out once all contestants/adventurers were poised in the dome awaiting the final challenge.
This was a TV show I did watch and did enjoy and found it more entertaining than Fort Boyard at the time, most people were more than likely only watching this other show anyhow, due to Melinda Messenger hosting it. The concept and idea of The Crystal Maze were devised by Jacques Antoine and the show started and aired in February 1990 and began its reign over many episodes, jumpsuits and perm hairstyles included.
Over the course of time, The Crystal Maze was hosted by a few presenters of which I’m sure everyone will have had their favourite. The format was revised, revamped and re-presented in 2017.
Richard O’Brien – 1990-93
Ed Tudor-Pole – 1993-95
Stephen Merchant – 2016 (Celebrity Edition)
Richard Ayoade – 2017
In its early days, the idea was that a team of contestants or celebrities were guided around a maze of challenge locations known as zones and each zone was themed as Medieval, Aztec, Futuristic and Industrial. Each zone would have an array of cells that the contestants enter in order to take on a challenge which could be a Mental, Physical, Mystery or Skill game.
Each game is timed and if the challenge is complete a crystal is rewarded that gives five seconds worth of time in the final Crystal Dome. Once all four zones have been visited and all contestants have had a few games under their belts, the host takes them over to the Crystal Dome. All crystals and time are totted up and the huge fans blow tickets around the contestants within the sealed dome.
Compared to The Crystal Maze Experience these tickets were of gold and silver colour, the idea was to collect as many gold tickets without too many silver ones, as the silver deducted the gold quantities and final total.
The Jewel of the Medlock
My adventure and experience started on 23 November 2019 by an invite earlier in the year. As a fan of the TV show, I loosely knew what format to expect and was impressed by how well the set-up for the event was done once in the maze.
On arrival, our group was split into two and taken through to a locker room and a health and safety briefing. With our guide, we were taken to a screening room and a nostalgic look at some TV show footage from The Crystal Maze and a familiar sight of Richard O’Brien.
As mentioned above the recreation of the TV set-up here was brilliant, there were the familiar zone names that we entered and the game styles matched the choices from the TV show too. I personally took on a domino-styled puzzle and a mathematical calculations game, not my strong suit here.
Each zone was well themed with all sorts of props, sounds and lighting. There were holes and windows to view others in the team as they took their turn and Trevor wasn’t too far away calling out the time left in the challenge. Moving from zone to zone also featured the familiar TV theme tune called Force Field, which I found inspiring and it got me feeling all young again as I crawled, ran or ascended to the next play area or zone.
The dome area and final challenge were just as impressive and so identical in size and splendour to its TV counterpart. As with the show, we entered and positioned ourselves around the edges having a brief moment to discuss pointless ticket grabbing strategies.
Once those fans started, it was a manic free for all and those forty seconds that we earned went quite quickly. As I’ve mentioned above there were no silver tickets to hamper our collecting of gold but that’s not to say it made it any easier. I believe our small half of the group scored around 218 which was enough to sparkle over the others.
The Crystal Maze Experience in Manchester, UK had its own shop and debriefing area where there was an assortment of light refreshments and unique gifts including the nicely impressive crystal replicas, even the seasonal versions caught my eye with their different colour schemes. The site even caters for photography moments, gift ideas and colourful jackets with embroidered logos featured.
- The Crystal Maze Board Game
In 1991 The Crystal Maze Game was first introduced as a board game and was published by Hasbro, Milton Bradley. This version was for two to four players and for ages eight plus.
Later in 2018 it was revamped and released again by Rascals Products Limited. This was for two or more players, ages ten to adult.
- The Crystal Maze Eastern Zone Mini-Game
This is a stand-alone game by Rascals Products Limited for two to six players, ages ten to adult and can be played from the box as a separate game or can be used as an expansion or booster pack for The Crystal Maze board game as featured above.
This game includes a replacement zone board that is double-sided and overlaps any of the original zones if there is one players aren’t fond of or a change is needed. Suitable for ages ten and up, and for two to six players.
- The Crystal Maze Challenge
This is a book by Neale Simpson and published by Headline. It can be used to play the game with family and friends from within the home using everyday household objects and items. The book features over 100 mind-bending puzzles, activities and riddles. It was on sale from October 2017. The book information is as follows:
• ISBN: 9781472250414
• Publisher: Headline
• Format: Hardback
• Pages: 223
• Dimensions: 22 x 17 x 2.5cm
- The Crystal Maze PC Game
Sherston Software Ltd released a PC and Acorn version of the TV show in 1994 running on the old DOS operating system. A very suitable media format for an electronic, digital version of the show. All the familiar zones and gameplay styles were included, although in this game version the industrial zone is done away with and replaced by ocean zone.
- The Crystal Maze Clothing
There are all kinds of designs taken from The Crystal Maze and added to various clothing mainly jackets, T-shirts, sweat tops and hoodies. I’ve come across various designs and artwork that feature slogans, quotes, the digital map of the zones, Crystal Domes and TV show titles. A lot of this branded clothing is also available at The Crystal Maze Live Experience.
Worth its Weight in Gold
This amazing experience was worth the expense behind it and was as close as I’m going to get to the real game show set. It was a taste of nostalgic ’90s TV and earlier years of my life again. I found it more fun if you open your mind to the experience, get involved and let your adrenaline take over – be young again and live The Crystal Maze.
With my group, when I wasn’t chosen for a challenge I was still shouting encouragement and support to the others and was making use of the portholes, shutters and windows wherever possible so I could see what they were doing.
I often thought at times that with my acting skills and experience I would have loved to be a host, bring out my eccentric character and get guests, parties and corporate functions to maximize their time in the maze. There was nothing more thrilling in this experience than running and climbing after our host from zone to zone with The Crystal Maze theme tune playing aloud. The only downside was that I wasn’t doing this in a branded jumpsuit or jacket. I’ll have to ask “Mumsie” for one, for next time.
This is a live-action experience I could come back to with a different party or set-up. The staff I spoke to also mentioned that they’re always changing out the puzzles and challenges, keeping it fresh and is the equivalent of decorating one room of your house so can easily be done. Maybe my next time I’ll see something new or revamped or maybe I’ll simply play different games than my first outing.
Thank you for reading this article, I hope you found it of some help or interest. Please feel free to drop a comment about these events and experiences, the written content or even your own stories with this kind of entertainment.