Saturday, 1 December 2018

Confirmed Christmas 2018 Lineup

The 5 celebs taking part in the Christmas special have been named:

  • Christopher Biggins (Porridge, I'm a Celebrity, and many, many, many pantomimes)
  • Chris Kamara (Football pundit and has a habit of saying 'Unbelievable')
  • Frankie Bridge (The Saturdays singer and wife of previous celeb contestant Wayne Bridge)
  • Deborah Meaden (Dragons Den entrepreneur)
  • Jamie Laing (Made in Chelsea and heir to the McVities biscuit fortune)

Here's Biggins in a previous life hosting his own game show On Safari


Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Crystal Maze Christmas Special 2018

At time of writing, we haven't yet been made aware of the airing date for another Christmas Special of the revived Crystal Maze on Channel 4. We are monitoring the Radio Times Twitter like a hawk. Last year The Crystal Maze Christmas Special aired on 14th Dec, so expect a similar sort of time frame. For me, the Christmas Special last year was fantastic.

I loved seeing not only the Zones transformed into a festive wonderland, but the amount of work that went into individually Christmas themed games as well. This is something which wasn't done as extensively in the original series. The episode featured Carol Singers in the Medieval Zone, Winter Tundra in Aztec and spinning Christmas Puddings in Industrial. Absolutely fantastic stuff. As well as my usual Christmas Home Alone fix, I truly cannot wait to tune into The Crystal Maze Special to see how they've transformed the Zones and games this time round. The Christmas Special would of been recorded a few weeks after I tested the games at the set in April this year, so it will be pretty fascinating to see how they adapted the set for Christmas again.

I am really grateful for this year, not only have I fulfilled my main childhood dream by working on the Maze testing the games at the Studio and meeting all the lovely crew - (my highlight was playing a water game in Aztec)  - But I have recently discovered I am going to become a dad in June 2019, so this year has truly exceeded my wildest expectations. Dreams really do come true.

We will keep you posted with The Crystal Maze Christmas Special air date as soon as we have it.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Adventure Game Shows, Further Reading/Watching

I'd say this blog makes it quite clear which adventure game show I and many others consider to be the best of the genre but there's plenty of others that many people under a certain age have missed out on. Not to say they're all great, missing out can sometimes be a stroke of luck.

"Les Mondes Fantastique" - because Fort Boyard is too obvious.

After The Crystal Maze had been on UK screens for a couple of years, in 1992 Jacques Antoine (the brains behind TCM) brought a cross between TCM and Fort Boyard to French television. Primarily a children's game show, it borrowed a few elements from TCM such as the colourful wireframe map to show where the contestants were, as well as a very familiar lightbulb themed steady-hand game (see below from 2:00). The show was so closely related it even took the original board game for The Crystal Maze and repackaged it under the LMF name.





Scavengers - Someone got horrifyingly close to creating "Alien - The Game Show"

That's not me being facetious, this show started off as a chapter of the Alien universe, and it was as underwhelming as Prometheus ended up being. Look up episodes on Youtube and it still mentions 20th Century Fox in the credits. Thankfully Ridley Scott stepped in and said "err... no".
Hosted by "Commander" John Leslie, turning the star of Blue Peter and other stuff that could be called blue into a sci-fi action hero bloke jumping and swinging about a bit. The commander would take two teams of male/female pairings to the stricken cargo ship The Cyclops to retrieve salvage in a series of games culminating in an escape across a watery abyss before the end of a strict time limit. The set was impressive, although the same parts were reused for different games and each show featured a little subplot between John Leslie and some aliens which disappointingly weren't Xenomorphs, one episode even going as far as to visit the familiar 'evil clone' plot. Whilst Scavengers started off as ITV watching TCM and wanting an adventure game show to fill the gap in the months that Gladiators wasn't on, it didn't last and since no one was watching it in its primetime Saturday slot the final ended up being broadcast after GMTV at 9.25 on a Monday morning. With a bit of a time jump, we could have had Commander Jeremy Kyle.



Incredible Games - "MOOOVVVVEEEE"

Before CBBC had the likes of Raven and Trapped, they had this little gem. Simple concept, a team of 3 kids (or celebrities at Christmas, including Keith Chegwin, I'll taint your memories forever with him in a bit) go up a skyscraper in a sentient lift with different games on each floor. Simple.
The lift was portrayed by David Walliams who has done plenty since then, including the video for Vindaloo by Fat Les which also featured Ed Tudor Pole in the crowd.
There were two games that always lingered in my memories of this show. One was from a later series and had a ghostly teacher asking the kids a series of questions in a Victorian classroom and having to answer the previous question, just imagine the Two Ronnies Mastermind sketch with gunge. The other is the game that this show is always remembered for, when it is remembered, and it's the Dark Knight (not that one). A large darkened room, a grid of squares, a man in black at the far side with a helmet more akin to Spaceballs. The kids and the Knight would take turns to move across the grid, having to alternate between forwards and sideways moves, and the Knight could only see where the kids had been from the illuminated square of their previous move. If the Knight caught a kid, he would open his cloak and the kid disappeared in a flash, and the team got points for every contestant that made it across the board unflashed.

Full episode below, Dark Knight starts at 10:10




Jungle Run - and Keith Chegwin's spin-off of sorts.

There's not much to say about Jungle Run, the format borrowed heavily from TCM, a team do challenges to obtain bananas/monkey statues. the more they achieved in the earlier games, the more time they'd have in the final game to win prizes. Even lock-ins were possible as were buybacks from those lock-ins. Three hosts took charge through the years: Dominic Wood of 'Dick and Dom' fame, Chris Jarvis who now may be more familiar to some from CBeebies shows, then Michael Underwood. Underwood started his television career after winning a role on CBBC through Saturday night game show 'Whatever You Want' hosted by Gaby Roslin, where the idea was people could win whatever they wanted. That wasn't his first TV appearance though. That, as far as I know, was the first Crystal Maze Christmas Special where he was the team captain.
Jungle Run had a purpose-built set in an aircraft hangar (a familiar idea) in Nottingham and it's that set I may be about to scar your memories of. In much the same way the SU2C special for Crystal Maze used an existing set in the Live Experience London venue, Channel 5 used the existing Jungle Run set to make their own adventure game show...for nudists.
A naked Keith Chegwin took naked contestants around the jungle to do virtually the same games the kids did. There was no focus on body parts or an attempt to obscure them but a starkers Cheggers, and little Cheggers, was headline news in the summer of 2000.

Here's that set in 2000, with Dom (No Dick, that was a different show) (ok, now I'm being facetious)


Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Crystal Maze - Another Evolution for its history

This week, we have seen impressive mock up artist impressions of what the new Crystal Maze West End Venue could look like, once finished. The London Maze in Angel - originally crowd funded on Indiegogo back in 2015 - is shutting down next year and relocating to London Trocadero - a prime location in Shaftesbury avenue, near Piccadilly Circus. As a massive fan of the original show in the 90s, (well, after all, I do run this fan blog), I never could have envisaged such a grand project could lift off two decades later, especially in the heart of London like this.

Since 1990, The Crystal Maze has had SIX Physical locations! (3x for TV sets - Shepperton, North Weald and Bottleyard, 4x if you include SU2C Special filmed at Angel) and now 3x for the Live Experience - (London Angel, Manchester and now London's West End). That's before counting all the Cyberdrome Crystal Maze interactive attractions from the 1990s, and even the Maze that was in a Dubai Shopping Mall. Who can think of a TV programme which has been so popular and has spawned in so many different forms? (TV Show, Board Games, Pub Machines, LCD Game, Puzzle Books, Jigsaw Puzzles and Live Experience Venues). It is incredible, and another reason why I love The Crystal Maze so much - maybe it is here forever now? Let's hope so.

It just comes to show how enduring the show still is. The new Maze will host 32 brand new games, a Maze bar and will be bigger than the existing Angel and Manchester Mazes. Finally, we will get a full scale Live Experience Maze. The Mock up drawing below does show two Zones and the Crystal Dome on the ground floor. The other two Zones will be upstairs. The question on a lot of Crystal Maze fan's lips is - Is Ocean Zone returning? I would love to see it back, because Industrial has been done to death, and it was replaced for a reason in the Original TV series. Obviously we cannot expect Water tanks and such like in an era of Health and Safety madness, but a lot of the Ocean Zone games didn't actually involve water at all. Ocean Zone was one of my favourite Zones. I cannot see Ocean coming back anytime soon, but we should be grateful for this awesome new venue. I cannot wait to visit in Spring 2019. Tickets are already on sale.

In other news, Little Lion Entertainment have also promised a Top Secret Live Immersive Experience for the United States. Could this mean that The Crystal Maze could possibly go transatlantic?  My guesses are that it could be a Live Experience form of Legends of the Hidden Temple, an American format similar to the UK's The Crystal Maze, but that's just a wild guess. I look forward to visiting the West End Maze in 2019. Keep tuned into this blog for more news on this exciting development.

Head to The Crystal Maze Live Experience Website to book tickets for the new West End Maze. The Angel Maze will be closing as of 27th January 2019. Myself and Adam have snapped up our tickets for the Opening Day of the West End Maze, 29th March 2019.

We will be one of the first guinea pigs once again to test this Maze. We have already tested Manchester, Angel and the real Studio Maze. We look forward to testing this West End one and blogging all about it here with a first review! Next month is Christmas, and that means another Crystal Maze Christmas Special as well. It's a good time to be alive.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Crystal Maze's Future on TV

As the year draws to its cold, leaf-covered end. We're left asking if there'll be more next year. We know there'll be a Christmas special (and from clips spliced into an Ayoade remix, I can tell you that as far as the celebs concerned go... well, at least a couple are unbelievable big'uns)

The BBC posted an article yesterday on TV reboots, what with an impending return of Blockbusters, and it featured the line "Channel 4 have now ordered more episodes for 2019.Until Channel 4 themselves say it, I'm not jumping the gun but it's better than zero lines online saying it.

I also found a tweet reiterating the news but they wouldn't give up any sources


In regards to the remaining shows from series 1 (everything filmed in spring 2017), there are some left and they are due to be broadcast but when they'll be on is a mystery. Thanks to an on-demand service for the show's broadcaster in Australia, SBS, remaining teams include a team of midwives, the Ali family, and finally the Sasani family and friends who are listed as a group of police officers, so make up your own naff joke about being locked up. Also yes, Australia got some episodes before we did back in Britain.

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Crystal Maze Board Game YouTube First Look


The Crystal Maze Board Game first glimpse! EXCLUSIVE

The Crystal Maze Board game is finally out! Only a limited first initial production run has been released, I was able to find my copy on WH Smith Website to Click and Collect in store. The developer at Rascals emailed me and said this is one of the first sets to go on sale. So I have been lucky. The packaging is excellent, the box is heavy as it's so jam packed with Crystal Maze goodness, including awesome minature Crystals!. It is very well put together. I haven't played it yet and I am already impressed with the contents. Buzzing! Upon first inspection it looks as if all the games instructions are given to the Maze Master in the Maze Master booklet. All games are thoroughly explained. The Mystery, Mental, Physical and Skill games look fantastic. (I don't want to give too much away yet, that will ruin the surprise). Richard Ayoade's hand features suckers which pick up the large silver and gold tokens at the dome finale. They are also used in some of the games themselves. This is definitely a vast improvement from the original Maze game. It is multi-layered and multi-faceted, just like a Crystal itself. The mini-game cards are also reversible, and a pen is included, as well as traditional dice, beaker, and balls.

Front of the Box



The large board itself is reversible with Zone map/Crystal Dome. There is an app you can download for your phone for sound effects and game timer which is also very good. This can now be found for free on the app store, The Crystal Maze: Game Timer. I absolutely love it. Mumsie would be proud. Of course, if you remember I have the original Futuristic Timer Clock from the 1990's set itself, so that will be fun to use as well, maybe i'll throw some real Crystals into the mix. ;)  Coupled with the app sound effects plugged into a big speaker. That's the Crystal Maze geek inside me! Anyhow, this is certainly one of the most innovative board games I have seen. This is sure to be a Christmas hit. Keep an eye out at WH Smith, John Lewis and Debenhams, more are being distributed soon. The game has just gone live on Debenhams and John Lewis websites today, but at the full price of £35. I got it at WH Smith on their website at a special discounted price of £27.99, but the RRP is £35. I will post a review in a few weeks after a few plays of the various fiendish and devious games. Here is my box opening.

                            Reverse Game Synopsis, Richard O'Brien's voice echoes from it!


Zone Map Main Board Game Play Area for Decks


A Word game


Futuristic, Medieval, Aztec, Industrial game Cards


Richard's hand with suckers, for the dome, and also for games



Minature plastic Crystals, great detail to them


Rule books (theres two, one for Maze Master, one general one)


Crystal Dome finale board to lay tokens to pick up


Video of a quick go at the Dome Round on my own to try it


Various riddle type games for each Zone, some offer lock ins!




Thursday, 11 October 2018

The Board Game is Finally Available

With Christmas just around the corner (ok, two and a half months, but it'll pounce upon us in no time), the board game accompanying our favourite game show is making its way to shops. If you don't feel like searching the high street, however, it can be found at WHSmith online for £27.99.

To play it properly, you'll need a timer and there's an accompanying app to do just the job available on Google Play or Apples App Store

There's no games in the app itself, but it makes a great timer for not just the board game. For example, if you want to add some tension to doing the washing up or you want to make sure the kids brush their teeth for a full 2 mins.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Brand New London Crystal Maze Live Experience Venue Confirmed!!

Yesss!!!! Today we learned that our hopes had been fulfilled. A brand new Crystal Maze Live Experience is opening in London in Spring 2019, with 32 brand new games.

The all new, bigger Maze will also include a bar area and will be located minutes from Picadilly Circus Tube Station in Shaftesbury Avenue. I am very pleased, as the Manchester Maze was quite a trek for me and the original London Maze was quite small in comparison. Will we see Ocean Zone in this new London maze is what we are all asking ourselves? Apparently, the Manchester Maze was originally meant to have Ocean but this was switched to Industrial. However some Ocean Zone games remain. Let's hope so.

Details can be found here:
https://the-crystal-maze.com/london-westend/

In other Crystal Maze news, the Brystal Maze Gromit is up for auction this evening at Aerospace Bristol. You can bid online. He is currently at £2,000 with 17 watchers. I'm rather jealous as I want him. The board game is also expected to hit shops this weekend. The tie in timer app is now live on Google Play and Apple Store. 

** UPDATE 07/10/18: The Brystal Maze Gromit sold at auction for £15,500 for Bristol Children's Hospital. Secondly, I have just received a stock email alert, the first copies of the new Crystal Maze Board Game have just been made available on WH Smith website at a reduced price!!! I have already ordered!! **

Friday, 28 September 2018

Potential new London Maze Live Experience Venue?!

The team behind the Crystal Maze Live Experience, Little Lion have been recently teasing their followers with a "mystery" announcement on www.littlelionmystery.com and on the Maze Instagram page - We were dubious initially as to whether this "surprise" was maze related.

A simple Google search shows that they've recently acquired a former Casino space, some 21,000 sq foot near Piccadilly Circus in London. (Only 9,000ft smaller than the real Crystal Maze Studio at Bottleyard, in Bristol). We must stress that this hasn't been officially announced yet, it will in four days - but we think this is what the announcement will be! What else could it be?  The link to the venue is here: http://blog.lorenzconsultancy.com/21000-sq-ft-former-casino-lease-assigned-to-unique-leisure-occupier?utm_campaign=News&utm_content=77725347&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

It even states that the Crystal Maze has acquired it. One of our Blog contributors, Liam found this link online, after some detective work.

The current London Maze is in an old office block and is not really fit for purpose. They will either relocate there, or open a second venue - let's wait and see what's announced next week. Exciting times to be a Crystal Maze Fan!

Monday, 24 September 2018

Will you start the (board game) fans please!


We have been contacted by Rascals, the board game company behind the innovative brand new Crystal Maze Board game entering shops in the next couple of weeks. A few of us have seen a proof of the actual game rules, screenshots of the timer phone app and we are very impressed with what they've come up with. (We cannot share these with you at the moment). We cannot wait to scramble like we are running between zones to get this board game! As soon as we get a copy of it, we will be reviewing it in full here after having a play with it. Expect this game to take a while to set up. The makers told us that the board game is so full of items, that they had a job to cram it all in the box. We haven't played it yet and we already like the sound of what it offers, based upon our first fan glimpses. Please tip us off if you see it for sale anywhere. Apparantly it is going to enter the supply chain process with retailers in dribs and drabs, so it will be quite hard to get hold of to begin with.

We have been told that copies of the game will be available for £35 from Debenhams, John Lewis, WH Smith and Amazon from October, bringing all the adventures of this iconic TV show to the living room with a host of perplexing puzzles and tricky challenges for friends and family. Suitable for ages 10 and above, and for 2 or more players, teamwork is paramount as players voyage through the four themed time zones in one of two teams competing against one another.

Packed with an assortment of mental, mystery, skill and physical games, The Crystal Maze Board Game is sure to challenge and excite even the bravest of adventurers with success being rewarded in the shape of precious time Crystals. For each Crystal won you will earn time scrambling for gold tokens in the dome finale.


The Crystal Maze Board Game Contents: 
·         Game board
·         Maze Master’s manual
·         Rules
·         Sand timer
·         130 × Gold & silver tokens
·         4 × Maze Master’s hands
·         16 × Game sign cards
·         2 × A.L.I.S cards
·         16 × Clear plastic crystals
·         3 × Plastic balls
·         5 × Game bases
·         14 × Aztec Mental Game symbol tiles
·         10 × Aztec Mystery Game sum cards
·         Dry marker pen*
·         4 × Aztec Physical Game artefact cards
·         60 × Medieval Mental Game toy cards
·         15 × Medieval Mystery Game riddle cards
·         Dice
·         12 × Futuristic Mental Game circuit pieces
·         15 × Futuristic Mystery Game riddle cards
·         7 × Futuristic Skill Game cube puzzle pieces
·         9 × Industrial Mental Game cards
·         8 × Industrial Mystery Game cog tiles
·         4 × Industrial Skill Game large word tiles
·         40 × Industrial Skill Game small word tiles
·         Plastic cup

Thursday, 20 September 2018

A Middling eBay Auction

The Gamers were the first civilian team of series 2 and some might say they did quite well, must have done to get a prize from their day. A middling prize is a prize nonetheless and in their case, and to Richard's bemusement, it was a day out at Diggerland.

However owing to reasons, the team are unable to take their tickets and exchange them for a day at a heavy plant themed theme park, watching a JCB display team. So they're auctioning off their 5 tickets here with all proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer Support, happy bidding.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/5x-Diggerland-Tickets-CrystalMaze-Middling-Prize/192662233247

for more information on the wondrous majesty that is Diggerland: https://www.diggerland.com/

UPDATE: as well as the 5 tickets, the show's producers have added some things to the auction:

A Crystal Maze Crystal
A copy of the soon to be released board game
and a copy of the book The Crystal Maze Challenge by series producer (and all-round magnificent bloke) Neale Simpson

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Back to the Manchester Maze again


Last Friday myself and Adam met up with Mike Park at the Crystal Maze Live Experience, a contestant on the first series of the revival. He is as mad about the Maze as us. We had a good time talking about all things Crystal Maze. I even dragged my girlfriend along to play and she loved it. Our team won a total of 9 Crystals. Nice to see a good mix of brand new games in the Manchester Live Experience since our last visit in March. Worth doing again. No new Maze Merchandise on sale but the board game is due out anytime now.

Interestingly, Little Lion Entertainment, the company behind the Live Experience, have recently posted on their social media about a "mystery announcement" coming soon. New Zone? New Maze Venue? New type of Live Experience but based upon a different show? Who knows! I would love to see Ocean Zone back or a brand new Maze Venue. (Hangar size in scale like the original). But I expect it is something different to the maze. Go to www.littlelionmystery.com to sign up for updates about this mystery announcement!

Monday, 20 August 2018

Get your Christmas list ready - FIRST GLIMPSE - The Brand New Crystal Maze Board Game!!

Friday sees the last episode of the current series, and then it's the long wait until the Christmas special. We all know what Christmas means: promotional tie-ins. Last year we got the book packed full of games to do at home and information about the series so what are we getting this year?

Much like I always fawned over in the back of the Argos catalog after the original series 2, this year will see the release of a board game.

Designed by Rascals, the game will see players of all ages taking on puzzles and challenges to collect crystals, earning time to collect gold tokens in the Crystal Dome at the end of the game. It even comes with an accompanying app to download to function as a timer with authentic music and sound effects from the show, (witty put-downs from Richard Ayoade not included).

Other future licensed items in the future are set to include apparel, nightwear, and underwear.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

A little YouTube project

At the back end of last year, I knocked together an alternate intro sequence for the current incarnation of the show but in the style of the original: A montage from the series set to Forcefield by Zack Laurence. And since there's only one left from this years run, excluding the Christmas Special, I thought I'd get Windows Movie Maker fired up and, in between a lot of swearing at my doorstop of a laptop, get a new version done.




And if you haven't seen what I made for last years series...


Monday, 13 August 2018

Crystal Maze Merchandise Update!

I received an email this week from Bulldog Licencing, they confirmed to our blog that brand new Crystal Maze Merchandise is in full production as I write this.

A brand new Crystal Maze Board game is currently nearing final production and will be available on the shelves to purchase from many retail outlets as of end of September/Early October. The rest of the merchandise will soon follow thereafter.

With regards to The Brystal Maze Gromit, he is still on display near Bottleyard Studios for another 2-3 weeks until 2nd September, so get down there to check him out, he is awesome. I visited the Gromit Shop at Cribbs Causeway at the weekend and asked if they plan to release a minature version of the Maze Gromit, like they have with other designs. Apparantly an online poll on the Gromit Unleashed website will determine what additional minatures get the go ahead for release, so get voting for The Brystal Maze Gromit please.

I am aware they will be Exhibiting all of the Gromit Statues in the Cribbs Causeway mid September, and then shortly after auctioning them all. I would love the Maze Gromit, but expect he will reach between 15-30k at auction for charity.

This week we see the Vikings team on Channel 4 take on the Maze.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Return of the Muggles

Last Friday, the civilian portion of series 2 started and it was a personal sore point as I'm fairly confident that it was the all white, all male group that made it on screen in place of the world famous (maybe not in this reality but in some reality somewhere) Superfans team.

It's currently just gone 5am and I'm sat waiting in Milton Keynes, Crystal Maze testing photos, book and Twitter competition Crystal in tow to bore the arse off my stepdaughter. I know there's only so many times I can talk about it without being an irritant. However its still the coolest thing (to me) I've done in a very long time so I'm hanging on to it for all it's worth.

Joking aside however, well done to the Gamers. 9 crystals (including a win on a game we struggled with in testing: the coloured cooling towers). The only loss being the airgun maze, which was the other game we 100% failed at in testing too.

The gamers episode marked the halfway point of series 2, and with 5 civilian episodes and a christmas special left, there's still one game we tested we haven't seen yet so at least there's still new fresh games for viewers to enjoy.

Now, the scene everyone's going to remember, Tipping Point. I didn't mind it, it was something a bit different. A novelty, and there's nothing wrong with that. What with TP being made by the same company and being filmed in a studio next door at the same time, why not use the available resources to do something a bit different. When we were testing, TP was filming at the same time and we ended up getting fed early to accommodate their lunch schedule.

The other bit I liked was Ayoade's interaction with Jarhead. Harking back to O'Brien's interactions with Mumsey, after the team had won their final game, the little conversation referring to Ayoade being king of the nerds (which he is, we had a meeting, there was a buffet) gave me something I've been wanting for a while: for Richard to live a little in the fiction of the Maze. I, personally, don't mind him destroying the 4th wall, it fits in with the dry persona he's maintained through his career. However it was nice to see him talk to Jarhead as Jarhead, not Adam Buxton.

Behind the Scenes Experience testing the games of the TV show







WE GAINED ENTRY. TO THE ONE. THE ONLY. THE CRYSTAL MAZE ITSELF!


So, in 2018, a 2nd series of the Crystal Maze hosted by Richard Ayoade was comissioned, and I entered a team along with 4 friends – little did i know that I was actually quite close to competing on the show itself, as we were invited to attend auditions in Bristol! As for myself, I had to go through the ringer TWICE as both my teams had been picked to audition stages!
Sadly, neither team made it to the Maze as a team that would be televised. One of them, Team Superfans, had made it to the final 10, where there were only 6 team slots available. However, one day, a phone call comes through from the show’s producer, Neale Simpson.
Having come so close, we were invited to be guests at the Bottleyard Studios to test the new games coming through the next series!
So, April 16th, 2018, we make our way to the Bottleyard and Steph Hopgood, Casting Assistant Producer is there at the gate to bring us in, show us to our Green Room and we settle down, and fill in the paper work. Non-disclosure agreements and so on! Also, we meet Oz, the safety guy for the show who is about if anyone has an incident.
It was finally time – WE HAD GAINED ENTRY TO THE CRYSTAL MAZE!

INDUSTRIAL ZONE
We enter the studio door, take a right and walk up the corridor a little bit and then a quick left, and there we were, at the gates to the industrial zone!
Of all the zones, this is probably where we played most games. We’re recognising faces from the auditions day and everyone is having a laugh as well as building the maze right around us! The maze was coming to life around us! (Literally, they were putting the set up around us!)

We’re split into two groups so we can test two different games and alternate around. I’m off to play “AIRMAZE” first of all. Remember the new game cell with 4 doors, that had the pipe the contestants had to pull the crystal around? Yep, brand new game. We’re briefed on the instructions for the game, and in dives our player!
Here’s the thing folks – you know that nice top down view you get as a home viewer? We don’t get that. We have literally got the view through the upper set of doors and we can’t see the top down view of the layout used in AIRMAZE.
My Industrial Game – well, this didn’t go too well for me. I had the 10 Buttons / 10 Seconds game. Unfortunately, I’m a pretty heavy guy, and not the fittest, nor the strongest. So swinging around on a rope swing trying to hit the buttons meant i was top heavy and was not going to win the game, as i would not be able to hold onto the swing. As this was an ALIS game, i wound up putting a foot on the floor – but as it was debug day we had free buyouts!
There was also the Donkey Kong Gutter Ball game which i exposed a fault on, due to crystals getting stuck in the tubes, and a connect the pipes puzzle with an awesome smoke effect that they were testing that day.
After Industrial, we’re off to the next zone – however, we take the “non-official route” 😉
Neil, wearing an original 90's Crystal Maze jacket, in the new revived Crystal Maze!

MEDIEVAL ZONE
We only get to play one game here, I’ve called it Minecraft – I get to work behind the scenes, and play with an expensive fog generator machine – yes, I made a foggy bog! So i’m around the rear of the set, and as i’m walking around, i spot bits from the previous series! (The access code doors from Industrial!) – I’m waiting on my cue as i watch one of my team mates play the game. The idea being that the 3 gems of each colour need to be mined from the coal pile, loaded to the cart, then the player has to heave themselves up the ramp in the cart to load the main wagon. Once all 9 gems are loaded, The Crystal is released! And that is what i was waiting on.

When i come back around, we have a surprise! James Dillon, the man himself, is there signing our books of the new series! We get to chat about the sets, see some models and then James asks if we have had a go at getting in the maze. So Steph takes us around to the main gates of medievel, and we’re told – away you go!
We open the doors to find a closed portcullis! there are also 5 chains dangling from the ceiling – yes! The old style entry was back! So we work out which chain is the good one, open the gate, and i start to crawl under to have my next great fail…. yup. I stuffed up gaining entry…
I had a wardrobe malfunction and got snagged by the spikey bits on the portcullis – so i couldn’t stand. So i had to lay flat on my belly and pull myself forward under the gate – which then meant i slid down the steps. Yup, I belly slid into Medievel zone!
We came back and the gate was reset after 3 of us got in, the rest of the gang laughing at my fail. I didn’t care, i’d done it and it was fun =)
However, our time in the zone was over. We were off to FUTURISTIC ZONE!

Taken moments before my belly slide into the zone….

FUTURISTIC ZONE
COLOURED BALLS DROP
My Future Zone Game – BALLS! Lot’s of them! If i had been playing this on TV i would’ve not lived it down. I walked into this empty room, to find 6 empty tubes, colour coded. I read the sign. “Sort all the balls by colour to release the crystal” – then i hear this noise over the set wall. I catch this black plastic bin being heaved up, sneezing out a chromaburst of plastic ball pit balls at me! So I’ve to shove all the balls up the vacuum tubes to be collected. Unfortunately, my health beats me on this one. I’ve got to stop after about a minute as i’ve nearly exhausted myself and need to breath! I miss my team playing the game afterwards as I’m sat in the airlock getting my breath back  and some oxygen in my blood. Neil was able to win the Crystal in this game.

**Just in case anyone is worried, I am addressing my general health issues. It’s not going to be an immediate fix issue, but I am working on it, and I hope to be a bit better for applying in the next series.
Lottery Machine
Only a couple of us played this due to the reset time needed, but this was our second encounter with the new “Red Crystals” being used in Series 2 of filming. On one side of the room is a cyclinder with 5 changeable tumblers – it has a 6th which is locked in place. On the opposite side of the room is the machine, which starts up just after you enter the room. In the machine, you can see a capsule to begin with (The Real Crystal!) – and every few seconds, another capsule enters the machine through another tube. The longer you take to solve the tumbler puzzle, the more capsules with red crystals enter the machine, making it harder to find the genuine crystal!

Crystal Lettering
This game is yet to air at the time i write this, but it’s a play on the “Extinguish all the lights game” – the contestant has a console of buttons, which light up or turn off depending on state – They control some edge lit acryllic hanging off the rear wall, which spells “CRYSTAL” and has the Crystal Icon on the end. The objective was to turn the word from Blue to White!
Space Invaders
Although we didn’t get to test the game (it was partially built at the time) only myself and one of the other team members got to see this area. This was where the infamous “Planet Spinning” incident of Team Cosplay occured! (Little did i know that the planets were to come back later on!) – But it also gave us a chance to see how the ‘airlock’ of future zone worked, which allowed the cell to stand free from the actual Future Zone set itself!

AZTEC ZONE
The guys all came through absoloutely beaming, and happy they’d done it. As for me – maybe another time should it come up!
Whilst we’re here, we see the sand being readied to spread out over the floor, and we discover the middle games cell across from the tunnel into the zone is actually empty and not populated with a game! We also see the new ramp that’s been built specially for Aztec zone, that was seen in the celebrity episode featuring a wheelchair bound contestant!
So Neil R & 2 other team mates go to play the anagram game that’s set up for the time being, and myself and Adam are chatting with Steph whilst they do so. It’s nearly time up in the zones, as the only other game we get to play means Neil get’s very, very wet indeed. He played a 'gated' water game which involved climbing over gates, as well as swimming underwater underneath them, with a series of Aztec Symbols on floats. They all need to match a corresponding pattern. Neil got stuck in one corner of the cell, and didn't realise at one point that he had to swim under one of the gates. Funnily, in a recorded episode, a red arrow was added to remind contestants to swim underneath!

Team Superfans & a soggy Neil!




THE CRYSTAL DOME

Just a few of the Crystal Crew needed to put together this show – we cannot thank them enough for making our day so memorable!
We were not originally meant to be going to the crystal dome, however, the guys had been working on the lighting throughout the day whilst we had been debugging the games, and for this, we were off to a seperate studio. Since Tipping Point had moved in and pinched the Dome’s previous studio, it had relocated. We walk in…. and there it is, white leds sparkling away and the dome looking absoloutely amazing – I literally stopped in my footsteps when i saw it in person. My jaw almost fell off!!
We walked around the front, and get a close up of the control console where the crystals sit, and then we get gathered up. “Guys, you’re going in the dome. 10 crystals for your score!” – WHA! We got a full compliment of 50 seconds to collect tokens!! The guys in charge of the dome give us the long winded rules of the Dome (Health and Safety, y’know how it goes.) – and then whip off a bit of Richard’s script before saying the final words — “i now invite you, to enter the Dome!”
Was this happening? Was i dreaming? I couldn’t beleve it! I duck slightly as i enter the dome itself through the door frame, and then take my place, absorbing my enviroment…. “Good luck guys, i’m locking you in now!” – The door was sealed, and we were standing by to play. We could see the tokens down the perimeter of the play area….
then, we hear the magic words….

WE CRACKED THE CRYSTAL MAZE!!
“WILL YOU START THE FANS PLEASE!”
Soon, we were in a blizzard of airstreams and golden and silver tokens! A few moments pass to let us adjust to the stream,
and then
“GO!!!”
It was game on! 50 seconds, you wouldn’t beleive how quickly it goes inside the dome itself – A lot of people think it’s difficult to tell which colour the tokens are – but they are very easy to differentiate. So as we run in a circular fashion around the perimeter, grabbing tokens, some fly in my face and i dump them in the collection point.
Then, just as i catch a golden token from the air – “STOP!!!” and the fans power down. Our time, was up. As the debris of the token storm comes to rest, the door opens and we are allowed to exit. Now, it was just waiting on the results….
We collected 30 gold over all! Now – you might be reading this and thinking – “50 seconds! what were you doing!? Picking your nose?” In fact, the dome hadn’t been fully reloaded with tokens, and had considerably fewer tokens in it, compared to the TV airing! This was due to the relocation of the dome to the new studio. We were told that if we were to take it in scale, then we probably had a winning run of 100+ gold tokens!
With that, our day was done – We had cracked the Crystal Maze, and just before we say our farewells to the Dome and it’s team, Steph gifts us all a special memento – a golden token from the dome itself! One each, and then it was photo time, with us as a team, and then the WHOLE production crew!

After that, it was back to the green room, thank Oz for his care and then say farewell to Steph and the guys from Bottleyard.
We all piled into the car, and it was back to normality… well, for 2 days for me anyway, I had to do more time travelling, as i was off to the USA for a wedding and to meet a friend!
I had a great time, and all of us were on a high – we were very priviledged to have been invited to test the Crystal Maze. I’ll be honest, I think the maze cracked me with some of the goofs i made, but it was part of a special memory i would cherish for all time.
My advice for anyone who wants to enter the Crystal Maze – Be Honest. Be Yourself. Leave your inhibitions at the door and enjoy being part of a bigger family of crystal maze fans and geeks – once you’re in the maze, you never really leave it 😉
Can you crack it? Good luck! - Jonathan Harris.