Way back on the night of February 2nd, a message popped up on my Twitter feed, and intrigued, had a look to see what it said… A PM from Escape Quest’s Mike, unusual and yet not so, we do chat occasionally about football, escape rooms et al, yet this one was slightly different. I got as far as reading would you like to play a preview of the Crystal Maze with us, the answer naturally being hell yes!! After a few minutes of hyperventilating with excitement, as the Crystal Maze was one of the few non sport TV shows I watched as a kid, I looked at the rest of the team. As well as Mike and Elaine, Mike’s brother Phil, Amy and Ian from Brit of an Escape Habit fame, and 2 people I didn’t know, Sera and Sharon. I soon found out that these 2 had taken the escape game scene by storm, and were well into the 200+ games played ( and on the way to play in the Red Bull Championships the following day). Not a bad team if I say so myself!! I’ve played over 50 escape games, and as such, was the least experienced member of the team!!
Over the course of 6 weeks, the excitement grew, and we decided to meet up in advance for food and to meet as a team, where we ended up at the very good the Botanist on Deansgate, where we spent a good 90 minutes turning up at random and eating not a lot.. I think we were all hungry but not wanting to eat too much for what was to come!!
A nice stroll along a now raining Deansgate and before long, we approached the Crystal Maze!! As this was a preview, I had in my head that this wasn’t going to be anywhere near the finished article, so I was telling myself not to be disappointed in any way. In truth, I was pretty much blown away from start to finish. From being greeted at the front gates to the end, every member of staff we talked to were extremely welcoming and positive, interested in us and going out of their way to ensure we had a good time. There were smooth handovers ensuring we got to the right place at the right time, and after the waiver sign offs, we were putting on the magical bomber jackets ( just for photos), and getting ready for the final health and safety talk, and most importantly of all, our team name…. which ended up being S2BritofanEscapeQuestAddict(+Phil&Ian) – seriously, don’t ask!! Lockers were provided for anything you bring with you, as obviously, no cameras etc are allowed inside! We also had to choose our captain and vice captain, and we basically made Elaine and Mike perform this duty 😉
I knew we were in the final briefing area, as they had a 2 sided mirror, seats for us all to sit, and a screen showing off clips of the TV show, and then BANG out of nowhere, our game host arrived, known as a “MAZE MASTER”, who stays with you on your trip through the game. We had the wonderfully named Billy Brooklyn, who as the name suggests, played an old school New Yorker, and he was basically perfect, the accent was amazing, he played his character to perfection and was precisely the right amount of insanity and madness that one remembers from the TV show.
Then, after the whole of us cracking up laughing with just how good Billy was, we were off into the game!! We hit 4 zones in order, Medieval, Industrial, Aztec and Futuristic. Out of the 4, Aztec hit me hardest with how faithfully it had been replicated, as well as the actual entrance to it. Medieval was also very well replicated, Industrial had probably the most impressive game mechanics, and Futuristic was definitely that, although perhaps necessarily different to the TV show.
We played approx 18 rooms in all, and managed to get 12 crystals. I was fortunate to get 2 rooms I was extremely comfortable with, the first being an extremely famous puzzle in a film ( no mentions obviously), the second, a maths based one which is my strength. Therefore 2 crystals 🙂 For each zone, we had approx 15-20 mins and then we were into the famous Crystal Dome!! Our hard work and teamwork paid off, where we ended up with a smashing score of 280 tickets collected, which in the previews, was joint 3rd ( only 5 behind the joint 1st)… we did also more or less break the scoring screen with our ridiculously long team name!! After the game, there’s an opportunity to buy merchandise (which on my NEXT visit will be explored when I have more time).
Were there any negatives? Naturally, as one would expect in a preview. The final game we played in Futuristic didn’t work, there was very little music playing ( ie the theme tune, until the very end), the first transitions were just going upstairs ( could be themed maybe?), and the game re-setters ( which with the timescales they have need to be about we know will be time pressured) needed to be a little less obvious and continue adding to the experience ( some were a little grumpy).
All in all, considering it was a preview, it was simply fabulous. Naturally, you don’t see all the games in one visit, and with differing maze masters, there’s a damn good replayability factor! I, for one, will definitely be back!!
Prices are £45pp off peak and £55pp peak.
A massive thanks to Elaine and Mike for asking me to join them, the members of the team as we all got along well and had a great laugh, and for the Crystal Maze people, especially our Maze Master for providing an epic experience.