We were blown away by one of the year’s most anticipated – and secretive – pop-ups
My experience of The Crystal Maze hitherto has involved me wilting on the sofa with a mug of black coffee in one hand and a packet of paracetamol in the other. Challenge TV on a Sunday morning: it’s as soothing and nostalgic as Richard O’Brien’s voice.
It’s another thing altogether to be dropped into a replica of the famous studio set with seven of your colleagues on a Thursday afternoon. Teams get matching 90s-style bomber jackets – ours a fetching green – while the experience is organised in a way that allows groups to run amok in the maze without ever bumping into each other. Clever.
Our journey begins in the Medieval zone. No sign of Richard, alas. Instead we’re led through tunnels and secret doors by maze master Zelda Von Paperhausen, who conjures the original host’s enthusiasm, grabbing my hand and running with me between tasks.
The first challenge doesn’t yield a crystal, but once the team’s initial nerves wear off, we’re soon winning them thick and fast, working together, yelling advice through the hatches surrounding each room. The games mirror those on the show: some of them require mental agility such as equations (very much a group effort), while one of the physical tasks sees our nimble staff writer Millie clambering over net ladders to grab a gem.
With the Aztec, Industrial and Futuristic zones completed, 11 crystals won and the show’s theme tune on a loop in our heads, we race towards the iconic Crystal Dome.
Next thing, Zelda’s yelling, ‘Will you start the fans, please!’ and we’re trying to catch as many gold tokens as we can. It’s much harder than it looks but, with a big push, we end up on top of the pile, beating all the other teams. Our reward is a super-sized crystal of our own – a much better souvenir than an empty box of painkillers.
Prices start at £50pp for teams of up to eight. Private hire is available for 32-128 guests. Each game lasts 90 minutes, but meetings, meals and drinks can be added on either side.
This article was first published in Squaremeal Venues + Events, Spring 2016