The Crystal Maze Challenge by Neale Simpson

Review published on October 27, 2017.

Growing up in the nineties was all about Discmans, Tamagotchis and evenings spent watching a team of five willing but often hapless friends being navigated between four frankly unconvincing time zones trying to win ‘crystals’ via a series of often humiliating challenges, all with the aim of being stuck inside a giant Perspex golf ball and chasing around pieces of paper – otherwise known as the iconic Crystal Maze. And it was pure TV gold, at least to my adolescent mind. (Un)Surprisingly the show stopped airing in 1995, only to be revived this year with a new Maze Master, Richard Ayoade, but with the same winning formula. And on the back of this new series is released The Crystal Maze Challenge book, just in time for Christmas.

Although the book features interviews with the original Maze Master, Richard O’Brien, and the maze designers, as well as introductions to the different zones (Aztec, Medieval, Industrial and Futuristic), the majority of the book contains various games, covering the gamut of mental, mystery, physical and skill as per the show, for readers to recreate the Crystal Maze in their own homes – well, sort of.

Some of the games can be played simply by using the book, but the bulk require some kind of preparation, if not something even more convoluted! For instance, the first game in the Aztec zone requires players to create an obstacle course. Okay, so the obstacle course suggested is basically some cushions thrown onto the floor, but this is not for those who are house-proud. Those games that require the most preparation ironically look like the most fun, for instance, the game which involves rigging up several lengths of inflated balloons between the backs of chairs, (health and safety officers look away now) donning a drawing pin costume and negotiating a course without bursting the balloons. However, some of the simplest games sound just as appealing and effective, as well as a lot less time-consuming. And there is an element in some of the games of simple old-fashioned fun – turning over bottle caps, throwing balls into cups, rolling dice – which can be easily set up and enjoyed by children.

There’s also plenty of opportunity for adapting the games to your own whims. I particularly like the game whereby foodstuffs are blended in a mixer and the player has to guess the ingredients, suggestions include pickled herrings, lemons and chilli peppers – maybe one to play with the boss at the office Christmas party(?). As per the TV show, each game has a time limit to make the experience more authentic and games are categorised under each zone so that players can copy the format of the programme. And if you’re going the whole hog, there’s even a suggested way to recreate the iconic Dome.

I must admit, for me most of the games require too much forward-planning and effort, as well as a very probable risk of damage to something (or someone). However, for those with the time and inclination to do this properly, the book serves as a great impetus to create your very own Crystal Maze game at home. And I can’t deny that I’d love to have a go at a number of the challenges. I might just give the book as a Christmas present, pass on the organisation to someone else and hope for an invite. Indeed, I’d have no hesitation to give this to anyone who loved the original or the revived show and it’s certainly a book that is best enjoyed with family, friends and colleagues.

Jade Craddock 2/5

The Crystal Maze Challenge by Neale Simpson
Headline 9781472250414 hbk Oct 2017

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