I remember owning the original Crystal Maze board game back in the 90s, one of my all-time favourite Sunday pleasures thanks to its clever collection of mental and physical challenges. From the functional crystal catapult to a nerve-shredding crane game, it was packed with awesome mini-games that never got old.
Recently we’ve had a bit of a come-back for the telly gameshow, hosted impeccably by Richard Ayoade. And as a result we now have an all-new Crystal Maze board game, which follows a similar structure to the classic version, but with very different tests and challenges.
The game requires two teams (of one or more people), with one person on each team acting as Maze Master. The Maze Master helps to set up each game and basically acts as referee. With roles decided, you then hop between the four different zones: Aztec, Industrial, Futuristic and Medieval.
Each zone holds four challenges, matching the game show’s breakdown: mental, mystery, skill and physical. Successfully complete your test and you win a crystal, but be warned – the opposite team can play a AILS card at any time, and with that in play, you’ll be ‘locked in’ if you fail. Your team can then decide if they wish to buy you out with one of those precious crystals.
The overall difficulty level is quite easy, for an adult at least. Those cryptic conundrums are present and correct, complete with heavy-handed hints, while other games have you completing jigsaws, matching up dominoes, solving word puzzles and so on. These mental puzzles are well varied, although one of them – which involves completing a cube with Tetris-style pieces – is so unbelievably difficult that I couldn’t even do it with unlimited time.
I also liked the treasure hunt style game, where the Maze Master hides artifact cards around a room, complete with nifty clues.
If there’s any weakness amongst the challenges, it’s certainly the physical games. While the original board game boasted those great catapult and crane games, this 2018 version makes do with star jumps, rolling dice and hitting balls against a pot. These games feel half-hearted, as if they were thought up in a few minutes, and to be honest are best skipped.
Once all of the challenges have been attempted, it’s time to hit the ‘Crystal Dome’. Here you have five seconds per gathered crystal to grab as many gold tokens as possible using the bundled sticky hands. As with the telly show, any silver tokens mean a point deduction. At the end of your allotted time, the team with the most points wins.
You can download an app for iOS or Android devices which plays the famous music as you slap those tokens, and blares a whistle when your time is up. That’s pretty much all the app does, and it’s a shame that more clever integration couldn’t have someone been invented – although a reliance on the app would of course mean some players with non-compatible mobiles (or no mobile at all) would miss out on some of the experience.
Overall, despite those weak physical games, the new Crystal Maze board game is good fun for a family or a few friends to blast through. A complete game takes around two hours in total, roughly.
You can grab The Crystal Maze from John Lewis and Debenhams now for 35 pounds.