Nixing computers

nixie-sudoku(Image of a fiendishly clever project from Trashbear Labs.)

This isn’t aimed at any particular site or any particular operator, promise, but at the entire genre of rooms that consider themselves historical – or, more specifically, the alternate history that is steampunk.

This site contends that computer screens and LED displays are really not very steampunk and a site might earn itself all sorts of thematic points by avoiding them, as ever-present to the exit game experience as they might be. Technically when so much of at least one interpretation of steampunk is tied up with the clockwork aesthetic, the most satisfying solution would be a great big clock where you can see every single piece of machinery.

However, if you’re going to be playfully anachronistic, a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign is in progress for this Nixie tube clock which looks as steampunk as all get-out. The project recognises that Nixie tubes are 1950s technology and so arguably also not thematic, but they feel much more…. alternate universe.

They’d be rather a luxury item, and possibly a bear for maintenance, as well as just plain small. Maybe this other funded Kickstarter project might be closer to what you’d need in practice, what with bigger tubes and more flexibility. (Hide them behind a great big Fresnel lens to make the images look bigger and even more otherworldly.)

Maybe a single clock isn’t flexible enough. If you want to pass arbitrary hint text to the team, perhaps you could install a great big split-flap display, like the sorts of things you used to get as departure boards at airports and train stations. They were always so spectacular and mesmerising that they would be a very distinctive centrepiece for any game that wants to get away from computer screens.

Ah, for the technical skills and budget…

Coming soon to Newcastle: Exit Newcastle

Exit NewcastleAs depicted above, Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a city with many famous bridges to neighbouring Gateshead. (Arguably nine, but you can count more if you stretch the western boundaries out to Newburn or even Wylam.) Newcastle-upon-Tyne is also a city with almost as many exit games. Well, maybe not almost as many, but it’s getting there – and this site loves it!

Many a month in the making, Exit Newcastle is now taking bookings from March 2nd onwards. It is situated on Westgate Road, even nearer to the city’s Central station than its first two exit games. The location will be opening with one game, Save The City, which can be played (against recommendation) by a team of two for £50 or by a team of three up to a mighty eight for £60, all in. It’s an hour-long game. The site is keeping the story and details of the room close to its chest, but “from the moment you start the game the fate of the city and whether you make it out will be in your hands“.

Not a great deal to go on yet, but now Newcastle has three sites, it’s well worth considering for tourists wanting to bag some more rooms. Newcastle is famously a great party city; unusually, this site offers a restaurant recommendation – in three visits, Big Mussel‘s seafood has yet to be less than excellent. On the other hand, if you’re booking accommodation, do book early. This site thought no tourist information centre would ever say “Sorry, there is not a single hotel bed left in the city tonight, try ((a town 15 miles away))”; this site thought wrong.

As a sidenote, have you seen how many exit games are taking bookings and due to open in March? Six in the UK, one in Ireland, and those are just the ones that this site knows about at the moment. In general terms, the number of sites in the UK doubled in the first half of 2013, the second half of 2013, the first half of 2014 and the second half of 2014. (In truth, working from a base of one, three of those four were not just doubled, but actually “more than doubled”.) This site thought it most unlikely that the first half of 2015 might see a fifth doubling of numbers still – but the way the first quarter of 2015 has gone, you never know…

Events to enjoy in March and May

many-handsSo this photo represents either many hands making light work, or a little-known hundred-player team puzzle. (Perhaps a puzzle where the players are rooted to their various spots but still have to transport items around the room from where they are located to where they are needed?)

There are fewer than a hundred days remaining until the scheduled global date for the seventh DASH puzzle hunt. The same stories, puzzles and (effectively) hunt will be played in locations across the US and also London; the London leg saw eight teams in 2013 and 21 in 2014. This was before Puzzled Pint started to get anything like the traction that it has done in recent months, so it’s hard to know just how big London DASH might get – or, if there is a 25-team limit like last year, how soon it might sell out. A recent post suggests that DASH 7 will be played in at least fourteen locations so far, with a couple of DASH usual suspects (including previously-ever-present Los Angeles) still to check in. Still time for other cities to join the party, including if anyone wants to run one elsewhere in the UK, but the deadline for city registration is March 15th.

Fingers crossed – but no inside information – that the theme of the event gets revealed reasonably soon after that, and team registration starts not much later still. Last year, team registration opened just under two months before the event, so maybe it’s time to think about whether you want to play, and who you might want to play with. Whatever happens, if you’d rather help out than play, the London team will be sure to welcome playtesters and (particularly) on-the-day volunteers; they’ll ask for expressions of interest very soon.

Before then, though, is the UK Open weekend, taking place in person at the Selsdon Park Hotel and Golf Club in East Croydon. This will feature a sudoku championship on Saturday 21st March and a puzzle championship stretching over Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd March. The UK teams for the 2015 world championships (taking place in Sofia, Bulgaria in October) will be decided in part by performance at these tournaments.

Apparently there are 40 registrations so far, making this the largest UK Open event to date by quite some distance, and strong testament to just how successful the World Championships held by the UK team at the same venue the previous year were. (Over 10% of registrations come from overseas, hence the second part of the title UK Open, representing quite some commitment.) It’s still possible to book, though the block room booking has been made and remaining accommodation is subject to the general availability at the hotel.

They’ve both been spectacular in the past and are both very likely to be tremendous again this year. Pick your favourite, or play them both!

Mechanics Monday: high-score rooms

mechanicOne of Toronto Room Escapes‘ biggest contributions has been his Themed Thursday series, discussing possible exit game themes that haven’t yet been used, or that have been little-used, and how they might be used in the future. It’s been so popular that other blogs have posted their own similar entries in the series, notably one from Liz at Escape Games Review and a string of them from Mark at QMSM.

Perhaps this site will contribute its own at some point, though there’s a long way to go from “here’s a cute thought” and “here’s a fully fleshed-out idea”. Instead, or as well, this site will inaugurate (the not necessarily regular) Mechanics Monday where it looks at individual elements of an exit game that are, more or less, taken as read as established practice, ask “What if…?” and ponder over the possible consequences of playing with the rules.

The general principle of an exit game is go in, solve the puzzles and get out. If you solve sufficiently many puzzles and get out in time, you win; if you don’t solve sufficiently quickly, you don’t get out in time and you don’t win. It’s as pass-fail, win-or-don’t as that. If there is an element of degree or comparison between performances, people compare their teams’ escape times, and a quick escape is to be considered superior to a slow escape. Does it have to be that way, though? Are times even necessarily as meaningful and comparable as they are considered to be? In a certain sort of room with a vast amount of content where the challenge is only partly to work out what to do and partly to get as much of it as possible done, might they enable replay value and give a team a reason to come back and play the same room more than once?

It would be possible to award a score based on puzzles solved, particularly if there are parallel routes to unlocking all the content in a room, on the number of hints taken and on the time taken to solve the puzzles and perform the tasks. (And, surely, other reasons as well, such as the number of players.) Taking this further, one concept is a room where players might have a reason to stay in the room and keep doing things to score as many points as possible, once they have fulfilled all the requirements to qualify to escape the room. (And if players might be deprived of the ability to keep a track of the time remaining once that happens, and just have to keep track of time themselves and risk spending too long before they leave, that might be even funnier.)

It’s interesting to see what might be happening in this regard. This site really enjoyed this excellent interview by Toronto Room Escapes with one of the two principals of Puzzalarium, who do a few unique things, of which this is one of the more distinctive. This site also has a suspicion that at least two UK games are touching on this aspect, to a greater or lesser extent – and, indeed, that is the reason why this is the first topic to be covered on Mechanics Monday.

That said, one pitfall with this issue is the context that scores are only really meaningful in context, perhaps compared to other players’ scores. “Escaped with nine seconds remaining” is immediately understood and pretty universally recognised to be “close”, whereas whether “escaped with three minutes remaining” is close or not depends on the game. Might a score be more inherently understood on a familiar scale – say, as a percentage or a grade? While nobody likes getting a bad grade, nominally offering percentages but in practice everyone scoring between 80% and 98%, or using a scale which started at B+ and went up to, say, A***, would quickly be found to be deceptive. Use the whole of the scale… and just don’t tell the teams who have grades that are less to be proud of what they scored, beyond the usual “you were within two locks!” or “you did it, taking just a minute too long!”, unless they really ask!

Now open in London: Lock’d

lockdExit games are spreading throughout London, as well as around the UK at large. While so far they have been concentrated in the centre of London, with the noble exception of Wimbledon’s Mystery Squad, news reaches this site of Lock’d, which opened a week ago on Sunday 15th February. It is situated in south-east London, specifically in Bermondsey; more specifically still, it’s about half-way between Bermondsey tube station (on the Jubilee line) and South Bermondsey railway station, between London Bridge and Peckham.

The site has one room open at the moment, with two further rooms planned. The room has a 60-minute time limit and can be played by teams of three, four or five. Prices are fairly typical for London, though have a certain degree of neatness to them; £77 for a team of three, £88 for a team of four and £99 for a team of five. In the first game to open, Grandpa’s Last Will, quoted as a figural 4/5 difficulty, “You’ve just learned that your grandfather remembered you in his last will and now you are perhaps the richest heir in the world! But nobody knows where the wealth may be hidden. You have only one hour to find the inheritance“.

The two games to come have been announced as Museum Warehouse, in which “Somebody is going to take out of the country five unique masterpieces from City Museum Warehouse. You have to find way into the warehouse, find all the objects and discreetly get out during one hour and (presumably the later of the two to launch) the unusual Perpetual Motion where the peril which troubles us all asks “In an hour all global energy store will come to an end and the world will plunge into darkness. Professor Harrison practically finished his work on a perpetual motion, but he suddenly disappeared. Start the engine and save humankind“.

It’s in an exciting location, near a huge bouldering facility (and this podcast makes a remarkably convincing case for bouldering to those who prefer to exercise their mind to their body), a double-decker go-kart track and a couple of galleries. Lots to see and do – but, for this site, the exit game is the main attraction and fingers crossed that it brings a great deal of excitement to south-east London!

Coming soon to Liverpool: Exit Strategy and Breakout Liverpool


This site would like to apologise for an innocent mistake that it made in a recent article. On Saturday, it claimed that scheduled openings would “…make Edinburgh the first city within the UK, outside London, to host four different sites“. Given that nine days ago, Liverpool had zero exit games open, this seemed like a credible claim. However, being such a strong candidate to be the UK’s most famous city not to have an exit game previously open, it looks like Liverpool will go from zero sites to four within about three and a half weeks. Wow! …and, perhaps, from the perspective of the sites’ proprietors… er, hmm.

An article in the Liverpool Echo points to Exit Strategy, which is set to open “in an underground studio on Victoria St in Liverpool city centre, opposite The Millenium Gym“. Bookings are not yet being taken, but the Liverpool Echo suggests it will open “by the end of the month“. Exit Strategy will open with a single room, The Illluminati, with two more promised this spring.

The Illuminati poses this situation: “Reclusive conspiracy theorist Ziggy Roswell has gone missing! No one believed him when he claimed that The Earth is run by a cabal of shape-shifting intergalactic lizards. He claimed that they run the EU, NATO, the NSA, The Vatican, China, Russia. That they control every war, every uprising, all the intelligence services. That the moon is a hollow, reality-controlling super computer, and that they use wifi to enslave the human mind. No one believed him, everyone thought he was nuts… But maybe he was on to something. Enter his world, find out what he was working on. See what info he’s left lying around and eventually work out what’s become of him“. Intriguing! Get on your bi(c?)ke and try it out.

Distinctively, the Liverpool Echo also claims that “Exit Strategy will also be linked to an interactive app, Reptile Resistance, that explores the storyline in more detail, inviting users to complete brain-teasing challenges to help defeat the lizards running the globe.” The link between exit game and app is one that hasn’t been seen by this site before! According to the app’s site, “Reptile Resistance is an iOS and Android app which uses written text, game play and video to tell its satirical tale. Neither book, computer game, nor film, but something between all three, Reptile Resistance is an experiment in narrative art and an assault on both conspiracy theories and unearned privilege.” Crowdfunding for the app has not yet reached the target, but it has dozens of pledges so far.

So to Breakout Liverpool. It draws heavily upon the experience of the very popular Breakout Manchester, based not much over thirty miles away. With its recent launch of two Classified rooms at an overflow location, Breakout Manchester has grown to host six different games, the largest number in the country; Breakout Liverpool will open with three different games and is based in the basement of an old comedy club, possibly two hundred metres away or so from Exit Strategy.

Breakout Liverpool will open with three different games: Sabotage and Classified both having proved popular in Manchester, and Shipwrecked being a Liverpool original, intended to be at a slightly lower difficulty level than the two Manchester imports. “Can you escape the famous Soldado Pirate shipwreck with Captain Chiver’s most prized and valuable treasure before his ghost that endlessly haunts the ship finds you, and drags you down into his watery grave? You have 60 minutes to search the ship and find your way out with the riches.

Breakout Liverpool, by contrast, is already taking bookings, fixing opening dates of Saturday 7th March for the two imports and Saturday 14th March for the original Shipwrecked game. (The Liverpool pricing schedule matches the Manchester one, which offers particularly attractive rates on Mondays to Thursdays, as well as during the day on Fridays.) The Manchester mothership often sells out, particularly at weekends, so there are other options available if you want to play Breakout’s games. With all this expansion, it might not come as a surprise that Breakout are taking on staff; if you want to join a team with an enviable track record of success, send them your CV!

Now open in Newcastle: Lost & Escape

Lost & Escape logoA double helping of exciting news from the north-west coming very soon, but actual open sites take precedent over previews, and today is a particular day to celebrate.

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year! It is the start of the year of the 羊, often translated as goat or sheep. Accordingly, today this site focuses on a site in, or at least very near, Newcastle’s Chinatown. The influence of Chinese culture on exit games around the world cannot be overstated; if you were to produce a list of the world’s top ten cities for exit games, it might well include Budapest, Toronto and eight Chinese cities. You might boggle at Budapest featuring something like 66 games, but according to the China EGA site (viewed through machine translation!) China has seven Budapests alone, with Beijing estimated at not just 66 but 175 sites. (Or, perhaps, rooms; machine translation does not make the distinction clear.)

Lost & Escape is a new game in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. According to its Facebook page, it opened on Sunday 8th February at Suite 1 (First Floor), Blackfriars Court, Dispensary Lane, Newcastle, NE1 4XB. The site is set to feature two games, though it is unclear whether the second room has yet opened; the games are suitable for groups of either 2-6 (according to the web page) or 3-6 (according to Facebook). Booking takes place by telephone, or possibly through the WeChat app.

Room One is entitled Time Travel to the 1900s! and has a story that asks You accidentally went into an ancient house. The door of the house is a time machine, which brought you back to the 1900s. You found strange symbols everywhere. The only way to go back is to get the key in 60 minutes. The person who runs out of time will be locked in the past. Can you travel back successfully?

Room two is called The Lost Treasure and has a different story: One of the treasures in national Museum is lost at night. It is the greedy art collector, Mr. Evil, who stolen the treasure. Tonight is a good opportunity to get the treasure back, however there is only 60 minutes to finish the mission. You, the secret agent, are allocated this mission. Can you manage on time? This room may well be associated with a Twitter posting that suggests “Our unique laser room is testing now! It Looks amazing! Can’t wait to try!

Always exciting to see sites trying something unusual; looking forward to reading the reviews!

Coming soon to Chatham, Kent: Escape Plan Live

Escape Plan LiveExciting news very recently reached this site about the first British exit game set to open to the south-east of London, in Chatham. Northern monkeys (*puts hand up, pleading guilty*) may not instantly be able to place Chatham on the map; it’s in north Kent – start in London and head in the general direction of France for about thirty miles. This forthcoming exit game, Escape Plan Live, may well figuratively put Chatham on the map – as well as literally putting it on the exit game map.

Chatham’s Fort Amherst lived up to its name as a working garrison for nearly two hundred years; these days it is a popular historic visitor attraction. Escape Plan Live shares space with the fort’s gatehouse, though operates without connection to the fort. The site plans to launch on Saturday 4th April and is set to host four different games: Air Raid, Hostage Rescue, Murder Scene and Asylum. These are big games by UK standards, capable of hosting teams of sizes 6, 6, 8 and 10 respectively, all with a 60-minute time limit. At least in April, games will only be offered at weekends; no word yet about plans for later months.

Take a look at the games’ descriptions to see which one you want to play first. Here are short summaries: Air Raid is a race to find the antidote to a deadly gas which has infected your party, Hostage Rescue sees you seek the keys to rescue a handcuffed friend before their captor returns with malign intent, Murder Scene requires you to determine a serial killer’s concealed identity and then escape from the room before the killer strikes once more and Asylum is a race to discover the truth about the titular abandoned building and then escape within the last hour before its demolition.

The proposed price is extremely attractive at £9 per player; however, the rooms are so big and content-packed that – unusually – the site plans to merge smaller parties together to play the same room at once, so you might end up playing on a team with people you don’t know, but you wouldn’t otherwise stand a chance of filling the room and cracking all its challenges. It is possible to book the rooms outright, for £49, £49, £65 or £79 respectively regardless of team size; even these prices are very competitive, especially if these charges are being split among a large party. The location’s FAQ section is one of the most comprehensive examples of the type that this site has seen; it draws on established good practice rather than springing surprises, though the plan to offer teams who complete their room early entry into a raffle for a free game is distinctive and welcome.

These big games are among the first of their type in the UK; this site looks forward to seeing the reviews and learning just how well a big-group game can work in practice in the UK! That said, if you have a party of even bigger than ten who all want to play on a single team, Room Escape Adventures of central London will trap teams of up to twelve in a room with a zombie.

English language exit game blogging is one year old today

rsz_first-birthday-309189_640After celebrating yesterday’s twenty-fifty anniversary for The Crystal Maze, today this sites the first anniversary of the inception of exit game blogging – at least, among English-language bloggers – for Intervirals had its first post a year ago today. Congratulations, Essa! The site started through an attempt to compose continental exit game lists for Europe, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region and has grown through a set of forums to a full, frequently-updated, weblog.

Blog author Essa comes from the Alternate Reality Game tradition; the site’s hundredth post was made at the start of February, the beginning of Blog February, a series emphasising the breadth of topics that there are to be covered. Intervirals has long been really strong at covering new site openings, but also media stories and discounts. Many other blogs have followed – and surely there was coverage in other languages beforehand, though this site will leave it up to your discretion as to whether to count, the long-established Hungarian-language site about the ~66 games in Budapest and others all around Hungary, as a blog or not.

It’s exciting to see how many exit game blogs there are that have arisen from the tremendously well-developed Toronto area, and also that QMSM and Escape Game Addicts have both got off to such a strong start here in the UK. Around the world, Room Escape Artist covers the US and Escape Rooms in Sydney covers, well, where it says. Singapore is covered by and S-capegoats, Malaysia and more by Escman League and Enigmatic Escape. And that’s just English-language blogging! Any more for any more? Unless you know otherwise, history will record Essa as having been first up onto the dancefloor; we all follow the trail that she blazed.

One excitement development is the establishment of an Escape Enthusiasts Google Group (so it can be accessed as either a web forum or a mailing list) by Scott Nicholson, Associate Professor at Syracuse University and director of Because Play Matters. Scott has been discussed here previously in the context of the survey of the exit game genre that he launched at the very end of 2014; he discussed the survey’s purpose in an accompanying video, and noted at the start of February that he received responses from 188 different escape room facilities from around the world. Exciting times!

Here’s to many more discussions, and many more years to come!

The Crystal Maze at 25

the-crystal-mazeThe first episode of The Crystal Maze was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 on Thursday 15th February 1990, twenty-five years ago to the day. Happy silver anniversary!

For those who don’t know, in each hour-long episode, teams of six contestants went around the titular maze, visiting each of four zones in turn. In each zone, they would face three or four games, played by a team member of their choice. These games would last between two and three minutes in length, and would be chosen from categories entitled physical, mental, mystery and skill. Each game would see the player have to enter a cell, attempt to retrieve a crystal and exit the cell within the time limit, but (generally) winning the crystal would require successfully completing a test of strength, agility, dexterity, balance, problem-solving, ingenuity, lateral thinking or sometimes just plain following instructions. Failure to escape within the permitted time, or sometimes making sufficiently many errors within a game, would see the player locked into that cell and would require the team to, optionally, relinquish a crystal won from another game in order to rescue the player from the cell. One all four zones had been visited, remaining team members aimed to collect certain foil tokens blown into the air within the Crystal Dome, having a time limit proportionate to the number of crystals they had remaining.

The show was distinctive and gained sufficient cult following to last six series, with much to commend it:

  • The games were frequently brilliantly designed, mostly great fun to watch and their sheer variety of games (typically close to fifty per series) meant that there’s a good chance, unless you’re a dedicated fan, that you’ll frequently be pleasantly surprised by something new.
  • The pace was tremendous; if a game is not to your taste, something different will come along within the next three or four minutes. (There were no artificial pauses, or replays, or contestant asides to camera, or any of the other modern additions which might feel dramatic but really just waste time.)
  • The set and soundtrack were elaborate, atmospheric and gorgeous; it’s fun to watch people enjoying themselves by playing with elaborate toys, and the show had some of the most spectacular vicarious fun to be found on TV.
  • The hosting by Richard O’Brien (in the first four series) was irreverent, witty, fantastic and didn’t take itself seriously. (Ed Tudor-Pole in the last two series? …if you ain’t living it, it ain’t coming out of your horn.)
  • The show had vast play-along-at-home value when you were able to work out what to do more quickly than the contestants; if you’re the sort of person who needs to make yourself feel superior to the contestants on-screen struggling and occasionally slightly suffering as a consequence of their mishaps, there were usually opportunities to do so.

The show has a certain timeless quality to it, by virtue of its time-travelling motif, and the production values were so high that it stands up on its own merits decades later. The show is sufficiently well-loved that the game show-focused Challenge TV channel here in the UK still show repeats from time to time; indeed, they are celebrating the anniversary with eight episodes in a row today – a classy, commendable touch. It would not be at all a surprise if the show were to go on to be repeated for decades further.

The Guardian has a story (from a couple of days ago) about the anniversary. The content is excellent, though the tone of the piece is a little incongruous and strained in places. The show is so well-loved, particularly among the game show fandom, that from time to time people discuss whether it might be remade; remade game shows, no matter how lovingly or accurately recreated, often tend to struggle and be brushed off with “It’s not the same“. Perhaps what people really mean is “I want to feel young again, and the show reminds me of when I was young”; the solution to that is something exciting and new… though possibly evocative of the hits of the past, and drawing upon their strengths. (It’s rare for a second host to match up to the original, and you couldn’t expect an increasingly frail 72-year-old Richard O’Brien to be nearly as kinetic as he was in his late forties and early fifties.)

The piece in The Guardian does perceptively touch upon the link between The Crystal Maze and the explosive growth of exit games; this site completely concurs. The Crystal Maze has become a byword (or, perhaps, a byphrase – a byname?) for any sort of TV challenge where part of the puzzle is to work out exactly what to do, or where the instructions may not be completely obvious. The “collection of minigames” format is not original to the show – see, for instance, the format that the world knows as The Price is Right, dating back at least a couple of decades earlier – but that is another familiar niche that the show has carved out as its own.

This site is convinced that The Crystal Maze‘s popularity and familiarity have contributed to the rapid public acceptance of exit games in the UK and Ireland. (It’s far from essential, though, looking at the success of the genre in countries which have never been exposed to the show.) Every country has its own favourite sort of intellectual game, but the phrase “it’s a bit like The Crystal Maze” has so immediate and familiar as to convey the key message of “go into a room, work out what the puzzles therein want you to do, solve the puzzles and get out within the time limit” in concise shorthand. Some sites refer to it explicitly when describing how their game works; even when they don’t, those who have played it will often make the comparison when describing the game to their friends – and it’s a comparison that is often so well-received as to make people want to play.

If that weren’t sufficiently connected to exit games enough, the first five series of the show each had one game that drew upon the murder mystery party games that had come to popularity in the 1980s – and, indeed, which some exit games can still be compared to. Enter the cell, there’s a dead body on the floor, it’s probably clutching an instruction, the instruction determines where to look within the intricately decorated cell and how to interact with the scenery, follow the chain of clues and eventually you’ll reach the last one which is rewarded with success – and hopefully you’ll do it before the time limit expires.

The show was popular enough to develop its own fan following, with Marc Gerrish’s site an excellent, database-like repository of information about each episode and every game played therein. It has screen grabs and statistics of these murder mystery games as played on the show in series one, two, three, four and five. (There wasn’t one in the sixth series, possibly because by that point each zone had hosted a murder mystery once and a sixth would’ve retrod old ground.) You can find a great many illicit videos of episodes of the series on YouTube; if you don’t want to spend the time looking up particular episodes and then finding particular games within them, you can just look at this wobble-vision off-screen recording of a contestant playing the murder mystery from series four.

If you were sufficiently keen on The Crystal Maze to watch more than a couple of episodes of it, there’s a good chance that you wanted to play the game and feel it for yourself. For years in (mostly) the early- and mid-’90s, there were a number of The Cyberdrome Crystal Maze attractions at bowling alleys and other family entertainment centres in the UK. This site has long planned to try to compose the paean to them that they deserve; their fading suggests that they may have been ahead of their time, or perhaps that they used unreliable technology that proved too hard to maintain, or perhaps they did not have the degree of repeat play value in practice necessary to pay their considerable way, or perhaps – just perhaps – The Crystal Maze might, sadly, have been just a bit too niche an interest after all. Nevertheless, this site is really impressed by Boda Borg, which would seem to have independently developed many of the same essentials. It has several sites in Sweden, one in Ireland and at least one is coming to the US within a few months.

Could the brand still have value in a participation experience in the UK these days? Perhaps, just perhaps. The particular challenges would include the need to establish dozens of different challenges, at a much greater physical location / rent cost than a typical exit game, the potential for much greater need to reset the games between plays (though the Cyberdrome games broadly handled that well) and either an intensive labour requirement for people leading the teams around the maze or an intensive tech requirement to direct people from game to game. There would certainly be some retro chic value to it, if ever it were to happen. We can but hope and dream… and improvise our own games until it happens, if ever it does. Tooooooooo the Crystal Dooooome!

Also happening this weekend: the second, Slovakian-authored, round of the WPF’s Puzzle Grand Prix series runs until the end of Monday, Central European Time. 90 minutes to earn points by solving puzzles of varying difficulty, with four puzzles of each of six different styles available. Take a look at the instruction booklet and see if any of the six types tickle your fancy. Also, if it’s Sunday night, it’s Quiz The Nation night, buuuuuut the official results from last week have not yet been posted and the official results from the week before have not had their prize payouts confirmed, so while these teething troubles are being sorted out, maybe play this one for fun (and, happily, it is fun) with the free credits supplied and more in hope than in expectation of the cash prizes.